Inventor of Vodacom’s “please call me” service, Nkosana Makate, says he doesn’t have any hard feelings towards telecoms veteran Alan Knott-Craig.
The constitutional court on Tuesday ruled that Vodacom must compensate Makate for conceptualising the “please call me” SMS idea in 2001.
Makate’s victory in the constitutional court comes after a years-long legal battle with Vodacom that started in 2008 and which suffered setbacks in the high court in Johannesburg.
Key to this battle was former Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig’s assertion that he, and not Makate, invented the “please call me” idea — a claim that appeared in Knott-Craig’s autobiography Second is Nothing.
The constitutional court, though, on Tuesday slammed Knott-Craig’s assertion as a “lie” and a “false narrative” because newsletters from the company in 2001 acknowledged Makate as the inventor of the service.
But Makate, in an interview with Gauteng talk radio station PowerFM, said he has no “qualms” about Knott-Craig’s previous claims. Knott-Craig left Vodacom in 2008. He then joined Cell C as its CEO in 2012 but he left in 2014 after suffering a stroke.
“I have no hatred. I have no bad feelings. I respect the man,” Makate told PowerFM. “He was a visionary. They were people I looked up to,” Makate told the radio station.
Makate said that his years-long legal battle was “brutal in all senses”.
“I guess you need to stay put and believe in your case and pursue it,” he told the radio station.
Makate further hinted at a book about the legal battle being in the “pipeline”.
“Obviously, the book may culminate into a movie,” said Makate.
Meanwhile, Vodacom has to commence negotiations with Makate about compensation within 30 days, according to the judgment.
It’s unclear how much Makate could earn from the idea, but the court, in its judgment, said that “it is common cause that this product has generated revenue amounting to billions of rands”.
Vodacom spokesman Byron Kennedy, in a statement on Tuesday, said that “we are aware of the constitutional court ruling and are currently studying its contents”.
In its judgment, the constitutional court also overturned a previous high court ruling that said former Vodacom head of product development, Philip Geissler, had no authority for a binding agreement between Vodacom and Makate.
The court further overturned a previous high court ruling that said Makate should have filed a claim three years after the incident.