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Trevor Manuel’s monument of truth

It’s time for the former minister and quantity surveyor to chart a new path.
Trevor Manuel – a man with a lot to consider. Image: Moneyweb

It’s time for Trevor Manuel to resign as Old Mutual chair.

As finance minister, Manuel served the country with distinction from April 1996 to May 2009, presiding over the longest, most sustained period of economic growth in South Africa’s history.

GDP over that period went from $294.3 billion to $576.1 billion and interest rates from 10.76% to 3.9%. By the time the 2008 global financial crisis rolled around, South Africa had a budget surplus of 0.9%, compared with the deficit of 4.5% in 1996.

Although the commodity super cycle, boosted by rising demand from China, helped him, he also put in place market-friendly policies and enabled South Africa to not only tap into this demand but sold the country as a place to do business.

Back then, many of the money people were suspicious as to whether this former quantity surveyor was up to the job of finance minister.

His relationship with them didn’t start well. When markets fell on the news of his appointment, he glibly said: “I insist on the right to govern … I insist on the right not to be stampeded into a panic decision by some amorphous entity … called the market.”

This sent the rand tumbling.

Eventually he and the markets had a meeting of the minds.

The same cannot be said of him and Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo.

Since mid-June, Old Mutual’s board, under Manuel’s guidance, has been trying to fire Moyo – something Moyo has successfully averted in the courts (for now).

The legal jostling has frustrated Manuel.

His lambasting of the court rulings drew criticism when, referring to Gauteng High Court Judge Brian Mashile, he said: “If you take a board imbued with the responsibility and accountability and you get that overturned by a single individual who happens to wear a robe, I think you have a bit of a difficulty.”

It was seen to undermine the independence of the judiciary. He later made an unreserved apology, saying: “It was never my intention to show disrespect to the learned judge or his judgment.”

Read: Trevor Manuel apologises over remarks about judge

He also said: “I accept that my language was wholly inappropriate to express my disagreement with the decision and sincerely regret the manner in which I did so.”

Even so, the damage to the Old Mutual brand over the last few months has been stark.

Besides the court rulings against it, nothing says the board has lost control like Moyo trying to get back into his office, coffee in hand, by awkwardly trying to squeeze past a security guard.

Manuel can argue that he’s just doing his duty as a board member by ensuring that Old Mutual is properly led, and that this allows him and the board to dismiss and appoint a CEO of their choosing.

He may think himself unlucky to be on the wrong side of several court judgments when it comes to executing this duty. He may even be right. But the way things are unfolding this doesn’t matter.

He must leave because the fight between him and Moyo has become personal.

Read: Manuel: Moyo can come for coffee, but not to work

When disputes between two of the most powerful people in a large organisation become this fraught, how can either of them say that the interests of stakeholders come first?

How does the lot of Old Mutual’s 30 000 staff, or its 1.9 million customers, or those who hold its 4.83 billion shares benefit from this fight? Has anyone benefitted from the 9% slump in the share price since the crisis began?

Old Mutual share price over six months

It’s clear that at some stage Moyo will exit. What also needs to happen is for the rest of the board members to reconsider their involvement with the company, as Nombulelo ‘Pinky’ Moholi has done. She resigned with immediate effect last Thursday.

The board owes this to the group’s staff, customers and shareholders. There is nothing amorphous about the very real dangers this fight presents to them.

Leadership needs to be shown.

Not the kind of ‘Ra ra, we will fight them on the beaches’ kind of stuff.

Rather the kind that is never heralded and always underappreciated.

The kind where you know you are right but still have to do the right thing, even though it hurts.

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Trevor Manuel must resign. He simply is no longer seen as Chairman material. In addition he conflates his ability with a commodity boom during his tenure as Finance Minister. Limited substance, poor judgement and no leadership-OUT!

Your opening sentence says it all!!
I agree!

Give Manual his due – he, Mbeki and Mboweni produced a sound economic structure during fluid times. In the absence of so much else it was a major plus to the economy – except on job creation. That was then.

I disagree. The board needs to show courage and not let Moyo get away with alleged corruption just because he’s winning the PR game (with Tom Monyane’s lawyer, no less!). Quitting like Pinky Moholi the first time the board needs to earn its stripes is a major cop out. It’s this spinelessness that got SA in the political mess today. Corruption should not be tolerated and the board must see this through.

Only if you wrote this in jest do I whole heartedly agree with you.

GDP over that period went from $294.3 billion to $576.1 billion and interest rates from 10.76% to 3.9%. By the time the 2008 global financial crisis rolled around, South Africa had a budget surplus of 0.9%, compared to the deficit of 4.5% in 1996.

Wow, and look how we have fallen

If Moyo must do the right thing and leave Manuel must do the same and resign.

Especially since one board member has already resigned due to this fight

MEN OF TUNNEL VISION…That is what the Old Mutual board is. If they were men and women of integrity they would have long have stepped down for the sake of this noble company… Their perssistance to hold on to their directorate proves that they are nothing but vain in soul and conscience… The share price is hemorrhageing on the JSE… Shareholders are losing money, why are they quiet?… Are they waiting for 90% share distruction before they stand up… There is people’s retirement funds here, institutional investors why are you quiet… JSE why are you quiet?

I agree it’s time for Trevor….. and Peter to step aside. One would think that the firing of a CEO is well thought out. Clearly in this case it was ill conceived.

Trevor Manuel is one of the best businessmen and creative minds to emerge from the “movement”. He is an outstanding comrade, the best his organisation had to offer. Although he represents the best the ANC has to offer, it is still far inferior to what is desired in a free market, competitive economy. What is the impact on the ability of companies to compete internationally, when cadres are deployed on boards because of their political affiliation, and not because of their business acumen? A fish rots from the head down.

and that is the problem…because he is praised as good his ego has grown to a state where he has not much respect for anyone.

“Trevor Manuel is one of the best businessmen and creative minds to emerge from the “movement”.”

Nah bro, he ain’t.

You got to question the whole Absa thing for a start. He is just like his friend Thumamina and his doppelgänger, Julius Malema.

Sensei, you obviously must be having your own, and yours alone, definition of “businessman”.

Obvious that airlines never will have problems like this. Planes leaving and landing are in capable hands. Anyone interfering will have the wrath of insurance on his hands for reasons of payouts. The insurance industry is known for going very strict in playing by the book and small print. Like airplanes, guided by capable hands.
This is obvious not the case if legal experts have to decide in matters of sacking and hiring the capable best.

“As finance minister, Manuel served the country with distinction from April 1996 to May 2009, presiding over the …” Arms Deal, which marked the ANC’s change in gear from relatively modest theft to the industrial-scale Grand Looting which became the hallmark of Corruptheid.

“It’s clear that at some stage Moyo will exit.”

Not so fast!, Larry!

Do not make predictions on a planet where you apparently arrived just last month … …. …

Why should Manuel resign just because there’s a CEO without the dignity to go quietly into the night after having received 32MM in dividends in clear conflict of interests?

End of comments.


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