Questions mount over Alex Forbes executive exodus as claims of a clean-out by new management arise. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Outgoing Alexander Forbes chief empowerment and transformation officer Thabo Mashaba was allegedly pushed out of his job.

In an unexpected move, the group said yesterday that Mashaba would leave next month, bringing to eight the number of senior executives who have left in the past four months.

Sources claim that Mashaba was allegedly given a choice between leaving or having trumped up charges brought against him. He opted to negotiate his resignation.

Former executives yesterday told Business Report that Mashaba was a victim of a clean-out by the firm’s new management.

One said new group chief executive Dawie de Villiers played a leading role in Mashaba’s exit.

“From my perspective, what clearly should not be tolerated is a chief executive of a publicly listed company being less than fully disclosive, or put more strongly, blatantly lying in commentary to the media,” the executive said. “This smacks of lack of integrity and a corporate governance cover-up given that their actions have been exposed, or, at the very least, are being publicly questioned openly.” 

De Villiers, however, denied that he had a hand in Mashaba’s departure.

He denied that there was a purge of senior executives who had served under former chief executive Andrew Darfoor.

“There is a negative sense of a clean-out and of governance problems. But I can assure that the company is in a great place. It (the resignations) was individual decisions by these people,” De Villiers told Business Report.

Darfoor was ousted in September after crafting a new strategy called Ambition 2022 for the group. His departure was quickly followed by that of chief financial officer Naidene Ford-Hoon, group risk officer Vishnu Naicker, chief human resources officer Christian Schaub and chief executive at Alexander Forbes Investments Leon Greyling.

Just two weeks ago, the group announced the resignations of Tony Powis, the chief executive of corporate and employee benefits, and Sugendhree Reddy, the head of retail financial services. 

De Villiers said the group had firm plans to ensure continuity. “The following executives will expand their current mandates: Lynn Stevens, the group chief marketing officer, will assume responsibility for the Alexander Forbes Community Trust and the Bursary Programmes,” De Villiers said. 

“Muriel Sokkie, the interim group chief human resources officer, will assume responsibility for empowerment and transformation.” 

However, another source said Mashaba was unlikely to be the last casualty of the clean-up that has seen eight out of 10 executives who served with Darfoor leaving.

“Lynn Stevens, the group chief marketing officer, and Bonga Mokoena, who heads emerging markets, are safe for now. 

“Given the press reaction, I do not believe they will want any further resignations that appear to be a coincidence,” the source said.