JOHANNESBURG – Axed Old Mutual chief executive Peter Moyo has launched a fresh legal battle to get his job back.
Moyo, 56, on Monday approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to have the country’s oldest insurer abide by last month’s order for his reinstatement, following his unceremonious dismissal in June.
“The Old Mutual board was not permitted to ignore and fail to implement a court order simply because it does not agree therewith or because it is uncomfortable with such application. Such action amounts to self-help, anarchy and unlawfulness,” Moyo said in his court papers.
Moyo said Old Mutual was undermining the dignity of the courts and contravening the sacred constitutional injunction contained in section 165 of the Constitution, which states that “an order or decision by the court binds all persons to whom it applies”.
Old Mutual initially suspended Moyo in May, citing a breakdown of trust and confidence between both parties, and subsequently firing him in June. Moyo approached the court, saying he was victimised by the board after raising a triple conflict of interest against board chairperson Trevor Manuel.
He fell out of favour after raising the red flag when he queried why the company had paid for Manuel’s legal fees, Moyo added.
Judge Brian Mashile ruled that Moyo be reinstated after finding that his dismissal had been unlawful. But Old Mutual maintains that it made the right decision to terminate Moyo’s employment when the conflict of interest over the NMT Group became unmanageable.
Old Mutual immediately applied for leave to appeal the judgment.
It said at the time that the filing of its appeal bid would suspend the operation of the court order.
Old Mutual told Moyo he was not required or permitted to resume his duties, pending the outcome of the appeal proceedings.
Moyo filed the court papers in response to Old Mutual’s court application to seek a declaratory order under section 18 of the Superior Courts Act regarding what should happen, pending the appeal hearing.
Moyo lamented that Old Mutual was continuing to impair his reputation even after the judgment.
“I am at present forced to remain at home due to the unreasonable and unlawful conduct of Old Mutual, including that I be prevented from entering the premises,” Moyo said.
“I only refrain from going to the office daily to avoid causing a scene, and out of respect for this court process, even though I feel it is ill conceived on the part of Old Mutual.”
He argued that Old Mutual would not suffer irreparable harm if the order was not granted, and that the insurer continued to live under the cloud of an interdict that any chief executive who might be appointed could be removed if Old Mutual loses the appeal.
“It therefore makes no sense to push me out of employment, while the appeals process is under way,” Moyo pointed out.