Old Mutual bid to remove judge a 'desperate attempt' to delay case, says lawyer for Moyo

A bid by Old Mutual to have the judge presiding over its legal battle with its axed CEO Peter Moyo removed from the case is a "desperate attempt" to prevent the start of the contempt of court hearing against its directors, according to Moyo's lawyer Eric Mabuza.

Old Mutual on Tuesday revealed that is has applied for the recusal of Judge Brian Mashile from the case. Mashile has handed down three rulings against the financial services giant. Mabuza said that Moyo will oppose the application. "It is meant to frustrate and delay the court process," he said. 

Moyo wants a court to find the directors of Old Mutual, including former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, in contempt of court after the company on two occasions prevented him from returning to work following rulings granting him temporary reinstatement. The contempt of court case is set to be heard next week. Old Mutual has denied it is in contempt of court, saying its relationship with its former CEO has been "completely destroyed". 

"You can't just wake up and decide that a judge should recuse himself. If Mashile is not good enough it means the entire judiciary is not good enough," said Mabuza on Tuesday.  

In September, Trevor Manuel caused controversy when he referred to Judge Mashile as a "single individual who happens to wear a robe" during a news conference. He later apologised for the comment.

In its statement on Tuesday, Old Mutual said Moyo was claiming that “Old Mutual and its directors have embarked on a campaign of insulting Judge Mashile personally”.

“This has created a situation where it is not reasonable for Judge Mashile to hear the matter. Old Mutual and its directors have therefore been advised to apply for his recusal as the presiding judge in the upcoming contempt of court hearing, which as things stand is due to be heard in early November,” it said. 

“The decision to proceed with the recusal application was a difficult one. The directors emphatically state they mean no disrespect to Judge Mashile. However, by making Judge Mashile the subject of the contempt proceedings, Mr Moyo’s team have created a situation where the judge would have to decide on claims which now directly involve him personally.”

Mabuza, meanwhile, said that Mashile would have to hear the recusal application against him. 

Old Mutual is currently being run by interim CEO Iain Williamson.

- Additional reporting by Helena Wasserman 

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