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SA minister votes against male-dominated Telkom board

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South Africa's digital communications and technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has raised concerns over the lack of female representation on Telkom SA's board.

The minister, who represented the SA government as the operators biggest shareholder, voted against the nomination of several male directors during the company's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday.

Of the six nominees, only two were women, but despite the minister's negative vote against the male appointments, all the directors nominated were voted in.

Ntshavheni said in a statement that she had already raised the issue of gender representation as an area of specific concern at last year's AGM.

She added that the board of directors at Telkom continued to show a lack of gender parity and the new appointments or re-appointments fly in the face of this genuine concern.

"It is worrisome that only 31% of the Board members are female. It is even worse to note that the Audit Committee has only one female in a five-member committee. In addition, the appointments do not consider succession planning in terms of introducing younger people in the Board," she said.

The minister will continue to advocate for and coordinate the government vote for the representation of both women and the youth in both the board and the executive management of Telkom, she added in the statement.

Ntshavheni said she voted on some of the resolutions as a matter of principle – highlighting that the telco had not been engaging with the government on certain resolutions despite the government being a 40.5% shareholder in the operator.

Telkom making headlines

The minister's stance comes at a time when there have been a lot of things happening at the SA telco.

In July, the telecoms operator sued the country's President Cyril Ramaphosa in an attempt to stop an investigation into some of its deals across Africa going back over 15 years.

Also in July, MTN and Telkom confirmed that the former had intentions of buying the latter.

In early August, South African data-only network, Rain, sent a formal request to present the Telkom board with a proposal to merge the two telecoms operators.

However, South Africa's Takeover Regulation Panel (TRP) threw a spanner in the works and instructed Rain to retract its merger statement declaring the proposal as unlawful, according to a Reuters report. The network then retracted its offer to buy the telco.

Meanwhile, investment firm, Toto Consortium, has reportedly made an offer valued at 7 billion South African rand (US$433 million) for the SA government's 40% stake in Telkom, according to a Bloomberg report.

Analysts believe that Telkom's ICT business, BCX, would be a good asset to combine with MTN Business even though BCX has been struggling under the economic downturn due to COVID-19, global supply chain constraints and semiconductor chips shortages.

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*Top image is of South African Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni briefing the media on the outcomes of a Cabinet meeting on May 26, 2021. (Source: GovernmentZA on Flickr via CC 2.0).

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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