South Africa

#PleaseCallMe

Settle Please Call Me claim or face a boycott, Vodacom warned

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Cellphone giant Vodacom is being called upon to pay what is due to the company’s ‘Please Call Me’ inventor or face a backlash, including a call by Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and the #PleaseCallMe movement to boycott the company.

Civil society organisations and people backing Vodacom “Please Call Me” inventor Nkosana Makate have called on the company to act on settling his payment or face a backlash.

The organisations, including the ANC Liliesleaf Farm Branch Ward 112 and the #PleaseCallMe movement said at a media briefing on Wednesday that they were fighting against injustice by Vodacom against Makate.

On 26 April 2016, the Constitutional Court ordered that both parties enter into good faith negotiations to determine reasonable compensation for the Please Call Me concept, which allows cellphone users to send free messages to other users requesting to be called back.

Makate, a former Vodacom employee, took the company to court after it cashed in on his concept and failed to compensate him in any way for the idea, despite promising to do so.

Vodacom has made an undisclosed offer, but Makate has described the offer as “ridiculous” and “insulting” saying that he would not accept it.

Gauteng ANC deputy chairperson Panyaza Lesufi, who has come out in support of Makate in his personal capacity, said the plan was to march to the Vodacom offices in Midrand on Thursday, 31 January to shut it down, but this had been postponed as Vodacom had decided to close its offices of its own volition.

We are happy that Vodacom decided to shut down without us lifting a finger,” said Lesufi.

Lesufi’s outspokenness has resulted in Vodacom’s lawyers serving him with a cease-and-desist letter which calls on him to stop making false and defamatory comments of and concerning our client in relation to its litigation with Mr Makate in general and in particular that our client is in willful breach of the Constitutional Court order or that it is acting in an unfair and morally repugnant manner towards Mr Makate”.

Lesufi, who was given until noon on Wednesday to desist from commenting, responded that he would not be intimidated, adding that freedom of expression was enshrined in the Constitution.

We believe there is a serious commercial injustice to Makate,” Lesufi said, while calling on South Africans to boycott all Vodacom products to be boycotted from 1 February 2019.

The #PleaseCallMe Movement and the ANC Liliesleaf branch are also calling for:

  • Vodacom to extend an invitation to Makate to reopen negotiations aimed at presenting a revised, yet materially improved offer;

  • All South Africans to boycott all Vodacom-sponsored activities;

  • People to request data and airtime advances and not pay them and move to other networks;

  • People and other corporates not to renew their contracts with Vodacom;

  • Government to be lobbied to cancel the bulk Vodacom contracts; and

  • Vodacom to ensure that a final resolution is found by 28 February 2019.

The movement said it also wants a meeting within seven days of the company receiving its full list of demands.

#PleaseCallMe movement convener Modise Setoaba said, “all we want is Vodacom to abide by the court ruling and pay Mr Makate what is due to him”.

The Liliesleaf Farm ANC branch said its involvement stemmed from the fact that Vodacom was also based in Midrand.

As a leader of society the ANC will not sit idle and (be a) spectator while Vodacom ignore(s) the supreme law of the country… If Vodacom identifies with democracy and the rule of law, it must act without delay to present a reasonable compensation in line with the Constitutional Court decision on this matter. All we have seen are self-serving stunts at best, and insults at worst. Nothing remotely close to what is reasonable has been presented by Vodacom,” the ANC branch’s statement read.

It continued: “As a branch of the ANC, we cannot allow the perpetuation of such economic injustices and commercial abuse by those with limitless financial resources to continue taking place, especially in our ward.”

The EFF has also previously expressed disgust at Vodacom for its failure to come to a settlement with Makate.

On Wednesday Vodacom told Daily Maverick that it had complied with the Constitutional Court order.

We have fully complied with the Order of the Constitutional Court. Claims to the contrary are plainly wrong on the facts. It is well known that negotiations between Vodacom and Mr Makate deadlocked because the parties failed to agree on the quantum of reasonable compensation to be paid to him,” Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said.

Vodacom is willing and ready to pay a substantial amount to Mr Makate,” said Kennedy.

He said the reason it had taken almost two decades to settle the matter was Makate’s belief and determination, which saw him navigate his way through the hierarchy of the courts all the way to the Constitutional Court. DM

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