Vodacom has drawn a line in the sand over demands from protesters that the telecommunications operator pays the “inventor” of its “please call me” service R70-billion.
Company spokesman Byron Kennedy said on Thursday afternoon that its position on the matter “remains the same”.
“We have complied fully with the order of the constitutional court and we are ready and willing to pay Mr Makate a significant amount (of money),” Kennedy said.
Protesters gathered outside Vodacom’s Midrand campus from early on Thursday, wielding placards demanding the operator cough up R70-billion to Makate — see photos from the demonstration.
The company estimated about 160 protesters gathered at Vodacom’s gates, though it said they had started to disperse after lunchtime. When TechCentral visited the site at around 12pm, about 100 protesters were present. Kennedy described the situation as “pretty calm”.
“Our main focus today was the safety and security of staff and customers, but we are going to continue to monitor the situation,” he said in prepared remarks.
Earlier on Thursday, Makate’s former “litigation funder” said in a radio interview that Vodacom had offered Makate a final settlement amount of R49-million, which Makate rejected as an “insult”.
Neither Vodacom nor Makate may disclose the figure because of a confidentiality agreement. Kennedy declined to confirm the R49-million.
“I think that is overly generous,” Schoeman said in the interview with Radio 702. “It’s very generous and, in fact, I have an interest in that award and yesterday I instructed my attorneys to write to his attorneys to say, first of all, you should accept the offer (as) you do not have legally a basis for refusing it, and in any event, some of that belongs to me. And you must accept it. It is a generous offer.”
Schoeman corroborated a claim by former MTN contractor Ari Kahn, who not only invented the “please call me” idea while working for Vodacom’s rival but actually patented it. Schoeman said it was a “lie” that Makate invented “please call me”.
“That is simply not true,” Schoeman told 702. He said any suggestion that Makate is entitled to a reward running into billions of rand is “outrageous”. — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media