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Court dismisses Old Mutual application preventing Moyo from returning to work

Sep 06 2019 11:50
Sibongile Khumalo

The High Court in Johannesburg on Friday upheld an earlier ruling allowing axed Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo to return to work.

Judge Brian Mashile dismissed Old Mutual's application with costs and granted the company leave to appeal.

Moyo was axed in June following a suspension in May, with Old Mutual citing a conflict of interest and a breakdown in trust.

In his ruling, Mashile said Moyo addressed the "irreparable harm" argued by Moyo. 

"Other than the humiliation of being ejected from his office, the irreparable harm is plain for every day that he spends at home without work regardless of whether he has been paid for sitting or not.

"That harm persists until such time that the interim reinstatement is executed and operationalised."

Moyo owns 25% of a company called NMT, which he co-founded, while Old Mutual also owns 20% in NMT. Since 2004, Old Mutual invested almost R300m in various NMT companies. Old Mutual's board cited NMT’s breach of dividend payments as the reason for their problem with Moyo.

It appears that Moyo was paid dividends of R31m, while Old Mutual was still owed payouts from NMT. But Moyo has in turn argued that the claims against him were "artificially manufactured" and that his "deteriorating" relationship with Old Mutual chairman Trevor Manuel was central to his dismissal. 

On July 30, Judge Brian Mashile found that his dismissal was unlawful and ordered Old Mutual to reinstate him on a temporary basis. However, he was barred from work the day after his court victory, after the country’s second-largest insurer filed a notice to appeal against the judgment.

In August, Old Mutual fired Moyo for a second time after they issued him a further notice to terminate his employment contract.

Moyo had said that his second axing by the financial services giant was "deliberately calculated to undermine the efficacy of the judgment of this court".

Old Mutual said in an open letter published last month that it took the step to terminate Moyo's tenure as CEO for a second time "after legal advice and on careful reflection by directors, with proper regard to their fiduciary duties to the company."

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