A Vodacom outlet in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
A Vodacom outlet in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

Members of the governing party in Gauteng want South Africans to cut ties with Vodacom and to boycott events sponsored by the mobile operator. 

This comes after Nkosana Makate, the former Vodacom employee who invented  the Please Call Me service, said he was exploring his options after the company decided on a “ridiculous and insulting” sum of money to settle a long-standing dispute between them.

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

According to a Constitutional Court ruling, it was up to Joosub to arrive at an appropriate settlement after earlier negotiations reached a deadlock. The court order does not require Makate’s assent to the figure, according to Vodacom.

The parties have not disclosed the amount that Joosub deemed reasonable, citing a confidentiality agreement.

On Wednesday, ANC Gauteng deputy chair Panyaza Lesufi claimed that Vodacom was “defying the rule of law” by not paying a “reasonable” sum.

A Vodacom spokesperson told Business Day the company “reiterates that is ready and willing to pay Mr Makate a substantial amount”.

Lesufi, who said he was speaking in his personal capacity, said “rolling mass action” would be directed against Vodacom until the matter was resolved. This was supported by the ANC’s Liliesleaf Farm branch and an organisation that calls itself the Please Call Me Movement.

Lesufi said South Africans should boycott Vodacom-sponsored events — the company sponsors sports tournaments including Super Rugby — and cancel their contracts with the operator.

He even said customers should acquire minutes and data bundles using Vodacom’s “airtime advance service” — which lets them pay the next time they recharge — though they should not settle those accounts.

The group would also lobby the government to cancel its contracts with the “bully” operator, which should consider approaching the court once more to reach a settlement.

Makate told Business Day that approaching the courts was “the logical step” forward.

Vodacom claims that the Please Call Me service “did not generate any direct revenue due to the fact that subscribers were not charged for the service. It was offered for free”.

“A money-spinner it is not and it never was.”