Newly appointed Telkom group chief financial officer Jacques Schindehütte has promised to work with CEO Nombulelo Moholi to bring stability to the management team at the partially privatised telecommunications operator.
The leadership corridors at Telkom have been fraught with political turmoil in recent years, with the group going through a succession of CEOs since the departure of Sizwe Nxasana in 2005 and the appointment of his successor, Papi Molotsane, who was later fired.
The company has been rocked by a number of poor management decisions in the past five years, including the decision to buy Nigeria’s Multi-Links — which ultimately cost it almost R10bn — and to invest in a pay-TV business that never got off the ground despite an investment of hundreds of millions of rand.
“I’m well aware of the colourful history of Telkom, but I have to say leaders set a tone,” says Schindehütte. “As one of those leaders, I look forward to setting the right tone at the company.”
Schindehütte has replaced Peter Nelson, who resigned last year after disagreeing with decisions made by the board of directors under former chairman Jeff Molobela. Nelson left Telkom shortly after former CEO Reuben September decided to quit the group after the board said it would not renew his contract.
September and Nelson are now involved together in a new, pan-African fibre-optic telecoms business called Luminet.
Schindehütte, who previously worked in senior management positions at Transnet and Absa, says he decided to take on the Telkom role after meeting Moholi. “She’s a real person, loves people and is determined to succeed. She has an enormous task ahead of her, and it’s that challenge that appeals to me.”
He says his first priority at Telkom is to “get the base camp in order” and ensure the company “makes the right decisions”. He will play a strategic role in the business and regards one of his most important roles as balancing the interests of all the company’s stakeholders.
“Shareholders want a return on their investment and can be quite impatient,” he says. “But it’s customers who pay for shareholder returns, they pay the salaries of staff and they also pay the tax bill to government.”
Schindehütte says Telkom has to “build trust in management”, manage investment well and manage risk “competently”.
Asked if government’s expectations of Telkom can be balanced with the expectations of the company’s shareholders, Schindehütte says he doesn’t believe there is a conflict between the two camps.
“If private investors expected [Telkom to have] a sweetheart relationship with government, that is ill advised,” he says. “Government has to ensure competition is encouraged and infrastructure is [effectively used].” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral