Axed Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo says there is no punishment befitting Old Mutual directors other than six months’ jail time, without the option of a fine, on the contempt of court charges he lodged against them for disregarding a ruling that he be reinstated.
In an affidavit filed on Tuesday at the High Court in Johannesburg, Moyo said the insurance giant’s directors, including its chair Trevor Manuel, must be jailed “as punishment for their contempt of court without the option a fine”.
“A non-custodial sentence would be disturbingly inappropriate in this particular case,” reads the affidavit.
Old Mutual argued in its court own court papers, filed earlier in the month, that it is not in contempt of court for refusing to let Moyo return to work at his office. The group argued its relationship with Moyo had been “completely destroyed” with no chance of a future successful relationship.
Old Mutual has barred Moyo from returning to work following a court ruling granting him temporary reinstatement. The former CEO wants the court to make a ruling of contempt of court against the insurer and its directors, which has further strained relations between the erstwhile executive and the financial services giant.
According to Moyo, Old Mutual’s non-executive directors have shown unprecedented levels of contempt for court judgments, the judge assigned to the case and the rule of law.
The firm fired Moyo in June, after previously suspending him over an alleged conflict of interest and a breakdown in trust. On July 30, a court found his dismissal was unlawful and ordered his temporary reinstatement. But when Moyo arrived at the group’s head offices the next day, he was barred from returning to his office and carrying out his duties as CEO.
Old Mutual is appealing the reinstatement ruling. In August it served him with a “further notice terminating his employment”.
Moyo, in his affidavit, lists seven incidents that informed his contempt of court legal suit. These include:
- The refusal by Old Mutual to allow him to carry out his duties as CEO, as ruled by the court;
- The decision to appoint Iain Williamson as acting CEO, in spite of the court order interdicting the appointment pending the finalisation of Part B of his legal application;
- Utterances made by Old Mutual representatives which he argues have undermined the authority of the court;
- A refusal by Old Mutual to allow him to carry out his duties following a September court ruling, which dismissed the company’s application to stop him from returning to work until its appeal process is concluded; and
- Remarks made by Manuel about the Judge Mashile on September 13 at a media conference, where he referred to the latter as a “single individual who happens to wear a robe”.
Old Mutual, meanwhile, has argued that it is not in contempt of court for refusing to let Moyo carry out his duties as CEO. It has argued that after the first reinstatement ruling, it was not obliged to “received Mr Moyo into active service” and “carry out the functions contemplated in his employment contracts”. His second axing in August, meanwhile, was a separate legal act.
Moyo is demanding R250m damages from Old Mutual to cover the rest of his contract, which includes a R20m damages claim for loss of reputation.