‘Please call me’ Inventor Demands Sh75B Compensation Fee


Nkosana Makate

Nkosana Makate. Photo courtesy.

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South African Inventer Nkosana Makate, is demanding Sh75 billion (R10 billion) as compensation fee for “Please call me” service that’s being used by the cellular giant Vodacom.

Nkosana had rejected sh354 million (R47 million) that was offered by Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub saying it was too little.

He is now demanding Sh75 billion (R10 billion) compensation for coming up with the concept which has since 2001 been used by prepaid phone users to send a free text asking to be phoned back.

The South African Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has been hearing from both sides over three days from May 4 to 6 with the hope of bringing the 20-year-old saga into a conclusion.

It’s not clear whether the ruling will affect Safaricom which has been enjoying similar messaging services.

Mr Nkosana, who was then an employee at Vodacom, had shared the messaging concept with his employer but was never paid.

Earlier judgement by South Gauteng High court in 2014 had favoured Mr Nkosana’s claim of inventing “Please Call me”.

The court further rejected former CEO Alan Knott-Craig’s claim that he had come up with the idea of the messaging service.

In 2016, Nkosana won legal bid to force Vodacom to pay him for inventing the popular messaging service after the country’s highest court ordered the firm to compensate their ex-employee.

Following the ruling, Vodacom CEO Shaamel Joosub offered him R47 million, but Nkosana declined the amount saying it was too little.

He returned to court, this time accusing Vodacom of breaching an agreement to pay him.

The firm defended itself that the amount they gave Makate was “substantial” and would “stand the scrutiny of the courts”.

“We have acted ethically in resolving the matter,” it said in 2019. “We call for sane heads to prevail in our current highly politicised environment as we resolved this matter.”

Further, the company had argued that when “Please call me” was launched, it did not generate any revenue for Vodacom as subscribers were not charged for the service.

“It was offered for free. The intended plan to charge for it after an initial period was abandoned, since there were many similar services in the market, which were offered for free. It’s not, nor ever has been a money-spinner.”

But Nkosana argued that “Please call me” generated at least Sh1.5 trillion (R205 billion) in call revenue for Vodacom since 2001. The case is yet to be concluded.

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