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Telkom a cause for major concern

Essential reading for those planning to attend next year’s Telkom annual general meeting (AGM), must be Contemporary Company Law which is a brilliant analysis of… yes, contemporary company law.

It is written by three Cassims, one Jooste, one Shev and one Yeats and it provides the most accessible and comprehensive account of the Companies Act.

Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi. Credit: Independent Newspapers

On the matter of yesterday’s dramatic events at the Telkom AGM, this “must-have” book is unequivocal – a proxy appointment may be suspended at any time.

“The guiding principle is that every proxy is subject to an implied condition that the proxy should only be used if the shareholder is unable to attend the meeting. Accordingly, if a shareholder were to attend the meeting and vote at the meeting, the proxy appointment would be impliedly revoked.”

The one bit of difficulty was presumably in what form would “the government” attend, which is no doubt why the president’s letter was necessary to prove that the minister was “the government”.

But then there’s the matter of Dr Sibusiso Sibisi’s election or, more controversially, his failure to get elected on the second vote. A reading of Telkom’s memorandum of incorporation suggests that the AGM did not have the authority to overturn the outcome of the first vote.

It’s all very peculiar and for Telkom shareholders probably highlights the horrors of having an uncertain major shareholder in the form of “the government”.

The statement issued by the minister after the AGM may not have suggested the sort of urgency that is needed by this troubled parastatal. “The vacant board seats will be filled in due course,” she said.

No hurry there then. And how many shareholders will have taken comfort from her statement that “the process to find a lasting and sustainable turnaround solution for Telkom was still within the cabinet process”. No hurry there then, either.

Patrol vessels

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has acknowledged that none of the patrol vessels or research vessels which belong to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which are now being managed by the SA Navy, were operational.

Replying to a question by Freedom Front Plus parliamentary leader Pieter Groenewald, the minister said three of the four patrol vessels were not operational due to maintenance of the vessels. The other patrol vessel – SAS Ruth First – is at present being used for training of the crew. It was also not operational. The SAS Victoria Mxenge was undergoing “final readiness and safety checks” before being declared seaworthy and would be conducting east coast fishery patrols from Port Elizabeth shortly. The other patrol vessels are the SAS Sarah Baartman and Lillian Ngoyi.

Of the three research vessels – the work of which provides data for the total allowable catches in various marine species – two, the SAS Africana and the SAS Ellen Khuzwayo – were also not operational owing to maintenance. The minister, however, said these two would be operational from the end of this month. Research vessel SAS Algoa, had been handed over to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Oceanographic surveys.

Groenewald pointed out that this confirmed that the coastline had not been patrolled since March, when Smit Amandla Marine lost the ship management contract. The lack of coastal policing, said Groenewald, was “due to the incompetence and ineptness of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, in the handling of the Smit Amandla Marine contract… which had operated these vessels and undertaken the patrolling of our coastal waters”.

Groenewald said poaching of the country’s marine resources “could have taken place unhindered”. That maintenance had to be done on all the vessels at the same time was proof of their poor state. “Smit Amandla Marine was paid millions of rand to operate these vessels and to undertake [their] maintenance,” he said.

One assumes that was among the reasons that the minister ended the contract.

Pick n Pay

Pick n Pay plans to roll out new stores as fast as its competitors. But it is already lagging behind and it remains to be seen whether it can catch up.

The retailer, which is licking its wounds after experiencing a decline in its interim profit, says it would open 225 stores in the next 18 months. Of these, 115 would be supermarkets and the rest would include express stores, clothing stores, liquor store and Boxer stores.

“In March this year we decided that we were going to open new stores as fast as our competitors are, or even faster,” Pick n Pay deputy chief executive Richard van Rensburg said yesterday.

He said this growth would allow Pick n Pay to regain its market share. The new stores would include rolling out express stores in partnership with BP fuel stations.

He said although most of the stores would be opened in KwaZulu-Natal, some would also be opened elsewhere in the country. Should Pick n Pay reach its goal, it would increase its store footprint from 932 to 1 257 in the next 18 months.

Meanwhile, its main competitor Shoprite, the owner of Checkers, has reached 1 334 stores after opening 90 stores during the 12 months to February this year.

But Shoprite did not disclose what its intentions were when it comes to opening new stores, which means that Pick n Pay is chasing an unknown target.

Nedbank Capital retail analyst Syd Vianello yesterday warned that Pick n Pay needed to act fast as it was becoming evident that Checkers was starting to become a preferred tenant in major new shopping centre developments. “If this trend continues Pick n Pay would potentially start struggling to find space or lose it to competitors,” he said.

Edited by Samantha Enslin-Payne. With contributions from Ann Crotty, Donwald Pressly and Nompumelelo Magwaza.

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