By Fifi Peters, CNBC Africa reporter and anchor
If you thought the legal feud between Old Mutual and its former CEO Peter Moyo was far from over, you are right.
Legal court papers filed by Moyo on Tuesday in response to Old Mutual’s decision to fire him twice will likely delay a court verdict that was expected to clarify whether or not he can return to work as CEO.
That judgment, along with Moyo’s application to find Old Mutual’s board in contempt of court, was supposed to be delivered this week but it’s now unlikely to happen until next month.
In papers seen by CNBC Africa, Moyo has asked the High Court and presiding Judge Brian Mashile to consider new developments that transpired after the August 16 faceoff between himself and Old Mutual at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.
These developments relate to Old Mutual’s decision to jump the gun by publishing an open letter to its shareholders to update them about the litigation ahead of Judge Mashile’s pending verdict.
In the open letter released August 21, Old Mutual re-affirmed its position that trust and confidence in Moyo had broken down and that a future working relationship with him was “untenable”.
Old Mutual also announced its decision to further terminate Moyo’s employment contract on legal advice that it was in its ambit to do so.
In his latest affidavit, Moyo argues these actions are further evidence of Old Mutual’s contempt of court and disregard for the rule of law.
“I seek to introduce this letter in order for the court to take it in evaluating my existing application against Old Mutual for the finding of contempt of court, including in respect of the individual directors,” Moyo said.
“The latest contempt of court must be viewed as a continuation of the ongoing contemptuous conduct of the respondents,” he added, which he will seek in a further application to be declared delinquent directors.
Moyo has also asked the court to direct the board to pay their own legal costs to stop them abusing company monies by drawing him into endless litigation
“I submit that a case exists for the court to consider directing the individual members of the board to pay the costs of these proceedings personally. Their conduct does not promote the interest of shareholders,” he said.
Up until now, it’s been unclear how Old Mutual could legally fire someone they had already fired.
But Moyo’s court papers reveal what legal leg they could have been acting on.
“…during arguments, my counsel submitted that the effect of the judgement, on the contracting findings, was to restore the contractual relationship between the parties,” Moyo said.
The judgement above refers to the July 31st ruling in which Judge Mashile found Old Mutual’s dismissal of Moyo unlawful and ordered he be temporarily reinstated as CEO, which the company is appealing.
Even though Judge Mashile’s order restored the employment contract, Moyo argues that “it did not have the effect of taking away the contractual rights of Old Mutual.” This includes Moyo’s right to a disciplinary hearing to defend purported allegations of misconduct.
Old Mutual has strongly denied Moyo’s allegation that the board has acted in further contempt of court and maintains that the first and second dismissal are above board, despite the court judgement.
In an emailed response to Moyo’s attorney Eric Mabuza dated August 22, Chris Todd, Head of Legal at Bowmans, the counsel for Old Mutual writes:
“Your allegation that the further notice of termination constitutes an act of contempt of court is strongly denied. It has at all times been clear, from the terms of the judgement of Mr Justice Mashile and from the submissions of your clients’ counsel, that our client is entitled to give notice (and indeed, to give further notice) under his employment contract.
“If your client persists, despite this, in contending that the further notice is an act of contempt of court, that contention is any event clearly irrelevant to (Old Mutual’s) application for leave to appeal…in which argument has been completed and judgement reserved,” said Todd in the emailed response.
The two parties are expected to present their cases at the High Court on September 3, a day after Old Mutual releases its interim results.
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