Manuel apologises for 'inappropriate' judge jibe in Moyo ruling

Trevor Manuel.
Trevor Manuel.

Old Mutual chair Trevor Manuel has apologised for his remark about a judge who delivered a ruling against the company in litigation involving its axed CEO Peter Moyo.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Manuel said his "respect for the judiciary is unshaken" following outrage over his reference to High Court Judge Brian Mashile as "a single individual who happens to wear a robe".

'My language was inappropriate'

"It was never my intention to show disrespect to the learned judge or his judgement. I accept that my language was wholly inappropriate to express my disagreement with the decision and sincerely regret the manner in which I did so," read a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon.

Last month, Mashile ruled that Moyo's June axing was unlawful.

Addressing media on Friday, Manuel said Old Mutual had been hamstrung by Judge Mashile's ruling, which barred the firm from appointing a new CEO. 

"If you take a board imbued with the responsibility and accountability and you get that overturned by a single individual who happens to wear a robe, I think you have a bit of a difficulty," Manuel said during a press conference.

It was the first time that Manuel and the board had publicly spoken out about the ongoing legal battle with Moyo.

Discomfort 'understandable'

"My unguarded observation, although withdrawn, has understandably caused discomfort, for which I apologise unreservedly, to the honourable judge presiding and to my fellow South Africans," he said.

Old Mutual is appealing the court's ruling that it should reinstate Moyo.

Moyo has twice been served notice of termination of employment by the financial services firm. His first termination came in June, with Old Mutual citing a conflict of interest which led to a breakdown of trust between the parties. The dismissal led to a bruising legal battle which saw the company preventing Moyo from returning to his old job despite the court ruling.

The company in August issued Moyo with a further notice of termination. According to Old Mutual, Moyo has not legally challenged the second axing and it should be considered valid. 

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