‘Incomprehensible’; Vodacom sails out on ‘Please Call Me’ decision

Henry

Vodacom will turn to the Constitutional Court with an application for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s ruling in the controversial “Please Call Me” case.

“As a responsible social citizen, Vodacom respects the legal system and abides by the laws of the land. After considering the Court of Appeal’s judgment and order, Vodacom is of the opinion that certain key aspects of the case are not in line with the spirit of the law and that the judgment and order are fundamentally flawed,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The mobile phone giant and Nkosana Makate, the inventor of the callback service Please Call Me, have been engaged in a bitter battle for compensation for years. Vodacom launched the messaging service in February 2001. It allows subscribers to send a Please Call Me message (PCM) to another network user free of charge. Makate thought of the idea while still working at Vodacom. According to reports, the messaging service has already brought the company around R70 billion in revenue.

Vodacom says from the dissenting judgment of the Court of Appeal it is clear that the majority decision overlooked or ignored the numerous issues between the parties in their evidence and arguments on those issues.

In its application to the Constitutional Court, Vodacom argues, among other things, that the Court of Appeal’s order infringes on certain constitutional rights and “deprives Vodacom of its right to a fair hearing”.

Vodacom also argues that the Court of Appeal wrongly decided on issues that were not brought before the court by the company, or by Makata.

“The Court of Appeal selectively chooses to only pay attention to Mr. Makate’s evidence, as in the case of models for the compensation payable to Mr. to calculate Makate, while he presented parts of the evidence on this which Vodacom presented – and which Mr. Makate’s version disputed – ignored.

“The Court of Appeal’s order is incomprehensible, incomprehensible and vague which makes it impossible to implement and enforce,” says Vodacom.

The company also warns that if the Court of Appeal’s ruling is upheld, it will have a “wide and far-reaching effect” on the company in South Africa, the Vodacom group and the “attractiveness of South Africa as an investment destination”.

“This will negatively affect our staff, shareholders and Vodacom’s contribution to the public finances. This will also have an effect on our network investment, collection and social programs.”

Vodacom says it has previously negotiated with Makate to reach a fair settlement agreement.

“These efforts have so far failed.”

However, Vodacom says it remains receptive to constructive dialogue and negotiations that are conducted in good faith and without prejudice to the appeal process in the Constitutional Court and will agree to a “fair and just amount” as compensation for Makate’s idea that leads to the development of the led PCM product.

“It is Vodacom’s desire that the matter be resolved quickly and resolved quickly.”

That’s how legal battles go

Vodacom’s CEO decided, in accordance with an order of the Constitutional Court made in 2016, on compensation of R47 million for Makate. Makate rejected the offer and approached the High Court where he asked for the offer to be reviewed and reversed. In February 2022, the High Court set aside the Vodacom chief’s amount determination and ordered that a settlement to Makate be reconsidered. In the same month, Vodacom submitted another application for leave to appeal against the judgment and the judgment was handed down in the Court of Appeal in February this year.