Elsewhere DBV, scandals affect corporate status

Tinashe Makichi My Two Cents
Admittedly, it is not easy to quantify the damage that this scandal might bring to the reputation of either the ZSE or the IODZ. There is not much happening on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange lately. Spare a thought for the 10-plus stockbroking firms competing for an increasingly dwindling cake. Even the usual bellweather stocks are grappling for positive stimulus.

However, what has been more prominent on the ZSE besides its activity or lack thereof has been the private life of its chief executive Alban Chirume.

His face has appeared on the newspaper to talk about his domestic-based violence (DBV) case with his equally known wife Susan Mutangadura.

Sure, domestic violence cases happen all the time, and just peering through crimes and courts section of all the local dailies, gives insights into just how prevalent this has become.

At the heart of Mr Chirume’s and Ms Mutangara’s situation however, is the issue of their standing in corporate Zimbabwe.

Alban Chirume, is the face of Zimbabwe’s capital markets as chief executive of the ZSE, while Susan Mutangadura sits on the board of one of Zimbabwe’s listed multi-national corporation, Lafarge. In addition, she also serves as the chair of the Institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IODZ) as well as the Culture Fund Trust.

It obviously goes without saying that as the law dictates, one is always presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Nonetheless, as this case continues to drag on, it can be argued that the two individuals are bringing the names of the organisations they represent into disrepute.

The exact definition of an individual bringing an organisation into disrepute through their conduct in their personal lives is neither here nor there.

In the past however, scandals involving domestic, drug and alcohol abuse have almost always led to an executive stepping down or being fired by the board of directors.

A classic example would be that of Silicon Valley tech company Radium One’s CEO, founder and chair, Gurbaksh Chahal, who was forced to step down in 2014 after he pleaded guilty to domestic violence and battery charges, following an altercation that saw him beat up his girlfriend.

Interestingly, despite his guilty plea, it was only after the company received backlash from some of its high profile customers over the case, that RadiumOne’s Board voted to terminate Mr Chahal’s contract.

This only goes to show that such board disciplinary action following such corporate scandals is not always easy to institute.

Whether they like it or not, both Mr Chirume and Ms Mutangadura occupy influential positions in the corporate sector, and the identity of their respective organisations is inadvertently attached to them. With accusations and counter-accusations of physical abuse flying both ways, this case could even get nastier.

Are the respective organisations that both Ms Mutangadura and Mr Chirume preside over prepared to live with the damage inflicted on their reputation as a result of this domestic abuse scandal?

Admittedly, it is not easy to quantify the damage that this scandal might bring to either the ZSE or the IODZ.

Shareholder activism is somewhat lethargic or in-existent in Zimbabwe. Over the years, countless corporate “transgressions” of varying degrees have been swept under the mat, without any meaningful holding to account of the individuals involved.

In 2014, Joe Mutizwa’s family trust sold a substantial number of Star Africa shares during a closed period, something which is prohibited under the ZSE’s own listing rules as he is its board chair.

An apology was all it took for this matter to be forgotten.

Earlier in 2012, Albert Nhau, then NSSA board chair was alleged to have negotiated a deal at his home, which resulted in NSSA buying a listed company’s shares from his friends at a premium, causing financial losses to the organisation.

Still without a final verdict on the case having been reached, it would be remiss however, to shun the discussion on whether the private conduct of the two individuals has damaged the reputations of the organisations they represent, and so cause them to face action, which as international precedence has shown, may lead to termination the of contracts.

It is incomprehensible however, that any one of the two would step down on their own volition, whether proven guilty or not.

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