Bruce Whitfield: This director is gatvol

Business Insider SA


When last did you take a stand against something you found abhorrent? Stand up to a loud mouthed bully in a bar or at work? It’s hard. Right? 

Have you ever quit a job without another lined up already, because you disagreed with a fundamental issue at the company?And if you did, did you have the guts to announce your reasons publicly or did you slink off quietly with the promise of a good reference and some hush money. 

“A principle isn't a principle until it costs you something,” said US advertising guru William Bernbach, so famous that they even make reference to him in the TV series about 50s advertising, Mad Men. 

Not many directors of companies do the right thing and resign on principle if a company does something at odds with their values. If they do, most go quietly. 

You’re less likely to get another high-paying board seat if prospective employers see you as trouble. 

Iraj Abedian, the CEO of Pan African Advisory Services quit the board of Munich Re Africa at the height of state capture allegations. He resigned in protest against its decision to retain the services of KPMG as auditors, at a time that it was linked to wrongdoing at SARS and had allowed a report it had compiled to be misrepresented in former Commissioner Tom Moyane’s purge of the agency. 

Munich Re later fired KPMG anyway. 

The last month has seen professional non-executive Director Shirley Zinn, a former banking industry executive resign from two companies whose ethics jarred with hers. 

Unlike her “no comment” in response to questions around her resignation from Shoprite a month ago after chairman, Christo Wiese used the superior voting power of his special shares to outrank some 61% of shareholders who voted against his re-appointment, this time she’s speaking out about shoddy behaviour on the board of CricketSA. 

She quit Cricket South Africa citing its failure to adhere to good corporate governance standards. Cricket South Africa has been searching for a director of Cricket for five months since a special panel concluded interview. She didn’t approve of a leak seemed designed to pressure former Proteas Captain Graeme Smith to take the job of Director of cricket, despite his own reservations about the way the entity is managed. 

The final straw was the revoking of accreditation of five journalists last weekend, blocking them from entering stadiums. 

Zinn is rare as a director and standing up to be counted and breaking ranks with the establishment. The establishment doesn’t always like that. 

She remains a director at Sanlam. It will be interesting to see who will appoint her to another, or will they be too afraid of her principles?

Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award-winning financial journalist and broadcaster.

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