Financial services giant, Old Mutual now faces four claims of contempt of court including one arising from board chairperson Trevor Manuel describing Judge Brian Mashile as a “single individual who happens to wears a robe”.
Speaking to journalists outside the Johannesburg high court on Monday, Eric Mabuza who represents the company’s twice-fired chief executive, Peter Moyo said: “After these two counts of contempt there was a further act of contempt when Mr Moyo was prevented from going back to work as well as Mr Manuel’s utterances. So basically, you have four counts of contempt that are hovering over Old Mutual and its directors.”
Moyo lambasted Manuel for his remarks against Judge Mashile despite Manuel “unreservedly” apologising for the comments. Speaking to journalists outside the court, Moyo said that the remarks did not embody the character of the company, stating: “If you do not like a judgment you can appeal but you do not denigrate the courts.”
Earlier on Monday, Judge Mashile granted permission for Old Mutual’s second notice of termination against Moyo to be admitted as part of Moyo’s application to have the company declared in contempt of court for failing to abide by a July court ruling that temporarily reinstated him as the company’s chief executive.
Reading the judgment on behalf of Mashile, Judge Essa Moosa outlined a number of steps that both parties should take before a decision on the matter can be made. Mashile has also decided that the matter be heard on an urgent basis while the costs of the case will only be determined at the end of the hearing of the contempt of court application. The case is likely to be heard in 30 days.
Old Mutual spokesperson, Tabby Tsengiwe told the Mail & Guardian that the second notice of termination against Moyo is still valid despite the order by the court.
Old Mutual fired Moyo in June citing a material breakdown of trust between him and the board. In July, Judge Mashile found the axing of Moyo to be unlawful and ordered that he be reinstated. Old Mutual however appealed the ruling and barred Moyo from entering his workspace. In August the company issued a second notice of termination against Moyo prompting his lawyers to apply for the move by the company to be declared in contempt of court.
The ongoing battle between Moyo and Old Mutual has left a dent on the company’s share price causing it to plummet by more than 16% since it first suspended Moyo in May. Last week non-executive board member and head of the remuneration committee, Nombulelo Pinky Moholi tendered in her resignation citing personal reasons.
“Ms Moholi wished the board all the best during this difficult time, and stated that she was honoured to have had the privilege to serve as a director of the company over the last seven years,” the company said in a statement.
Moyo said that it is not a coincidence that Moholi tendered in her resignation in the midst of the fight between him and his on-again-off again employer.
“Pinky did not consult me on this but you don’t just wake up in the midst of all this and resign. She was on the board for seven years and I do not think that it is coincidental that she resigned,” he said.
Part B of Moyo’s application to have Old Mutual’s directors to be declared delinquent, in line with the Companies Act, is yet to be heard. If successful, the 15-member board of directors could be barred from holding directorships for several years.
“We are going ahead full steam with part B but we have had to deal with these side skirmishes. We would have filed the papers long ago,” Mabuza said.