Court hears ouster of ex-Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo was 'artificially manufactured'

Former Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo on Thursday sought to demonstrate that the breakdown in trust cited by his former employer as a reason for his axing was "artificially manufactured".

Moyo is in court to challenge his June 17 dismissal by the financial services firm, which he wants to be declared "unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void".

His legal team, led by Advocates Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, submitted that the case was mainly about victimisation, and that Old Mutual failed to follow proper procedure before terminating his contract and "prevent his name from being maligned in the market".

"Our primary submission is that the issue of a breakdown in relationship is artificially manufactured," said Mpofu.

Moyo's urgent application in the South Gauteng High Court seeks, among other things, to be reinstated to his position, as well as an interdict stopping Old Mutual from filling his position. He also intends to claim contractual damages against the firm.

His legal team highlighted that Old Mutual was duty bound to take Moyo through a disciplinary hearing. Ngcukaitobi stated that in terms of the Disciplinary Code, the company ought to have appointed an independent chairperson to preside over an arbitration process, who is "impartial and unbiased" - according to the Code.

Ngcukaitobi submitted that "Old Mutual rammed through" the process of firing Moyo, without giving him a chance to cite his side of the story, labeling the process "farcical".

He said the company violated its own disciplinary processes by denying his a disciplinary hearing.

"The decision to fire Moyo couldn't be left to the chairman alone. That would give Trevor Manuel higher power than the board."

Reinstatement 'inevitable'

Ngcukaitobi also lambasted Old Mutual for introducing a post-suspension breach of media rules as one of Moyo's transgressions, after he gave media interviews on the matter. The advocate also accused Old Mutual of giving vacillating reasons for Moyo's dismissal.

Old Mutual’s main line of defence is that Moyo was in breach of conflict of interest rules regarding his investment company, NMT Capital, and the payment of preference and ordinary share dividends, as well as the debt write-off to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

The approval of the payment of R115m, of which R30.6m went to Moyo, according to Old Mutual, was given in a meeting held on July 4, 2018, in which both Moyo and an Old Mutual representative known as Mr Patel, was present. The disbursement of dividends was done while the Old Mutual preferential dividends were in arrears, although the fees were paid a few months later.

Ngcukaitobi further submitted that "the appropriate relief is that he [Moyo] must go back to his job tomorrow".

"It seems reinstatement is inevitable."

During the proceedings, Judge Brian Mashile, gave both parties a chance to consult about a prospect of Moyo's reinstatement, if he were to grant the order.

After the adjournment, Mpofu informed the judge that "they did not find each other" adding that they made proposal which was not accepted. He did not reveal the details of the proposal.

In his submission, Old Mutual legal representative, Ngoako Maenetje, picked on Moyo's assertion that he had lost trust in the board of Old Mutual, arguing that the board was therefore entitled to terminate his contract based on that relationship breakdown.

"There is no mutual respect left here," he argued.

Proceedings will resume tomorrow

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