Vodacom pays ex-worker for 'Please Call Me' idea after pact

'Please call me' inventor Nkosana Makate (Tshepo Kekana/Gallo)
'Please call me' inventor Nkosana Makate (Tshepo Kekana/Gallo)

Vodacom is paying out "reasonable compensation" to a former employee of the South African mobile-network operator for his idea to develop a popular call-back service after a former chief executive officer first took credit for the product.

The settlement comes almost a decade after Kenneth Makate started court proceedings against Vodacom for credit and financial compensation for the service that allows customers with a zero balance on their mobile phones to contact someone free of charge with the SMS message ‘Please Call Me.’

"Vodacom can confirm that the group CEO has met with the legal representatives to convey his decision and determination on reasonable compensation," spokesman Byron Kennedy in a response to questions.

"In the spirit of the confidentiality agreement both parties signed as part of the negotiating process, Vodacom will not disclose the amount set by the CEO."

Makate, 42, took the idea to Vodacom’s product-development team while he was working in the finance division in the early 2000s.

Alan Knott-Craig, who was the CEO at that time, had to determine reasonable compensation for the idea, which didn’t happen then. After lengthy court proceedings and a deadlock in negotiations in October last year, current CEO Shameel Joosub has now decided on fair compensation for the idea.

About 140 000 customers made use of the service on its first day in operation.

An initial development plan in 2001 for ‘Please Call Me’ said Vodacom could make as much as $23m a day from people using the service.

However, Vodacom’s total revenue rose by about R3.6bn in the 2003 financial year.

"Vodacom considers the matter as finally settled and closed," said Kennedy.

Makate, however, on Friday evening posted on Facebook his comments on the settlement. "I would like to make it very clear that I have not agreed anything with Vodacom. The amount that the CEO has determined is shocking and an insult," he wrote.

Makate said he is consulting his legal team about remedies available to him.

A screengrab of Nkosana Makate's comments on the s


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