When Peter Moyo sued for unfair dismissal, the court ruled in his favour. File Photo: IOL

CAPE TOWN – Old Mutual has applied for Judge Brian Mashile’s recusal as the presiding judge in the upcoming contempt of court hearing between the insurer and its former chief executive, Peter Moyo, the insurer’s board said yesterday.

The hearing is due to be heard early next month.

Old Mutual first fired Moyo in June due to a breakdown in trust and alleged conflict of interest. When Moyo sued for unfair dismissal, the court ruled in his favour. However, Old Mutual has said it does not want him back.

“The decision to proceed with the recusal application was a difficult one. The directors emphatically state that they mean no disrespect to Judge Mashile,” Old Mutual said.

“By making Judge Mashile the subject of the contempt proceedings, Moyo’s team have created a situation where the judge would have to decide on claims, which now directly involve him personally,” Old Mutual’s board said.

On October 15, Moyo filed a replying affidavit introducing a new ground of contempt, in which he claimed that Old Mutual and its directors had embarked on a campaign of insulting Judge Mashile personally.  

Ironically, it was Old Mutual chairperson Trevor Manuel who had to apologise publicly for a remark he made about Judge Mashile, when the judge delivered a ruling that Old Mutual’s axing of Moyo was unlawful.

Manuel said at the time that his “respect for the judiciary is unshaken” following outrage over his earlier reference to Judge Mashile as “a single individual who happens to wear a robe”.

Meanwhile, the high court in Johannesburg has set an accelerated timetable for Old Mutual’s appeal against the high court judgment that temporarily reinstated Moyo. The appeal will be heard on December 4.

“We welcome the decision to expedite the appeal hearing. Though keen to put the matter behind the company, the dispute with the former chief executive threatens to upend corporate governance and general principles of company law if left unchallenged,” Old Mutual said. 

Moyo and his legal team had filed a contempt of court application against the board of Old Mutual for its refusal to re-admit him to the offices of Old Mutual, and for the company's decision to issue a second notice of termination on August 21, 2019. 

Moyo wants to see Old Mutual’s board members handed a jail term instead of a financial fine for their decision to prevent him from coming back to Old Mutual, after the court ordered his reinstatement.

Old Mutual’s share price was trading 1.21 percent lower at R19.60 yesterday afternoon. Last year this time the share price was R22.85, meaning it had fallen 14 percent over the period. 

Old Mutual closed 0.20 percent lower at R19.80 on the JSE yesterday.

BUSINESS REPORT