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Is this country’s economy really one in which smart people with good ideas can reap rewards — whoever they are and wherever they live? If it is, why are so many people so angry about the details of a commercial dispute? The argument between Vodacom and Nkosana Makate, who came up with the idea of free Please Call Me text messages, should be an unlikely magnet for public anger. Obviously, people are likely to be enraged if they feel a person was denied compensation for an idea that made billions for the company. But the dispute has moved beyond that — the Constitutional Court ordered Makate and Vodacom to reach a settlement, so the issue is not whether he should be paid but how much. We don’t know how much Vodacom is prepared to pay, nor how much Makate wants, because the negotiations are secret (though, as usual, in a national debate that sees facts as inconvenient obstacles, specific amounts are assumed to be accurate despite the lack of any evidence). Despite this, the dispute has...

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