South Africa’s Vodacom faces protests over call-back service compensation

January 31, 2019

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A settlement offered by South African mobile telecoms provider Vodacom to a former employee drew tens of protesters on Thursday calling for a better deal.

Vodacom was ordered in 2016 by the country’s top court to pay Nkosana Makate for his role in creating the company’s call-back messaging service.

The Constitutional Court did not set a specific compensation amount, however, leaving it to both parties to iron out.

The court ruled that should the two sides fail to agree an amount, Vodacom Chief Executive Shameel Joosub had the authority to set an amount to break the deadlock.

Vodacom spokesman Byron Kennedy said the settlement made earlier this month was “reasonable”. The firm has not made the amount public and neither has Makate who did not respond to requests for comment.

“We are willing to pay Mr Makate a substantial amount and we have fully complied with the Constitutional Court order on the matter,” Kennedy said.

About 200 protesters marched to Vodacom headquarters, however, demanding 70 billion rand ($5.28 billion)for the 42 year-old Makate.

Chris Schoeman, a local businessman who funded Makate’s litigation against Vodacom, told 702 Talk Radio that Vodacom has offered a settlement of 49 million rand ($4 million). This amount could not be independently verified.

Makate has said on Twitter that the settlement offered by the mobile firm was “shocking and insulting”. It was unclear what he would consider a reasonable amount.

Holding placards reading “Vodacom Stop Racism” and “Justice for Makate = R70 billion”, the protesters gathered at the main entrance of Vodacom’s head office in Johannesburg.

Armed police kept vigil at the gates, which were locked with chains.

Kennedy said Vodacom’s retail stores inside the headquarters, which has around 6,000 square meters of shopping space, were closed for the day.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Siphiwe Sibeko; Editing by James Macharia and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)