Modise Setoaba, leader of the Please Call Me Movement stand outside Vodacom's headquarters in Midrand on Thursday, demanding that the company pay Makate his due. Photo: ANA

Lead South Africa

“Please Call Me” protest enjoys support from various parties

JOHANNESBURG, January 31 – The “Please Call Me” protest against Vodacom on Thursday gained support from political parties that sometimes are at odds with each other.

At least 200 people from the Please Call Me Movement gathered outside Vodacom’s headquarters in Midrand under the watchful eye of the police in protest to demand that the company pay the inventor of their “Please Call Me” service, Nkosana Makate, his due.

Vodacom had sent organisers of the protest a cease and desist letter to stop what it described as incitement to invade its stores.

The African National Congress (ANC) Liliesleaf Farm branch on Thursday said that it was closely monitoring Vodacom’s next move as the cellphone giant closed shops and its offices in anticipation of the “Please Call Me” protest.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Vodacom should pay Makate a “reasonable compensation” for the “Please Call Me” service he developed in 2000.

But Makate has described as “shocking and an insult” the amount that Vodacom chief executive Shameel Joosub earlier this month said he had determined as reasonable compensation.

The ANC’s Liliesleaf Farm branch, which is supporting the movement, said it will announce its plans once it is confirmed whether there is an offer by Vodacom to Makate.

“The decision not to open for business on Thursday, 31 January 2019, is nothing but a ploy by Vodacom aimed at avoiding to face those who accuse Vodacom of bad faith. This in our view was calculated to disrupt, frustrate and dampen the spirits of ordinary people who want to voice their displeasure at Vodacom,” it said.

“In the light of the self-imposed shutdown by Vodacom, the ANC has decided to keep an eye before it announces its mass action programs if the deadlock remains in place. We are planning for mass action of monumental impact as we challenge this insensitive telecommunications giant whose obsession seems to be profits at all costs and at the expense of justice.”

Benson Motsumi, a member of the committee formed by the movement and the ANC Midrand branch, said they were now planning to take action by other means of crippling Vodacom, including urging people to cancel their cellphone contracts, reversing debit orders, making airtime advances and porting their numbers to another network.

Zanele Lwana, deputy president of Black First Land First, said Vodacom was being “arrogant” and that they have the capital to “lynch” Makate through the judiciary. The BLF was protesting outside the Sandton City where Vodacom has one of its biggest shops.

“We believe that Nkosana Makate has a strong case and the Constitutional Court has ruled on that. Vodacom has been conducting themselves just like all white monopoly capital companies who continue to expropriate not only black labour, but continue to steal the intellectual properties of black people in this country,” Lwana said.

Makate told the African News Agency (ANA) via telephone that he would not join the demonstration but was following developments on social media. He declined to confirm any of the figures floating in the media as the amount he is demanding, including a suggestion of R70 billion.

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