The legal battle that has been taking place for almost two decades between Vodacom Group and its former employee, Nkosana Makate, remains unresolved.
The Supreme Court of Appeal has rejected Vodacom’s application for leave to appeal, upholding a prior high court ruling. The court has mandated Vodacom’s CEO, Shameel Joosub, to extend a new compensation offer to Makate, assuming an 18-year contractual relationship. Nkosana Makate is the innovative creator of the “please call me” service.
According to reports, unless Vodacom pursues an appeal to the constitutional court, it seems likely that the company will need to offer a considerably larger sum than the previously proposed R47 million, a proposal that Makate had turned down.
In February 2022, the Pretoria high court determined that Vodacom’s initial compensation offer to Makate for his alleged creation of the “please call me” feature was inadequate. This led Vodacom to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The origin of the “please call me” concept is fiercely contested, but the constitutional court recognized Makate as the inventor, affirming his right to compensation. The court delegated the responsibility to Joosub to establish a fair payout amount.
High court justice Wendy Hughes specified that Makate should receive 5% of the total voice revenue generated by the “please call me” service over a 20-year period. Makate, asserting a claim of at least R10 billion from Vodacom, deemed the initial offer insufficient.
Vodacom lodged an appeal on February 25, 2022, challenging the high court’s judgment. The Supreme Court, ruling against Vodacom, has outlined specific instructions for determining fair compensation. This figure must consider the time value of money, factoring in an average inflation rate of 5% from March 1, 2001, to February 28, 2019, and must be settled within 30 calendar days from the new order date.
The Supreme Court has nullified the Hughes judgment, but not in the manner Vodacom had anticipated. The court has directed the following:
- Set aside Vodacom’s decision on January 9, 2019, regarding Makate’s compensation.
- Acknowledge Makate’s entitlement to 5-7.5% of the total revenue from the “please call me” product over an 18-year period from 2001 to 2019, along with interest.
- Impose the costs of the negotiations specified in the earlier constitutional court judgment on Vodacom.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Vodacom has announced its intention to seek leave to appeal the judgment at the constitutional court.