The problem with MTN...
MTN’s decision to appoint Rob Shuter as CEO shows up board’s lack of rational thinking, writes Mncane Mthunzi
MTN has a proud history and heritage of being a majority black-owned and black-managed institution, which has been exported to the rest of the continent and beyond. It has created opportunities for a number of black executives by creating roles for them to lead its operations in its different markets. This culture of promoting and demonstrating black excellence has been a source of pride for many black professionals.
On February 18, we wrote a letter to the chair of MTN, requesting a meeting with him to discuss the potential black candidates for the CEO position, as well as transformation-related matters. Needless to say, he ignored the request to meet and has never acknowledged the receipt of our letter.
The Black Management Forum (BMF) would like to be part of the solution to the challenges facing our country, especially on matters of managerial leadership and socioeconomic transformation.
The BMF is a key stakeholder in our society and the majority of these black executives and board members are there precisely because of the Employment Equity Act and the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, of which the BMF is a midwife.
Black executives carry a transformation responsibility whether they like it or not. Twentytwo years into our democracy, there are still about 70% of white people in top management and yet we are still making these irrational decisions of perpetuating the status quo instead of reversing it. It should be understood that affirmative action is not reverse discrimination.
The decision made by MTN shows clear evidence that there is a lack of thoughtful and rational thinking by board of directors as far as succession planning is concerned. The board has failed in its fiduciary duty to exercise care and diligence, as is required by the Companies Act.
Most of these board members suffer from “approval addiction”, of being good team players instead of holding each other accountable and making decisions that are in the best interests of the company.
The time has come for the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), as shareholder of reference in most of these companies, to advocate for and demand the appointment of black people as CEOs and key executives. It is a foregone conclusion that the majority shareholder is central in the appointment of a company’s CEO. It is highly unlikely that anyone can be the CEO without the endorsement of the majority shareholder. In fact, CEOs occupy those positions precisely because of their alignment with the ideology and the agenda of the majority shareholder.
The BMF has a pending meeting with the PIC to remind it of its responsibilities and shareholder activism, which is largely missing in our country today.
The BMF will not suffer from transformation fatigue, we will carry on with our endeavour of ensuring that South African demographics are reflected in all sectors of our society, and that corporate South Africa will not be spared from these winds of change. The nation-building project of Nelson Mandela can only be realised when there is fairness, equity and justice in our society.
Mthunzi is president of the BMF