Soweto derby could be the litmus test for proposed Vodacom boycott

Vodacam faces a nationwide boycott if it does not meet a Thursday deadline to compensate Nkosana Makate for his "Please Call Me" idea.
Vodacam faces a nationwide boycott if it does not meet a Thursday deadline to compensate Nkosana Makate for his "Please Call Me" idea.
Image: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius

The Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, set to be played next Saturday, could be one of the events to be affected if the call for a boycott of Vodacom is heeded by the public.

Panyaza Lesufi, the Gauteng ANC deputy chairman who is also the province’s education MEC, has called on South Africans to boycott all Vodacom products from Friday February 1 - if the company does not reach a payment agreement with “Please Call Me” inventor Nkosana Makate before 10am on Thursday.

The proposed boycott extends to all Vodacom-sponsored activities, including any event that is supported by the company or where participants are sponsored by Vodacom, said Lesufi.

The upcoming soccer match, which always attracts a capacity crowd, is set to take place at the FNB Stadium in Soweto next Saturday February 9. Both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are sponsored by Vodacom.

The match could be the ultimate test of whether the calls by Lesufi and other organisations to boycott Vodacom will succeed if the telecommunications company fails to reach a settlement with Makate.

The Constitutional Court ordered in 2016 that Vodacom must commence negotiations in good faith with Makate to determine a reasonable compensation payable to him for his idea.

The court said in the event of the parties failing to agree on the reasonable compensation, the matter must be submitted to Vodacom’s CEO for determination of the amount within a reasonable time.

Earlier last month, Vodacom announced that the CEO Shameel Joosub had determined the suitable amount, as ordered by the court, after the parties failed to reach an agreement.

However, Makate said the amount offered by Vodacom was shocking and insulting.

Lesufi said on Wednesday he remained hopeful that Vodacom and Makate would reach an agreeable settlement before 10am on Thursday. If no agreement was reached by this deadline, he called on South Africans to terminate their contracts with Vodacom and stop buying airtime and data vouchers from the company.

“I remain hopeful. I am in discussions behind the scenes with some leaders of Vodacom. There is hope that there can be a breakthrough between today and tomorrow,” said Lesufi.

Lesufi added that there would be "no need" for planned demonstrations at Vodacom’s headquarters in Midrand on Thursday because the company had already announced that it would be "closing all the shops" on the day.

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said it was aware of a planned protest at its Midrand offices.

"Vodacom respects the right of every South African to freedom of expression and to hold legal and peaceful protests. As a responsible corporate, and in the normal course of business, we have continuity plans in place to manage any eventuality," said Kennedy.

"We would like to reiterate that we have fully complied with the order of the Constitutional Court and that we are ready and willing to pay Mr Makate a substantial amount." 

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