CityPress - - Business & Tenders - LE­SETJA MALOPE le­setja.malope@city­press.co.za

The in­clu­sion of a key Stan­dard Bank ex­ec­u­tive on Lib­erty’s board three months be­fore Lib­erty boss Thabo Dloti re­signed has given rise to the per­cep­tion that Dloti’s ouster was a planned move.

How­ever, Lib­erty chair­per­son Jacko Ma­ree and Stan­dard Bank’s joint chief ex­ec­u­tive Sim Tsha­bal­ala strongly de­nied that Dloti’s res­ig­na­tion was con­trived. Stan­dard Bank is Lib­erty’s big­gest share­holder. Ma­ree and Tsha­bal­ala also de­nied that there was a ne­far­i­ous plot to re­place him.

Lib­erty this week said David Munro, Stan­dard Bank’s head of cor­po­rate and in­vest­ment bank­ing, would re­place Dloti. Munro’s po­si­tion would be filled by his deputy, Kenny Fihla.

Speak­ing to City Press, Ma­ree said that the move to ap­point Munro and in­clude him on the board was not done in prepa­ra­tion for Dloti’s exit.

“Stan­dard Bank, as a ma­jor share­holder with a 54% stake, has two seats on the board,” he said.

“The de­ci­sion to ap­point David Munro was made by the board on Fri­day May 26,” he said.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, Munro joined the Lib­erty board three months ago and the Lib­erty board, ac­cord­ing to Ma­ree, pledged its sup­port for Dloti dur­ing a meet­ing at that time.

When asked why a black ex­ec­u­tive within the wider Stan­dard Bank group was not for­warded to Lib­erty, Ma­ree re­ferred the ques­tion to Tsha­bal­ala.

Tsha­bal­ala told City Press that, al­though the com­pany had a num­ber of ex­ec­u­tives, in­clud­ing Zweli Many­athi and Funeka Mon­t­jane, the com­pany had other plans for them.

Tsha­bal­ala, how­ever, ad­mit­ted that Lib­erty’s suc­ces­sion plan­ning could have been bet­ter.

He fur­ther pointed out that there were four ex­ec­u­tives who could have suc­ceeded Munro in the cor­po­rate and in­vest­ment bank­ing de­part­ment, but Fihla was cho­sen.

“We know our com­pe­ti­tion want him both here and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” he said about Fihla.

Both Ma­ree and Tsha­bal­ala said there wasn’t an­other ex­ec­u­tive within Lib­erty who was “com­pe­tent” to take over from Dloti.

“There was no ex­ec­u­tive in­side Lib­erty – white or black – that the board felt was com­pe­tent to take Thabo’s po­si­tion. It wasn’t a black-white is­sue,” Ma­ree said.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Black Se­cu­ri­ties and In­vest­ment Pro­fes­sion­als called the move a re­gres­sion of trans­for­ma­tion in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor. Si­bongiseni Mbatha, the pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion, said it was sat­is­fied with the rea­sons of­fered by the par­ties, but was dis­ap­pointed that an­other black ex­ec­u­tive was not ap­pointed in Dloti’s place.

Ma­ree said on Ra­dio 702 that he and Tsha­bal­ala had a dis­cus­sion with Dloti shortly be­fore the res­ig­na­tion.

He said pri­ori­ti­sa­tion and speed of ex­e­cu­tion of tasks were is­sues the par­ties dis­cussed, and that Lib­erty had strug­gled to ex­pand on.

“We were in a bit of a re­flec­tion point and, in this pres­sure cooker, Thabo de­cided to re­sign,” he said dur­ing the ra­dio in­ter­view.

The Black Man­age­ment Fo­rum (BMF) also en­tered the fray, and took a swipe at Ma­ree for al­legedly de­scrib­ing Munro as a sea­soned and ac­com­plished ex­ec­u­tive, but then de­scribed Dloti dif­fer­ently.

“When he re­marked on Thabo Dloti, he said it took courage to ap­point him. It tells you of the mind-set that we are wrestling with in this coun­try,” said Lan­galethu Man­qele, BMF ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber and chair of BMF Gaut­eng. Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment is­sued by Lib­erty on the mat­ter, Dloti quit af­ter a dis­agree­ment with the board. “Thabo Dloti, the cur­rent CEO, is leav­ing Lib­erty fol­low­ing a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion with the board on the im­me­di­ate fo­cus of the com­pany at a time when the or­gan­i­sa­tion is fac­ing tough op­er­a­tional and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges. Mr Dloti be­lieves that, given this en­vi­ron­ment, align­ment among key stake­hold­ers is im­per­a­tive to en­sure the ef­fec­tive ex­e­cu­tion of the strat­egy re­quired to drive the com­pany for­ward. This align­ment, cou­pled with the abil­ity to act de­ci­sively, is in the best in­ter­ests of the com­pany and hence Mr Dloti is step­ping aside,” the state­ment read. In a text mes­sage to City Press, Dloti re­it­er­ated that he had re­signed be­cause there was a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion. “I re­signed be­cause the board and I did not agree on the im­me­di­ate fo­cus of the or­gan­i­sa­tion to ad­dress op­er­a­tional and long-term chal­lenges fac­ing the busi­ness. I could not turn around the com­pany with­out them sup­port­ing the ac­tions I was busy im­ple­ment­ing,” he said, de­clin­ing to com­ment on the is­sues the par­ties dis­agreed on. “The specifics are largely con­fi­den­tial, how­ever, we were not aligned on the em­pha­sis of ex­e­cu­tion be­tween the ini­tia­tives to de­liver im­me­di­ate out­comes and those that were go­ing to pay off in the medium to long term,” Dloti said. On his fu­ture plans, Dloti said he would take time off to recharge and pre­pare for to­day’s Com­rades Marathon, and would con­sider his op­tions at a later stage.

Thabo Dloti

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