Ramaphosa may have cleared path to leave MTN

Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to withdraw his services from telecommunications giant MTN Group after the company was cleared by its own enquiry from corruption allegations around Iranian operations.

In a statement attributed to the chairperson of MTN, Ramaphosa, the group said it has been cleared of any wrong doing around the Iran matter by the enquiry led by UK senior jurist Lord Hoffmann.

After being elected deputy president of South Africa’s ruling party, ANC, in December Ramaphosa has launched a process of reviewing his business interests to avoid conflict of interests. He has since resigned from a couple of boards including those of Lonmin and Mondi. It is highly likely that Ramaphosa was waiting for the Hoffmann enquiry to conclude its business before withdrawing from MTN. It can be speculated that he did not want to leave MTN with these allegations still hanging.

However, MTN is not entirely in the clear yet. The US legal system is still circling the Iranian matter after Turkcell took it up with the Americans who are proving fastidious around the Iranian matter.

MTN was accused by Turkcell of foul play when it grabbed the Iranian mobile phone licence from Turkcell in 2004. The claims are potentially brand damaging and politically explosive. It includes allegations that MTN oiled the then South African ambassador to Iran amid promises to facilitate sanction busting initiatives for Iran.

In its stamen MTN said:

“Lord Hoffmann was born in South Africa and has enjoyed an illustrious career as a senior British judge, being appointed to the UK House of Lords in 1995. We felt that the seriousness of these allegations merited an authoritative and independent investigation. As an international jurist of unquestionable legal authority and independence, Lord Hoffmann was selected to chair the Special Committee established by the MTN Board to investigate the allegations”.

“Lord Hoffmann’s Committee has determined that the Turkcell allegations are without foundation.  Lord Hoffmann concluded that he found nothing in the conduct of MTN over this period that puts at question MTN’s integrity or propriety. This is a reassuring validation of MTN’s culture and ethical business practices”.

“The Board is particularly pleased to note Lord Hoffmann’s categorical findings that the allegations against MTN’s former Group President and CEO Phuthuma Nhleko and MTN‘s former Commercial Director Irene Charnley were baseless. Allegations of complicity against the Chairman and the Group President and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa were similarly found to be without substance”.

“We have accepted Lord Hoffmann’s recommendation that his report be published in full.  The report and a video of Lord Hoffmann delivering the Executive Summary of the Committee’s report are available on the MTN website.  The Board is grateful to Lord Hoffmann, and Independent Non-Executive Directors Peter Mageza and Jeff van Rooyen for their work, and the scope and detail of their conclusions”.

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