Vodacom warns shareholders it could pay R29 billion over Please Call Me saga

Please Call Me inventor, Nkosana Makate. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/Independent Newspapers

Please Call Me inventor, Nkosana Makate. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/Independent Newspapers

Published May 15, 2024


Telecommunications giant Vodacom could pay the Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate around R29 billion.

Vodacom confirmed that if the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) majority judgment is upheld they could be forced to fork out the multi-billion rand settlement.

Vodacom is currently appealing the SCA judgment at the Constitutional Court.

The SCA has ordered the telecommunications to pay Makate between 5% and 7.5% of the total revenue generated by the Please Call Me service that was derived from the prepaid or contract offerings from March 2001 to March 2021 (18 years), including interest.

In their latest financial statement, Vodacom said the SCA majority judgment, which has effect, would entitle Makate to a minimum compensation amount of R29 billion. It also noted that the minority judgment of the SCA, which was a dissenting judgment with no effect, raised Makate’s compensation to approximately R186 million.

“Consequently, the range of the possible compensation outcomes in this matter is very wide. The amount ultimately payable to Makate is uncertain and will depend on the determination of the Constitutional Court to grant Vodacom’s application for leave to appeal and if granted, on the success of Vodacom‘s appeal against the judgment and order of the SCA, on the merits of the case,” Vodacom said in its financial statement.

IOL reached approached Vodacom for further comment on Tuesday to ask how the R29 billion figure would affect Vodacom’s shareholders, employees and the business at large. Vodacom declined to comment further.

A meeting with Vodacom

In March, Makate agreed to meet with Vodacom in a bid to settle the matter out of court.

At the time, Makate’s lawyer, Wilna Lubbe, said they noted Vodacom’s desire to meet and subsequently discussions were held between the two parties.

The negotiations failed

It appears that the meetings have not been fruitful as earlier this week, Makate called on the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to dismiss Vodacom’s application for leave to appeal the SCA judgment.

Makate opposed Vodacom’s application and said in the documents that Vodacom’s application failed to meet the jurisdictional requirements for leave to appeal.

“The present dispute is a purely private commercial matter in which this court has already found that I am contractually entitled to be paid a share of the revenue generated by my invention. The present issue is about quantifying my share of the revenue, nothing more,” Makate added in the affidavit.

He said that Vodacom sought to characterise a factual dispute, as a ‘jurisdictional’ issue.

“That characterisation, I am advised, is untenable. It holds out the spectre for all disagreements about factual conclusions as going to jurisdiction and hence being matters for this court,” he said.

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