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Vodacom, Makate wait for ‘Please Call Me’ judgment

Lawyers have closed their cases in the civil claim involving Vodacom's Please Call Me service, in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Cedric Puckrin SC, for former Vodacom employee Nkosana Makate, and Fanie Cilliers SC, for the cellphone operator, on Thursday both indicated they would not call any more witnesses.

Judge Phillip Coppin instructed them to indicate the dates they would be available next week, so he could set a date for closing arguments, which would probably take place in September.

Makate took Vodacom to court to get compensation for the Please Call Me service he claims he invented in 2000. He said the executive for product development at the time, Philip Geissler, promised in an oral agreement to facilitate remuneration negotiations with the company.

Makate was called to the stand on Thursday to clarify the existence of a letter of demand his lawyers wrote to Vodacom, dated March 12 2008.

Cilliers questioned its authenticity after it emerged in court that the letter was not delivered.

Wrong assumption
Makate admitted he had been wrong to assume the letter was delivered, and said he not confirmed delivery with his attorneys at the time. He said he had seen the letter only once or twice before the case came to court.

"I found out this week that the assumption was wrong … If you read the letter, there is legal jargon there that the layman like me would not understand, so you just have to trust your counsel."

Earlier, Makate's original attorney in the case, Popo Masilo, who served a letter of demand on Vodacom on January 19 2008, testified that he hand-delivered the letter.

Masilo said the first letter, dated March 12 2008, was a draft and was not delivered to Vodacom.

"After receiving the reply letter from Vodacom [on February 14 2008], it was clear that Vodacom was not willing to negotiate and we decided to rather continue serving them with a summons instead," Masilo said.

According to the letter, Vodacom had until March 31 2008, to respond or Makate would "rescind" his contract with the company by April 11 2008, at 4pm.

Makate said in court on Thursday that he did not know what the word rescind meant, and that would not have agreed to send a letter of demand rescinding the agreement with Vodacom.

On Wednesday, former Vodacom chief executive Alan Knott-Craig testified that the notion of an employee seeking compensation for an idea was foreign to him. He said Vodacom had not had a revenue-sharing agreement with its employees. – Sapa

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