Court blow to Vodacom in ‘please call me’ saga

Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub

The almost two decade-long legal drama between Vodacom Group and its former employee, Nkosana Makate, the “inventor” of the “please call me” service, is still not over.

The supreme court of appeal has dismissed an application for leave to appeal, brought by Vodacom against an earlier high court judgment, and ordered the telecommunications operator’s CEO, Shameel Joosub, to make a new offer to Makate based on the assumption that Makate had an 18-year contract with the company.

Unless Vodacom appeals the matter to the constitutional court (which it has said it will), it now appears likely that it will have to cough up significantly more to Makate than the R47-million it had previously offered him. That offer was rejected by Makate.

In February 2022, the high court in Pretoria found that Vodacom had not offered Makate sufficient compensation in settlement for his “invention” of the “please call me” offering, and ordered that a higher settlement amount be offered. That prompted Vodacom to appeal the case to the supreme court of appeal.

Although just who invented the “please call me” idea is strongly disputed, the constitutional court found that Makate had in fact done so and was entitled to be paid for the invention. The apex court left it up to Joosub to determine a fair payout amount.

High court justice Wendy Hughes had ruled that Makate was entitled to 5% of the total voice revenue generated from “please call me” over a 20-year period, according to a media report at the time. Makate had previously claimed he was owed at least R10-billion in compensation from Vodacom.


Vodacom launched an application for leave to appeal on 25 February 2022 against the high court judgment and order. The supreme court, finding against Vodacom in that appeal, has now given detailed instructions as to how Vodacom and Joosub should determine fair compensation to its former employee.

The figure must take into account the time value of money, calculated at an average inflation rate of 5%, from 1 March 2001 to 28 February 2019, and has to be made within 30 calendar days of the date of the new order.

Read: Who really invented ‘please call me’?

The supreme court has now set aside the Hughes judgment, but not in the way Vodacom had hoped. The appeals court has ordered the following:

  • The decision of Vodacom on 9 January 2019, determining the compensation to be paid to Makate, be set aside;
  • Makate is entitled to be paid 5-7.5% of the total revenue of the “please call me” product for an 18-year period from 2001 to 2019, plus interest; and
  • Vodacom must bear the costs of the negotiations referred to in the earlier constitutional court judgment.

Podcast: Ari Kahn speaks out on the ‘please call me’ saga

In a statement in reaction to the supreme court judgment, Vodacom said it will seek leave to appeal the judgment at the constitutional court.

Read the full supreme court of appeal judgment here (PDF).  — (c) 2024 NewsCentral Media

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