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MTN official put on special leave

By Asha Speckman Time of article published Aug 19, 2013

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Johannesburg - Another senior MTN official has departed under a cloud of uncertainty following the resignation of MTN group chief financial officer Nazir Patel last month over allegations that he was guilty of unspecified corporate governance transgressions.

In the latest incident, MTN South Africa has placed chief corporate services officer Robert Madzonga on special leave pending an internal inquiry. Rumours have linked Madzonga to the R6 million management fee that Phosane Mngqibisa, the boyfriend of disgraced former minister of communications Dina Pule, collected for his questionable involvement in the ICT Indaba staged by Pule’s department last year. MTN contributed R15m in sponsorship alongside Vodacom, Telkom and the Communication Department’s R10m to set up the conference.

Madzonga has allegedly lodged a R1.5m defamation lawsuit against MTN SA general manager for business risk management Lily Zondo. Zondo had allegedly defamed Madzonga by saying in an e-mail to several high-ranking MTN officials that Madzonga had shared the R6m with Mngqibisa.

On Friday, Madzonga confirmed that he had been on special leave since Wednesday and was pursuing defamation charges against Zondo but he referred further enquiries to MTN. Zondo did not respond to attempts to contact her.

MTN SA human resources director Themba Nyathi confirmed that Madzonga was on leave but he would not comment on the reasons.

“I can’t comment. It’s an internal matter between Robert and MTN… We really want to resolve this internally,” he said.

He would also not be drawn to comment on the defamation case. “We don’t want to be dragged into unfounded speculation until a time we’ve dealt with these matters fully.”

Business Report has seen an e-mail from Zondo sent on February 1 to Karel Pienaar, then MTN SA chief executive but now head of strategy at MTN Group; and Serame Taukobong, then MTN chief marketing officer and now MTN Ghana chief executive. Ryan Gould, the general manager for brand and communications at the South African unit, and Madzonga were included in the e-mail.

Zondo was responding to an e-mail from Pienaar about the leaked Werksmans report, which was commissioned by MTN into the circumstances around the cellular network operator’s sponsorship of the ICT Indaba, which found that Mngqibisa was “economical with the truth”.

The e-mail from Zondo read: “The report cleared us but it stated that Mngqibisa received R6m as management fees, and when interviewed he failed to explain how the fees were calculated. They believe that he shared the money with Robert [Madzonga]… I have a lead on the leak but will be able to confirm by Monday.”

Business Report has seen a copy of the report, which does not mention Madzonga.

It is not the first time he has been implicated in controversy. Madzonga was at the centre of a Labour Court battle last year as Violet Magagane, a former senior legal adviser at MTN SA, fought to be reinstated or compensated, claiming that she was unfairly retrenched after blowing the whistle on R12m of fraud involving Madzonga. The court dismissed her claim but awarded her a once-off payment of six months’ salary.

The outcome of the R12m fraud case at MTN is unclear.

Meanwhile, MTN Group chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa said earlier this month that a KPMG investigation into allegations against Patel would be concluded in two to three weeks. - Business Report

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