JOHANNESBURG - Axed Old Mutual chief executive Peter Moyo believes he still has a lot to offer to the JSE-listed insurer despite his relationship with the board chairperson Trevor Manuel breaking down amid allegations of misconduct.
“Relationships can always be re- paired,” said Moyo at the high court in Joburg last week.
Judge Brian Mashile said he would deliver judgment on Friday.
Moyo approached the court to challenge his dismissal claiming it was unlawful, a move that has brought South Africa’s corporate governance controls under scrutiny.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the case. We are confident our case was properly articulated,” said Moyo, who was ousted from the 174-year-old insurer last month.
Moyo lodged an urgent court application to declare his sacking as unlawful, which would pave the way for him to be temporarily reinstated as chief executive.
He wants Trevor Manuel and about 12 non-executive directors to be declared delinquent under Section 162 of the Companies Act.
Moyo’s lawyer, Dali Mpofu, argued that Old Mutual needed to reinstate Moyo.
“This is a classical case to an employer who has been warned by the courts of this country in a previous case. If these people (board members) are not delinquents, no one is a delinquent.
"They have harassed a person (Moyo) and defamed him all to protect one ego,” Mpofu said in reference to Manuel.
Old Mutual's counsel, Hamilton Manjenje, told the court the insurer was within its rights to axe Moyo.
“The loss of trust and confidence are permissible reasons for dismissal and there is no entitlement to disciplinary process,” said Manjenje.
He said even if Moyo’s bid to be reinstated was successful, it would be inappropriate as his relationship with the board was broken.
In court papers, Moyo said his relationship with the insurance company went south in March last year when he approached Manuel over his “genuine concerns” relating to what he perceived as being Manuel’s “triple conflict of interest”.
He said the conflict of interest had occurred over a multibillion-rand commercial project, which involved the delisting of Old Mutual plc from the London Stock Exchange and the proposed listing of Old Mutual Limited on the JSE.
He alleged Rothschild was one of the companies that stood to gain hundreds of millions of rand in fees as an adviser in the separation. Manuel was a director of Old Mutual plc, the chairperson of Old Mutual Limited and chaired Rothschild, which amounted to impropriety, Moyo asserted.
Old Mutual said it had fired Moyo over the handling of a conflict of interest arising from his investment holding firm NMT Capital, which he co-founded in 2002. Old Mutual owns a 20percent stake in NMT.