‘Please call me’ talks deadlock amid funding battles

Negotiations regarding a settlement between the creator of the “Please call me” service and Vodacom have reached a deadlock.

Bongo Futuse of Vodacom SA told City Press’ sister paper, Rapport, that the case was now before the company’s CEO, Shameel Joosub, who was considering representations from both sides. The talks are confidential as Vodacom has a gag order against Kenneth Nkosana Makate.

Over two years have passed since Makate won his court battle to get paid his dues, but he has now become embroiled in a legal dispute with the initial financiers of the case.

Makate is disputing the agreement, in terms of which he was to share 50% of his payout from Vodacom with the people who funded his legal costs. Makate claims his signature on an addendum to the agreement was forged and he cancelled the agreement.

In April 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Makate was the inventor of the service and ordered Vodacom to begin negotiations with Makate for compensation.

It has since emerged that Makate is also embroiled in a dispute over how much he owes the financiers of the case.

Makate could not afford the expensive fees leading up to the Constitutional Court ruling, so he concluded a financing agreement with businessman Christiaan Schoeman. Schoeman used to be an advocate but was struck off the role in October 1999.

Schoeman approached financiers to “invest” in the matter including Errol Elsdon and Tracey Roscher from Sterling Rand.

The agreement specified that a company, Raining Men Trade, in which the investors and Schoeman held shares, would finance the litigation and that Makate would give 50% of his payout to the financiers.

However, money for the legal fees ran out near the end of 2014. In January 2015, Makate appointed new attorneys, who cancelled the initial agreement.

When it became apparent that Makate could well succeed in the matter, Schoeman declared a dispute for arbitration.

After a series of legal twists and turns, Judge Neil Tuchten at the end of August dismissed an application by Schoeman to substitute the arbitration with legal action. He ruled that an arbitrator must still determine the outcome of the dispute.

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