South Africa

VODACOM WRANGLE

Nkosana Makate’s Please Call Me claim in ‘mischievous’ writ of execution drama

Nkosana Kenneth Makate. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Leon Sadiki)

Nkosana Makate’s decade-long battle against Vodacom has triggered a curious movement of supporters, but squabbles with former litigation funders continue to haunt him.

Nkosana Makate has averted his lucrative Please Call Me claim against cellphone giant Vodacom from being attached by the Sheriff of the Court.

The claim was at risk of being sold on public auction after one of Makate’s original litigation funders, Chris Schoeman, obtained a writ of execution over a R224,000 debt. 

This comes against a backdrop of Vodacom’s R47-million offer to Makate and his latest High Court application for a review of that amount as he believes he is due closer to R10-billion. 

The debt for which the writ was obtained relates to the cost order awarded against Makate following his court bid to have Schoeman declared a vexatious litigant. 

Schoeman was the representative of a company that first stepped in as financial backer of Makate’s claim in 2011.

The two have become embroiled in legal action in recent years and personally, Schoeman no longer enjoys any claim to a slice of Makate’s eventual Vodacom pay cheque.

vodacom writ
Nkosana Makate’s claim was at risk of being sold on public auction after one of Makate’s original litigation funders, Chris Schoeman, obtained a writ of execution over a R224,000 debt.

Makate was unaware of the writ when contacted by Daily Maverick, but his lawyer, Wilna Lubbe, immediately dismissed it as nothing but mischief on the part of Schoeman and investigated. 

The writ, Daily Maverick understands, was then suspended by agreement between the parties following urgent talks on Thursday, 30 September. 

And, it appears that Schoeman may just have pipped Makate to the post with his taxed bill of costs for what was a counter application in a broader court case that Makate had won with costs. 

It’s nothing but a “storm in a teacup”, Lubbe says. 

This squabble is essentially a sideshow to Makate’s drawn-out mission to extract his dues from the cellphone giant for having conceptualised the free return call service about 20 years ago. 

Makate, now an employee of the South African Local Government Association (Salga), was working for Vodacom at the time. 

He suffered a series of losses in court but the tide turned in 2016 when the Constitutional Court ruled that Vodacom must enter into negotiations with Makate to come to a fair settlement. 

The cellphone company’s CEO, Shameel Joosub then determined that Makate was due R47-million.

But Makate rejected this offer and returned to court for a review of that figure, partly because he believes the court and not Joosub — who he argues is conflicted — should determine the quantum.  

The case was argued at the High Court in Pretoria in May 2021 and judgment is pending. 

While Makate’s fight with Vodacom continues, he also has to manage the messy break-up with his original litigation funders.

He concluded an agreement with Schoeman on behalf of a company that was to be nominated in November 2011. 

In terms of that deal, the litigation funders were to pay all legal costs and indemnify Makate in exchange for what was initially a 50% split.

The parties later fell out — in part because his funders allegedly abandoned him following a series of defeats at court — and various legal challenges ensued. 

Those clashes included a row over precisely which company was the rightful entity with which Makate had struck the initial funding deal. 

An arbitration process, concluded last year, found that it was with Black Rock, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, albeit with drama of its own. 

Black Rock has filed an application to have the arbitration award made an order of court so it can pursue a claim for a cut of Makate’s Vodacom pay cheque. This case is set down for 11 November 2021. 

Makate’s claim has drawn much public support over the years and many would like to see him get his payday — funders of his Please Call Me mission, no doubt, even more so. DM

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All Comments 15

  • Greed is certainly a factor here and Vodacom is probably the greediest. The longer they hold out the more the money grows in their bank account. The court should put a final date to this at which the court decides.

  • This guy is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks his idea is worth R10 billion. It’s not even worth R10 million so the settlement offered by Vodacom is extremely generous.

  • Two aspects are relevant:
    Makate did not “invent” Please Call Me”. His contribution was miniscule. Vodacom developed the concept.
    The funders put R3.9m into his case and he refuses to even re-inburse them.
    Makate is greedy man. All his other investors …. beware!! Take this from somebody with experience. It is significant that he never mentions the money he took from the funders when he had none.

    • Chris, it was actually MTN that invented the service – they however never registered/renewed it as a patent. Check the records as it was lodged or submitted…I think it may have been Ari Mervis (sic). Anyway, it had been done a year before he claims, but I think VC launched first and MTN only launched later. Anyway, apparently VC never used those documents as it would show MTN as the “real innovator/inventor” (so make them look bad). Expensive call?

  • It’s absurd that this matter even got to court. The simple principle is your employer is the rightful owner of the work you do while in his employ. You cannot claim ownership of work someone else has paid you to do. Vodacom has been screwed…

  • This whole thing is stupid. Paul, my gardener “invented” the concept in the mid 90’s : gave me a missed call and then I’d call him. Paul should sue, he is a zillionaire.

  • All these people, and I can safely say none of them black, must go watch the movie “Flash Of Genius” and recognize, when you have been done wrong, fight to the bitter end. Until then suck a brick!

  • Having read various articles on this long drawn out saga over a number of years, i cannot fathom why the claimant would not have just taken the offered R47 mill and enjoyed an extremely comfortable life. Squabbling over decimal places has given him nothing and cost both parties many millions in legal fees………….just take the money Mr Makate; the law is an ass and those with deeper pockets generally have the upside.

  • He is being misled by his lawyers who are looking for a big pay day. He has been fed with an unrealistic expectation. The offer is more than good enough.

  • Yes, Makate may have conceptualised/ thought of/ come up with the ‘please call me’ idea – but that’s not an original idea . People miscall you all the time – by arrangement or otherwise – and you call them back. This guy merely formalised that & may have pitched the idea of a specific application: the ‘please call me’ idea. But he was employed by Vodacom during the time that he had this ‘idea’. He was paid a salary by Vodacom as they employed him. So, any idea pitched to one’s bosses, happens during the normal employment interaction in the workplace. The bosses then decide whether it is a concept worth pursuing or not & proceed accordingly. Vodacom would have used their financial resources, their existing infrastructure & access to market as well as the tech skills of their suitably qualified software engineers to develop this man’s concept to its full realisation as an app. This is Vodacom’s property. Why did they offer this guy a R47 million settlement? At best they could have rewarded him, as an employee, with a suitable reward/ incentive bonus for coming up with an idea the employer could develop & take to market. Done. Shameel Joosab & his advisers at Vodacom did not think this through. This will not end well – for the claimant who is now beholden to a host of “funders” & lawyers who all want a slice of this exorbitant “windfall” claim against Vodacom. Greed gone viral.

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