What Should Vodacom Pay “Please Call Me Inventor” Nkosana Makate?

The "Please Call Me" inventor should find the courage to seek new forms of payment from Vodacom.

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A replica of me.
A replica of me. Shutterstock

Soon after the #PayMakate movement demanded R70 billion be paid by Vodacom to the “Please Call Me Inventor“, Nkosana Makete, a learned friend of mine – on Friday observed: “This demand is not realistic, Gugz. Vodacom is a company that generates only about R80 billion in revenues. This would cripple a thriving company.”

His assertion is on point, but that said Vodacom must still make a payment to Makate, who developed the “Please Call Me” product in November 2000.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Vodacom must pay Makate as the inventor of the “Please Call Me” service, and that if negotiations failed, Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub must determine a “reasonable amount”, MoneyWeb reported at the time.

The battle has been drawn for more than 10 years and the settlement negotiations have still not yielded any positive results.

The Makate versus Vodacom battle is no joke at all.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub. YouTube
Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub. YouTube

The Vodafone-owned mobile phone operator must honour the ruling by the highest court in the land and should quickly find a way to pay Makate.

On Saturday, while watching a new series on Netflix titled “Fugitiva“, I thought of the biblical David and Goliath story which is also similar to that of Makate versus Vodacom.

Fugitiva is a story that revolves around Magda, an attractive woman who, at a crucial moment in her life, sees her world explode into pieces and is forced to take a drastic decision.

“When you feel fear for a long time, you just want to end it. It’s paralysing, which is why you need to move fast, leave it behind. Leave the darkness and go into the light,” Magda says.

“But when we do what we fear most, we can do anything. Nothing is lost when it is lost and you have the courage to say its lost and you need to start over. I am lost and have the courage to say it. I hardly don’t know where to start.”

Makate’s world has exploded into pieces.

Even “Ambulance Chasers“, law firms, and investors that have represented and financed Makate’s case have turned against each over a slice of the multibillion-rand settlement due to the “please call me” developer.  For more read: Inside the plot to hijack ‘Please Call Me’ billions 

Five months ago, Vodacom obtained a gag order against Makate to stop him from discussing the settlement negotiations in public, according to Business Day.

The parties have been in settlement talks for two years

Makate should take a leaf from Magda’s assertion and drive the talks with Vodacom into a new direction.

If I was him would stop being fixated with cash. But who am I to decide for him.

Nkosana Makate
Nkosana Makate

That said, all is not lost for Makate like Magda’s life in Fugitiva.

Makate can still decide a way forward that could be a win-win for all involved in this mess or case.

He needs to rejig his strategy.

The “Please Call Me” inventor should find the courage to seek new forms of payment from Vodacom.

A better option would be to engage Joosub with a view to getting a stake in the Vodacom business.

In fact, Vodacom could turn this into an empowerment story, where Makate would be made an additional BBBEE shareholder in Vodacom.

An empowerment vehicle could be created for Makate to own shares alongside Royal Bafokeng Holdings, Thebe Investment Corporation, YeboYethu (existing BEE partners), and newly formed staff scheme, which owns close to 6.5% in Vodacom for R17.5 billion.

He could be awarded 1% in Vodacom Group’s BBBEE scheme.

I think this is a more realistic suggestion than to demand compensation of R70 billion as the #PayMakate Movement is doing.

My learned friend agrees that this will be the best option. “Vodacom shares are very dividend yielding because of the Vodafone ownership,” he says.

To enable himself to enjoy the fruits of his invention, Makate could demand an upfront payment of between R50 million and R100 million from Vodacom.

A portion of the money, at least R15 million will be used to pay “Ambulance chasers” (those lawyers and investors who represented and finance Makate).

Thereafter, Makate will have enough in his kitty to last him a lifetime and thereafter receive a fat annual dividend from Vodacom.

At a later stage when his BBBEE shares mature, he could cash in and invest his cash in another investment vehicle.

This to me sounds like a better option as it will provide consistent income rather than chasing a once off payment.

Again, who am I to decide on behalf of both Makate and Vodacom.

Besides I can not see Vodacom yielding to the demand for R70 billion.

A new tack is needed to settle the matter.

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