The South African High Court in Johannesburg yesterday reserved judgment in an urgent bid by former Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo to stop the company from hiring a permanent replacement for him — this pending an application for leave to appeal an earlier ruling, which found that his dismissal was lawful.
Moyo’s camp said the day ended in disappointment, as they questioned the judge’s conduct.
Judge Colin Lamont heard from both parties. But Moyo’s lawyers accused Lamont of not wanting to hear their arguments.
Moyo’s legal representative, Advocate Dali Mpofu, was met with several interjections from Lamont. Following one of Lamont’s interjections, a visibly exasperated Moyo told the judge: “Clearly you don’t want to hear my point” — and ended his representation.
Mpofu told the court that Old Mutual could not proceed with the appointment of a permanent CEO to replace Moyo, as an appeal against the January 14 judgment that found Old Mutual was within its rights to fire Moyo was still pending.
Speaking after the conclusion of proceedings, Moyo’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, expressed disappointment.
“What really disappointed us is the manner in which proceedings unfolded, my clients is gravely aggrieved by the way the judge did not allow his counsel to argue the matter.
“In fact, he felt that his counsel was being harassed,” he said.
“You must remember that when a judge harasses the counsel, he is in fact harassing Mr Moyo. Those are the people who speak on his behalf.”
He added that Moyo would “consider his options” regarding the court proceedings.
“When anyone comes to court, they expect to be allowed to state their case without any hindrance, they should feel that they were listened to . . . and the judge will consider your argument, but it’s not the case when the judge stops counsel and does not allow counsel to finish their point,” he said.
“It is quite disappointing,” he added.
Search is on for a new CEO
In June 2019, Old Mutual dismissed Moyo, citing a breakdown in trust and a conflict of interest related to NMT Capital, a boutique investment firm Moyo co-founded.
The former executive has since mounted a series of legal challenges against the Johannesburg-headquartered firm as he tried to fight his dismissal.
Moyo then challenged his axing, and Judge Brian Mashile in July 2019 ordered that he be reinstated, pending the outcome of the second part of Moyo’s application, in which he seeks damages for reputational harm.
Old Mutual, in turn, appealed the ruling.
On January 14 a court ruled in favour of the company, which also allowed it to appoint a new CEO. Old Mutual has begun to search for a permanent CEO, with Iain Williamson currently occupying the position on an interim basis.
The company confirmed in a statement that the “process to appoint a permanent CEO continues”, as the legal battle drags on. – Fin24.