The end of September?

Cape Town, 27 Mar 2009
Read time 3min 00sec

The appointment of Pinky Moholi to head up Telkom SA could mean it is close to the end of the line for Reuben September's reign as the group's CEO, speculate former and current Telkom employees.

Yesterday, the country's biggest telecoms utility announced Moholi would be MD of its division handling domestic business as part of Telkom's reorganisation, which would see it have three operating entities placed under an overall group structure called Telkom Holdings. The other two divisions are Telkom International and Data Operations. The names of those who will head these units are still to be announced.

The suspension of Marius Mostert, Telkom's group executive for networking provisioning, was also announced yesterday. However, Telkom did not say exactly why this action had been taken.

Moholi left Telkom under difficult circumstances in 2005, when she headed up sales and marketing. She was widely respected within and outside Telkom as an executive and was earmarked to replace Sizwe Nxasana as CEO. However, the surprise appointment of Papi Molotsane, an outsider, threw a spanner in the works, sparking a bitter leadership fight within the top echelons.

Moholi, former Telkom head of investor relations Belinda Williams and former head of human resources Oupa Magashule, all ended up reporting to September, who was made chief operating officer and who, in turn, reported to Molotsane.

Quick exit

The breakdown in relationships between those three and September eventually led to Molotsane concluding he could not work with them, and representations were made to the board to let them go. An internal enquiry was conducted, culminating in confidential severance agreements being signed.

Moholi then took up a position as head of strategy with Nedbank, which has been a key funder of the Seacom undersea cable, which is due to land and start operations in June.

September was named as acting CEO, following the sudden exit of Molatsane in 2006, and was then appointed on a three-year renewable service contract in December 2007. This contract can be renewed for one year annually, prior to its expiration.

“I am particularly surprised that Moholi has been re-appointed,” a former senior Telkom employee says. “September was instrumental in her, Williams and Magashule's exits. All I can say is that it is possibly near the end of the line for September.”

Another former Telkom employee says: “Moholi is the best ICT executive in the country -period. She has a great understanding of how sales, marketing and engineering have to interact, and she is great at motivating her own staff.”

The former employee went on to say: “....September and Moholi found it very difficult to work together. In fact, I would say they actively dislike each other and this could very well be the beginning of the end of September's tenure.”

One current Telkom employee says: “There has been a breakdown between engineering and marketing at the company, and I really believe Moholi can solve that. Now that we enter a very competitive environment, it is really important that this happens.”

Telkom shares were relatively unaffected by the most recent news, with its share price rising a marginal 0.5% to R108.80 in thin mid-morning trade.

Moholi did not return calls requesting comment and September could not be reached by the time of publication.

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