JOHANNESBURG – Fired Old Mutual chief executive Peter Moyo last week brought out legal heavyweights to challenge his dismissal from the company, charging that he was a victim of orchestrated machinations by the board and its chairperson, former finance minister Trevor Manuel.
Moyo brought in EFF chairperson Dali Mpofu and Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi to lead his legal battle to get his job back after he was fired last month for alleged misconduct owing to the conflict of interest in his NMT Group.
Even Judge Brian Mashile’s attempt to break the stalemate between Moyo and Old Mutual failed because the legal teams could not find each other.
Moyo was fired after he was found in breach of dividend payments of R115 million, of which the benefit to Moyo’s NMT, the investment company he founded, was about R31m.
Moyo, who trained as a chartered accountant at KPMG in Zimbabwe, wants the company to temporarily reinstate him. Yesterday, he told the court that Old Mutual had abused its corporate power when he was unceremoniously fired last month after the board put him on suspension for weeks.
Moyo accused the JSE-listed insurer of breaching its employment contract after firing him without following procedures as the company failed to lead neither a disciplinary nor an arbitration process. Mpofu said Moyo had been informed by a fellow director that Manuel (picture below) was gunning for him for an inexplicable reason.
He argued that the company broke its own conditions of employment. “That is a factor that shows this was about getting rid of a whistle-blower, Mr. Moyo,” Mpofu argued.
“It shows they rushed to a suspension only to victimize a man that raised impropriety.”
Moyo accused Manuel of having a “triple conflict of interest” due to him overseeing the company’s separation of the South African business from its UK operations.
Manuel was the chairperson of Old Mutual Group SA, Old Mutual plc and advisory firm Rothschild & Co during the unbundling, which saw the company move the primary listing from the London Stock Exchange to the JSE. Moyo was handed a letter of termination a month after he was suspended in May.
The board cited a breakdown in relation to trust and confidence. Mpofu said the claimed breakdown of the relations was artificially manufactured.
“People refer their employers to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) every day.” Mpofu said ahead of the termination, Moyo had requested for a moratorium of 48 hours on the termination, but the company ignored the request. “What kind of hate is that?” Mpofu asked.
Manuel and Moyo were embroiled in a public spat with Moyo, saying that he was aggrieved his reputation had been decimated. Mpofu also asked the court to find the directors of the board delinquent under the Companies Act.
“Delinquent is an understatement when it comes to the board,” Mpofu told Judge Brian Mashile. Old Mutual lawyer Hamilton Manjenje said the contract was based on confidence and trust. He said the compromise of its principles led to the breakdown in relations. “The contract places confidence and trust at the core of the contract,” said Manjenje. The case continues today.