In new filing, Old Mutual denies contempt of court, says relationship with Moyo 'completely destroyed'

Old Mutual has argued in court papers that it is not in contempt of court for refusing to let its former CEO Peter Moyo return to work, as the increasing convoluted legal struggle between the insurance giant and Moyo enters its fourth month.

In an answering affidavit filed with the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Old Mutual says its relationship with Moyo has been "completely destroyed". The fact that Moyo has accused the company's directors of being delinquent means there is no chance of a "future successful relationship'. 

The papers were filed in response to an earlier ruling that Moyo could introduce further evidence in his contempt of court application against the firm and its directors for not allowing his to resume his duties.  

Old Mutual fired Moyo in June after previously suspending him over an alleged conflict of interest and a breakdown in trust. On July 30, a court found his dismissal was unlawful and ordered his temporary reinstatement. But when Moyo arrived at the group's head offices the next day, he was barred from returning to his office and carrying out his duties as CEO.

Old Mutual, meanwhile, filed an application for leave to appeal the July 30 judgement, while Moyo filed a counter application to have the group declared in contempt of court.

The company then on August 21 announced it had served Moyo with a "further notice terminating his employment". Moyo's lawyer, Eric Mabuza, at the time said that Old Mutual was engaged in "a classic case of contempt of court" and "corporate madness".

As court appearances mounted, Moyo filed an application to have the second notice of termination included in his initial contempt of court application, which was granted. Old Mutual has been granted to leave to appeal the initial order.  

In September he was again barred from returning to his office and assuming his duties as CEO. 

'Deep and insoluble dysfunction'

In its new papers filed on Tuesday, Old Mutual's legal representatives argue that neither it nor its directors are in contempt of court as alleged in Moyo.

Referring to the claim of contempt for not letting him assume his CEO duties after he was temporarily reinstated in late July, Old Mutual says that while his employment contract was reinstated, Old Mutual was not obliged to "received Mr Moyo into active service" and "carry out the functions contemplated in his employment contracts".

Old Mutual says his second termination in mid-August was a separate legal act from his initial notice of termination, and the board decided to fire him irrespective of the outcome of larger ligation.

Moyo's lawyers had argued that his second axing by the financial services group was "deliberately calculated to undermine the efficacy of the judgment of this court".

But according to Old Mutual, the relationship between Moyo and the directors is now characterised by a  "deep and insoluble dysfunction".

"The directors cannot discharge their duties effectively in circumstances in which the incumbent CEO considers them to be delinquent, frequently asserts this publicly, and actively sets out on a path of hostile litigation to establish that they are delinquent directors as contemplated in section 162 of the companies Act. Mr Moyo has done all these things".

- Additional reporting by Sibongile Khumalo and Marelise van der Merwe 

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