The #PleaseCallMe movement has urged South Africans to terminate their contracts with mobile network Vodacom and port to other networks in a show of solidarity with Nkosana Makate, the man behind the widely-used ‘Please Call Me’ service.
Benson Motsumi, an ANC Lilliesleaf Farm branch member, made this call to protesters gathered outside Vodacom’s headquarters in Midrand on Thursday. Motsumi also encouraged protesters to cancel their debit orders with Vodacom and to use their airtime advance service and not pay it back by changing to other service providers.
“We are now saying to our people that the committee [ANC Lilliesleaf branch and #PleaseCallMe movement] will meet and work out a way forward,” Motsumi told the gathered crowd
He added that another protest, where a memorandum of demands will be handed over to Vodacom, is in the works.
The movement had given Vodacom until 10am on Thursday to resolve the impasse with Makate or face demonstrations at its offices and the shutting down of its stores. By 10am however, nothing had happened and the Vodacom offices were closed off by armed police.
Makate launched litigation against the mobile company 10 years ago after coming up with the free message 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. In April 2016, it seemed as if the end was near when the Constitutional Court ordered that Vodacom “commence negotiations in good faith with Mr Kenneth Nkosana Makate for determining reasonable compensation.”
The court also ordered that Vodacom’s chief executive 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 Facebook post, Makate described the offer that he was eventually given by Vodacom’s CEO Shameel Joosub as “an insult”, stating that he had turned down the offer and was consulting with his legal team on a way forward.
Modise Setoaba, the #PleaseCallMe movement’s leader, said the movement is willing to do whatever it takes, including dying, in their pursuit of economic freedom.
“This is the day when a black man dies for economic freedom. We want justice because the court ordered that Vodacom pay Makate in a reasonable time frame and three years is more than enough time,” Setoaba said.
The movement insists that Vodacom must pay Makate R70-billion which it feels is the right amount considering how lucrative the service has been for the mobile company.
But in an interview with 702 on Thursday, litigation funder and Makate’s former lawyer Chris Schoeman said Vodacom offered Makate R49-million which he described as “overly generous”.
Schoeman said Makate’s reason for refusing this offer and wanting more is because he accrued a substantial amount of debt and very little of the settlement will actually go to him.
“Makate has no legal basis to not accept this offer and he must accept it. Some of it [the reward] belongs to me,” Schoeman said.
Schoeman explained that he met Makate in 2011 when Makate was “totally down and out financially” which is why Schoeman funded the litigation. He says Makate started the legal challenge against Vodacom not for money, but for the “so-called idea that he brought to Vodacom.”
According to Schoeman, the idea that Makate invented the please call me service is “simply not true” because Makate’s idea was not the please call service but rather leaving a missed call on someone’s number and that person would then be able to call you back.