Axed Old Mutual chief executive Peter Moyo claims there are divisions in the company’s board over whether or not to reinstate him. Photo: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG – Axed Old Mutual chief executive Peter Moyo on Monday slammed the insurer for failing to take harsher steps against board chairperson Trevor Manuel, after his outburst against Judge Brian Mashile.

Moyo told reporters that the company should have done more to deal with Manuel following his labelling of Judge Mashile as “a single individual who happens to wear a robe”.

Manuel made the comments two weeks ago on Judge Mashile’s ruling that the board’s decision to fire Moyo was illegal, ordering his reinstatement.

Moyo said it was not in the character of Old Mutual to disrespect the judiciary. “The character of Old Mutual respects the laws of every jurisdiction where we operate,” Moyo said.

Manuel last week apologised for his comments.

But Moyo said the group should have done more to protect the judiciary. “The character of Old Mutual respects the court. If you do not like a judgment, you can appeal,” Moyo said. “But you do not denigrate the court.”

Moyo also questioned the board’s unity on his dismissal, charging that there were divisions on whether to reinstate him.

He claimed that the abrupt resignation of non-executive director Nombulelo Moholi was not a coincidence, and that the board was not united about his axing.

“You don’t just wake up in the midst of all this and resign,” Moyo said. “So there has got to be something. It’s a statement of fact that the board was in meetings last Monday and Tuesday, and she resigned on Wednesday.”

On Monday, Moyo upped the ante, asking the South Gauteng High Court to allow him to submit a second letter of dismissal from the company as part of his evidence, filing a court application to return to his job today.

The court, however, deferred judgment in the matter and outlined a number of steps that the parties should take before a ruling was made.

Moyo was dismissed without a disciplinary hearing in June over what the insurer called a conflict of interest in boutique investment firm NMT Group.

Old Mutual holds a 20percent stake and maintains that Moyo paid ordinary dividends, which he benefited from to the tune of R31million, before paying the firm as a preferential shareholder and institutional investor.

Moyo’s legal counsel, Eric Mabuza, said Old Mutual and the directors were facing an application for contempt of court, including the letter on August 21 that purported to terminate Moyo’s employment for the second time.

“Now they have to explain to the court why that letter does not constitute contempt. The court has admitted that letter as part of the original contempt application that Mr Moyo brought before court,” Mabuza said.

“You will recall that Old Mutual initially stopped Mr Moyo from going back to work, and we brought an application for contempt. Subsequent to that, Old Mutual tried to terminate his contract fora second time, and we have brought that to the court.”

Old Mutual was given 10 days to file papers showing why its second firing of Moyo was not further contempt of court, and why its board members should not pay for their own legal costs.

Old Mutual’s shares have declined 10 percent since May. On Monday, the stock fell 2.69 percent on the JSE to close at R19.51.

Old Mutual spokesperson Tabby Tsengiwe said the insurer would abide by the court to file further papers, heads of arguments and responses, to the contempt of court application.

“We have always and will always abide by the courts. The court has outlined eight points that we have to follow as required by the court,” Tsengiwe said.

“But Old Mutual’s second dismissal letter served to Mr Moyo on August 21 still stands. The validity of that letter has not been contested,” he said.

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