Mum’s the word

Finweek English Edition - - Companies & Markets -

IT SEEMS COM­MU­NI­CA­TION isn’t the pri­mary con­cern of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany Telkom, the fixed line tele­phone gi­ant. Nei­ther is good cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, nor trans­parency. Telkom an­nounced to the mar­ket on 28 Jan­uary it had given 52 919 shares to CE Reuben Septem­ber. “Shares granted in terms of a re­straint of trade agree­ment be­tween Mr Septem­ber and Telkom,” was all Telkom would say about the rather hefty R8,1m worth of free shares.

In­vestors would do well to re­mem­ber Telkom paid Septem­ber R13,2m in “fringe and other ben­e­fits” in its 2008 fi­nan­cial year for a to­tal pack­age of R19,1m. Only when share­hold­ers ques­tioned this at its an­nual meet­ing were they told that a “large chunk” of that was “re­lated to (Septem­ber’s) re­straint of trade agree­ment” by chair­man Shirley Lue Arnold. No men­tion of any shares was ever made. Not at the AGM and not in Telkom’s an­nual re­port.

It took Fin­week no less than four tele­phone calls and three emails to Telkom – be­tween 4 and 11 Fe­bru­ary – to be given a short non-an­swer. Telkom com­pany sec­re­tary Mat­lakala Monyai lis­tened to our en­quiries re­gard­ing the shares al­lo­cated to Septem­ber be­fore ask­ing that our ques­tions be writ­ten down for her to an­swer, the same process adopted by Telkom’s me­dia li­ai­son depart­ment be­fore her. On both oc­ca­sions the writ­ten an­swers that were re­turned were to con­tact the other depart­ment.

Af­ter be­ing shut­tled around – from the me­dia li­ai­son depart­ment, to a con­sul­tant in Telkom’s com­pany sec­re­tary’s of­fice, to me­dia li­ai­son and then back to the com­pany sec­re­tary, be­fore fi­nally be­ing re­ferred again to me­dia li­ai­son – came the state­ment: “Telkom does not com­ment on re­mu­ner­a­tion mat­ters – they are a board de­ci­sion which can be queried by share­hold­ers at the AGM.” That was from its me­dia re­la­tions depart­ment – a week af­ter our ini­tial ques­tions.

A re­quest to the com­pany sec­re­tary to talk to the board chair­man, hu­man re­sources or its re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee was again met by an ex­hor­ta­tion to go via the me­dia li­ai­son depart­ment. We’re still wait­ing. We

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