Reports that Vodacom made a R10million offer to Please Call Me service inventor Nkosana Makate have featured prominently in court papers filed by the cellphone operator.
The company was seeking to bar its ex-employee from leaking information central to negotiations to pay him.
This surfaced yesterday in the high court in Pretoria, where both parties reached an agreement that Makate must desist from publicly speaking about the contents of their negotiations.
Two years ago, Makate won a court case against Vodacom, but the two parties never agreed on the amount due to him.
Makate has been fighting for years to get Vodacom to compensate him for implementing his Please Call Me invention.
He came up with the idea, while he was working as its trainee accountant in 2000.
He conceived an idea that would allow his long-distance girlfriend to send him a text message, asking him to call her.
Vodacom took him to court after he allegedly revealed some contents of negotiations, which included a R10m offer the company made to him.
Vodacom sought to interdict him from leaking information, saying it was contrary to their confidentiality clause during negotiations.
In court papers, Vodacom argued that Makate’s public utterance could potentially “cause irreparable harm” to its reputation.
The information Vodacom referred to included financial and commercial information central to the negotiations.
The court application was made in the wake of a newspaper report in April that Makate had received a R10m offer from Vodacom.
“The manner in which the respondent discussed the applicant’s offer of R10m was designed to create support for the notion that it was wholly inadequate and a contemptible offer,” Vodacom argued.
The company said the disclosure of such information was in contradiction to the confidentiality clause the two parties agreed to.
Vodacom also cited a radio interview Makate had on Metro FM, in which he reiterated that a R10m offer was “crazy”.
“Only one side of the negotiation process has been presented in the mass media by the respondent, as the applicant has been bound to silence by a confidentiality agreement.
It goes without saying that the reputational damage to the applicant is incalculable,” it said in court papers.
Executive head of department at Vodacom Nompumelelo Simelane said in one of the founding affidavits Makate tried to blame the operator for the delay in concluding negotiations.
“In this regard, I repeat what was set out in the founding affidavit that the respondent unilaterally suspended the negotiations midway through the process to approach the Constitutional Court, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
“This considerably delayed the process,” Simelane said.
Vodacom argued that Makate embarked on a media campaign, which included using social media platforms to vilify it at all costs.
“The media has been a willing participant to expand news coverage on the respondent’s case, because it makes good reading, and more so when the respondent has cast himself as the David in what he characterises as a David and Goliath titanic battle,” it said.
Speaking to The Star’s sister paper, the Pretoria News, outside court, Makate said: “The outcome is essentially the undertaking that I had already made to them.
“Today they opted to settle the matter and not argue in front of the judge.
I am fine with that.”
He denied he disclosed any information to the media.
“It was long in the media before I even spoke about it,” he said. Outside the court, there was a group of people who sang in support of Makate, demanding that Vodacom pay what was due to him.
George Mashigo, said: “People don’t want to speak about the fact that there is an attempt to suppress those who come up with initiatives.”