Vodacom to pay ex-worker who invented the ‘Please Call Me’ idea after gridlock

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Nkosana Makate,  the former employee behind the Please Call Me service, says he is exploring his options after Vodacom decided on a “ridiculous and insulting” sum of money to settle a long-standing dispute between them.

Vodacom said over the weekend it considered the matter  “finally settled and closed” after its CEO, Shameel Joosub, had decided on a “reasonable” payment for Makate, the former employee who came up with the idea in late 2000.

The mobile operator did not disclose the amount, citing a confidentiality agreement.

This comes nearly three years after the Constitutional Court ruled that Makate must be compensated for coming up with the idea behind the service, which lets subscribers request call-backs for no charge.

Nkosana Makate has gone to the Constitutional Court again to clarify its order that Vodacom has to pay him as originator of the Please Call Me service.
Nkosana Makate originator of the Please Call Me service.
Image: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

Vodacom stated last night that it was paying out “reasonable compensation” to Makate for his idea to develop the call-back service.

“Vodacom can confirm that the group CEO [Shameel Joosub] has met with the legal representatives to convey his decision and determination on reasonable compensation,” said Vodacom spokesman Byron Kennedy.

Following Vodacom’s statement, Makate denied a deal had been reached, however. The rebuttal from Makate follows years of legal battles between him and Vodacom, which eventually ended up in the Constitutional Court.

The court ruled that Makate must be awarded reasonable compensation for his involvement in Vodacom launching its Please Call Me service, which was popular when SMS and voice calls were the primary methods of cellular communication.

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.

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