The Black Management Forum has accused Old Mutual [JSE:OML] and its chair Trevor Manuel of disregarding the courts and the rule of law after Manuel referred to a judge presiding in the insurer's case against its former CEO Peter Moyo as "a single individual who happens to wear a robe".
Manuel on Friday made the remarks about Judge Brian Mashile at a media briefing.
The former finance minister said the company had been hamstrung by a ruling which barred the firm from appointing a new CEO.
"We are ready to rock and roll... Judge Mashile’s judgment says we can’t; it’s another strange kind of situation. I am saying the Act is abundantly clear on the responsibilities of the directors... and you get that overturned by a single individual who happens to wear a robe," said Manuel. As Fin24 previously reported, he later retracted the reference to the judge after a journalist confronted him about it.
Moyo was axed in June following a suspension in May, with Old Mutual citing a conflict of interest and a breakdown in trust. His dismissal was found to be unlawful and he was temporarily reinstated, with Old Mutual barred from appointing a replacement. Old Mutual then filed an appeal, and barred Moyo from returning to work. In August the insurance giant served Moyo with a new notice terminating his employment.
Manuel told reporters on Friday that Old Mutual maintained the second dismissal was valid.
Letter vs. court order
BMF President Andile Nomlala said in a statement on Monday that he was mystified by Manuel and Old Mutual's response to the court's decision, which he argued showed disdain for Judge Mashile and the judiciary at large.
"Instead of them respecting and abiding by that order, they instead rely on some letter that they sent to someone that was, in their own version, no longer their employee. How a letter from Old Mutual can trump a court order is not clear to us," said Nomlala.
The BMF said that, if Old Mutual did not apologise to Judge Mashile, it would strengthen the view of those calling for the group's board to step down.
"It is a sad day when a large corporate such as Old Mutual, through its chairman, refers to members of our judiciary in this manner. We call upon Old Mutual to unreservedly issue an apology to Judge Mashile," the BMF statement said.
Nomlala said that the impasse between Moyo and the Old Mutual board needed cool heads seeking a common solution.
- Additional reporting by Tehillah Niselow and Sibongile Khumalo