Wakeford bows out

No reason was forthcoming on Tuesday night for the sudden resignation of SA Chamber of Business CEO Kevin Wakeford.

In a single-sentence statement, Sacob said that Wakeford had resigned as of Tuesday but did not provide reasons.

”No comment from Sacob at this moment,” chamber representative Marius Louw said shortly after the statement was issued. He added nothing more would be released on Tuesday night. Calls to Wakeford’s cellphone went unanswered. His resignation comes just more than two weeks before Sacob holds its annual convention, from October 16 to 18.

Wakeford came under fire earlier this year following the release of the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the rapid depreciation of the rand last year. Wakeford wrote to President Thabo Mbeki in January claiming that dubious transactions may have led to the rand’s fall, by almost 40%, against the US dollar in 2001.

He suggested the devaluation could have been the result of manipulation by individuals and institutions, naming Deutsche Bank and Sasol as possible culprits.

The Sacob CEO also said that Deutsche’s management had ”strong links and relationships” with the Department of Finance and the Reserve Bank. Mbeki established the commission shortly afterwards.

The commission, headed by Judge John Myburgh, found no evidence that Reserve Bank or Treasury officials had colluded with market participants to affect the rand.

A minority report by commissioner Christine Qunta said some exchange control restrictions may have been violated, and recommended further investigation, but added that the central bank could not be held responsible for the rand’s fall.

Wakeford has drawn criticism from his own constituents. On Tuesday, it was reported that the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry had quit from Sacob claiming the national umbrella body had let it down. High on the list of reasons for the departure was Sacob’s representations to the rand commission, Business Report said.

It followed the withdrawal in June last year of the Johannesburg Metro Chamber of Commerce, which cited Sacob leadership problems. Johannesburg Metro Chamber CEO Marius de Jager, speaking from England on Tuesday, said although he was ”a bit out of touch” because he was out of the country, he was not surprised at Wakeford’s resignation. He said he had been told of the Cape Town chamber’s withdrawal.

”I think it (Wakeford’s resignation) is a given. Over the last 15 months he has lost two of his biggest clients and he’s also lost major corporate clients such as Sasol.”

Sasol, which also pulled out last month, refused to comment on Tuesday.

Wakeford has also been criticised for his support of the proposed merger with the National Federation Chambers of Commerce (Nafcoc). Nafcoc acting CEO Sipho Mseleku said on Tuesday night he was also not surprised by the resignation.

”I am not surprised that Wakeford has resigned because he has been under a lot of pressure since the rand commission. ”His contribution at the commission has upset most of the Sacob’s constituencies and some members.”

Mseleku said Nafcoc had gone through similar problems where the leadership had failed to consult with its members.

”It is regrettable that a brilliant man like Wakeford has resigned when he can add value to shaping business in SA. His resignation has put Sacob in a very weak position,” Mseleku said. – Sapa

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