Former Edcon executives in retail industry shuffle

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There was a lot of movement in and around the retail sector yesterday, not of investors but of senior management, most of whom were at some stage involved with Edcon.

First up was the announcement by African Bank that it had found a volunteer to take up what must surely be the toughest job in South African retail these days – that of the chief executive of Ellerines.

Mano Moodley is the fearless individual who takes over the top job at the chronically troubled furniture retailer. Alan Schlesinger, previously the chief executive of Relyant Retail, has been appointed non-executive chairman of Ellerines.

Moodley was most recently the chief executive of group sourcing and planning at Edcon and, according to the African Bank statement, he played an integral role in the turnaround and transformation of the CNA chain of stores at Edcon.

Shortly after this announcement came news of another former Edcon executive. Steve Binnie, who had joined Sappi in July 2012 as chief financial officer designate, was appointed the chief executive of Sappi with effect from July 1. He will succeed Ralph Boettger. Binnie was Edcon’s chief financial officer from 2002 to 2009.

Then it was Edcon’s turn to announce an appointment. Toon Clerckx was appointed chief financial officer to replace Mark Bower, who has been with Edcon since 1990. Bower, who is retiring, joined Edcon from SA Breweries, which was the retailer’s controlling shareholder at the time. Clerckx studied economics at Antwerp University and joins Edcon from Boots Health & Beauty.

Later in the day came news that Brett Kaplan will retire as managing director of the clothing and general merchandise division at Woolworths after 37 years with the company. He will be replaced by Christo Claassen, currently the chief executive of the Legit and Jet division at Edcon.

Transformation

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is the only port authority in the world where 50 percent of employees are women. Its chief harbour master, Rufus Lekala, was the youngest person to be appointed in that position in the world and he happened to be the first black harbour master at several South African ports before that.

TNPA had had its own “National Development Plan” since 1993, its executive management said this week. It was back then that the foundations of transformation in the organisation were laid. The goal was clear: the authority had to be totally transformed in 20 years. Twenty-one years later, TNPA prides itself for achieving that in its marine sector.

“And what’s interesting is, not a single person of colour lost their jobs when we embarked on this transformation,” Lekala told industry players during TNPA’s media and stakeholder engagement in Cape Town last week.

Lekala, who is a member of the International Harbour Masters’ Association and has been its deputy president since 2008, comes from the Limpopo village of Kutupu and his first job was as a taxi driver.

Transformation in South Africa’s public sector has undoubtedly been significant in the past 19 years of democracy but in sectors such as aviation, transformation remains a real challenge.

For instance, the inaugural Aviation Industry Transformation Conference was only held last August, where it was revealed that of the 793 pilots employed at SAA, only 70 were female and only 21 of the 214 SA Express pilots were females.

Now the TNPA is determined to bring about the same change in aviation as it did in its maritime business. It took in 24 young people to train as helicopter pilots at the Starlite Aviation premises, where they will get the necessary flying hours.

Lekala boasted that Transnet baked its own cake and ate it and never went out and looked elsewhere for scarce skills.

There is no doubt that if all companies had that same attitude, our skills shortage gap would have narrowed faster.

E-tolling

Listed transport logistics and mobility company Super Group has labelled the impact of the introduction of e-tolling on Gauteng freeways on its operations as “huge and significant”.

Super Group chief executive Peter Mountford added that the implementation of the system would hurt all areas of the group’s business and continued to be of concern in relation to distribution costs and the knock-on effect on the economy.

This suggests that concerns about e-tolling pushing up inflation are turning out to be very real. However, there were more worrying signs of the system’s unintended consequences.

Mountford said e-tolling had dramatically affected the group’s administrative costs, particularly because of the inordinate complexity of the system. He referred specifically to the issue of fraud and cloned number plates.

He said Super Group would need a coherent process to deal with these issues and this cost money because it had to employ people to specifically manage and deal with the complexity of the e-toll system. Such a process and management system would presumably have to be duplicated by hundreds of other companies.

It is unclear whether this “job creation” was included in the so-called benefits of e-tolling cited by the SA National Roads Agency prior to its implementation. Although e-tolling might have created these jobs, they come at a cost to the economy because they raise the cost of doing business and ultimately the consumer will end up paying more for goods and services apart from the cost of settling their own e-toll bills for using these highways.

It all seems so unnecessary because a levy on the fuel price would not have resulted in any of these distortions, unintended costs or damage to the economy. However, this is the price that has to be paid for an inefficient and ill-conceived system. page17

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ann Crotty, Londiwe Buthelezi and Roy Cokayne.


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