The prob­lem with MTN...

MTN’s de­ci­sion to ap­point Rob Shuter as CEO shows up board’s lack of ra­tio­nal think­ing, writes Mn­cane Mthunzi

CityPress - - Business -

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

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