'Please Call Me' creator apologises to Vodacom for 'knee on my neck' tweet

Nkosana Makate has apologised to Vodacom for a recent tweet telling the company to get its knee off his neck.
Nkosana Makate has apologised to Vodacom for a recent tweet telling the company to get its knee off his neck.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES

Nkosana Makate, who has had a bruising battle with Vodacom over payment for the “Please Call Me” idea he developed about 20 years ago, on Monday issued an apology to the company's CEO Shameel Joosub.

Makate, in a letter he issued on Twitter, apologised for retweeting a cartoon depicting Joosub with his knee on Makate's neck. The initial tweet came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in the US, who was killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck.

Makate said he was retracting a statement he made on that tweet that Vodacom must get its knee off his neck.

On Monday evening, Makate said the retweet was borne out of his frustration concerning his perception of the failure by Vodacom to settle his claim fairly.

“This is a matter which has caused me considerable pain as it has been dragging on for 20 years of my life,” he said.

Makate said he accepted that the “knee on the neck” metaphor, due to being associated with the killing of Floyd, was an inappropriate method to vent his frustration.

“I accordingly apologise to Mr Joosub and Vodacom and have taken steps to retract the retweet. I also share sentiments of the Black Lives Matter movement and apologise if it seemed as if I had been unsensitive to such plight,” he said in the letter.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court declared that Vodacom was bound by the agreement Makate signed with a Vodacom senior official concerning the “Please Call Me” idea he had come up with.

The court ordered Vodacom to commence negotiations in good faith with Makate for determining a reasonable compensation payable to him in terms of the agreement. It said the case concerned payment of compensation for the use of Makate's idea in developing a lucrative product which has generated billions of rands for Vodacom.

Despite the 2016 ConCourt order, Vodacom and Makate have not yet reached agreement on the compensation.


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