Makate is seeking Sh75 billion in compensation for coming up with the idea.
The service is also operated by Kenyan company Safaricom, its sister company Vodacom.
South African courts are expected to rule that the R47 million (Sh354 million) paid to the founder of the service “Please call me” by Vodacom is large enough.
This is after the founder, Nkosana Makate, 44, turned down the offer of Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub, saying it was too small.
Makate is seeking R10 billion (Sh75 billion) compensation for coming up with an idea used in 2001 by prepaid phone users to send a free text requesting a call back.
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has been hearing from both sides for three days from May 4 to 6 in the hope of bringing to justice a 20-year-old case.
It is unclear whether the court’s decision will affect Kenya’s largest mobile operator Safaricom, which is Vodacom’s sister company and also uses the “Please call me” messaging service.
Makate, who worked for Vodacom, had shared with his employer a text message, but never received payment for it.
He has sued Vodacom and the 2014 ruling in the South Gauteng High Court upheld Makate’s claim that it was “Please call me.”
The court also dismissed a claim by former CEO Alan Knott-Craig that he had come up with the idea of a messaging service.
However, a high court ruling, in opposition to Makate, ruled that Geissler did not have the authority to promise that he would make such compensation and that the debt would expire (legally, limited) within three years.
Makate appealed, and later he appealed to the constitutional court. In 2016, Makate won his application to force a leading mobile phone company to pay him for launching the popular messaging service after the country’s highest court ordered the company to compensate its former employee.
A nine-year court battle
Following the ruling, Vodacom chief executive Shaamel Joosub promised R47 million, but Makate declined, saying it was too small.
Makate is back in court for a nine-year fight, this time accusing Vodacom of violating his pay agreement.
The company defended itself by saying that the money they gave Makate was “huge” and would “look into the courts”.
“We have worked hard to resolve this issue,” 2019 said. “We urge healthy heads to be strong in our current political climate as we resolve this issue.”
In addition, the company argued that during the launch of “Please call me”, it did not make any money to Vodacom as subscribers were not charged for the service.
An acceptable solution
“It was free. The system that was intended to charge it after the first period has been canceled, as there were many similar services on the market, which were provided free of charge. That’s not it, and it’s never been me who was spending money.
However, Makate’s 2019 lawyers have suggested “Please call me” have generated at least R205 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) in Vodacom mobile revenue since 2001.
Fin24 reported that on the first day of a three-day hearing last week, Makate’s legal team presented possible alternatives to presiding judge Wendy Hughes.
Attorney General Gilbert Marcus, representing Makate, said they had come to the conclusion that replacement would be an acceptable solution. This could mean that the court will ultimately be the one to make the decisions when it comes to determining the amount of compensation, not CEO Joosub.