/ 30 January 2019

Madonsela backs calls for Vodacom to settle Please Call Me saga

The mobile communications company has allegedly issued a notice to employees that it will not open its stores on Thursday.
The mobile communications company has allegedly issued a notice to employees that it will not open its stores on Thursday. (Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has come out in support of the movement that is calling for Vodacom to resolve the impasse between itself and the former employee who came up with the concept behind the widely-used ‘Please Call Me’ phone service.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Madonsela urged Vodacom to “#DoTheRightThing” when it comes to the “#PleaseCallMe debacle”.

The #PleaseCallMe movement held a press conference on Wednesday and reiterated that it won’t back down from its decision to protest outside Vodacom in support of Nkosana Makate.

The movement also gave the mobile communications company until 10am on Thursday to sort out the stand off with Makate – or else face demonstrations at its offices and the shutting down of its stores.

Vodacom has allegedly issued a notice to employees that it will not open its stores on Thursday, in a move that the movement says is a “victory without lifting a finger.” 

A member of the movement, Modise Setoaba, said the movement was started in 2018 and that its efforts “intensified when Vodacom gagged him [Makate] at the high court”.

“If we are going to say the inventor gets less than what he deserves then what are we really saying? This invention is making everyone wealthy except the inventor so that’s what we’re fighting for.”

Makate has been entangled in litigation against the mobile company for 10 years after coming up with the service while employed as a trainee accountant by Vodacom.

He has been negotiating with Vodacom for several years in an attempt to get “reasonable compensation” for the service and in April 2016, the Constitutional Court ordered that Vodacom “commence negotiations in good faith with Mr Kenneth Nkosana Makate for determining a reasonable compensation.”

READ MORE: Vodacom ‘Please Call Me’ settlement offer ‘an insult’ – Makate

The court also ordered that Vodacom’s CEO be the one who determines the amount “within a reasonable time” in the event that the two parties fail to reach a deal.

But in a recent Facebook post, Makate described the offer that he was given by Vodacom’s CEO Shameel Joosub as “shocking and an insult”, writing that he is currently consulting his legal team to determine a way forward. He further expressed that Vodacom “has not apologised for their despicable conduct for the past 18 years.”

In an interview with 702, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi – in his personal capacity – said Vodacom should adhere to the 10am deadline or prepare to face whatever reaction from the people.

“We are not encouraging people to be violent, we are not even calling for people to disrupt or destroy property or loot. Our argument is to say resolve the impasse. If the impasse is resolved by 10, the better. If it is not, then society will just have to find a way of pressurising Vodacom to resolve the matter.”

Lesufi has been very vocal in his support of Makate on social media in tweets where he insisted that Vodacom pay Makate what is due to him.

“I just tweeted to support this gentleman who has been fighting alone for 10 years and I just felt it’s not fair especially when the highest court in the land has already made a ruling that this matter be resolved,” Lesufi said on 702.

Lesufi’s tweets have landed him in hot water with Vodacom which has called on him to “desist from making false and defamatory comments” against the company and to “desist from calling and/or inciting the invasion and occupation” of Vodacom offices and stores.

In a lawyer’s letter, Vodacom urged Lesufi to comply with its requests by January 30 or else the company would “seek relief on an urgent basis” but Lesufi hit back by tweeting that he is “not easily intimidated” and won’t be bullied into silence and said he won’t respond.

“They are threatening me by saying that I will be personally liable for whatever loss Vodacom incurs. The mentality is that at the time we protest we are going to be violent. The mentality is that every time we raise our issues, we are going to loot and that is wrong. So I say bring it on. We won’t keep quiet about commercial injustices,” Lesufi said.

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