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Legal Turmoil at BMF: Former President Vilakazi Takes Board Members to Court over Alleged Delinquency

Published March 11, 2024
2 months ago

In a move that underscores deep internal rifts and governance debates, Dr. Sibongile Vilakazi, the embattled former president of the Black Management Forum (BMF), has initiated a legal battle in the High Court of Gauteng. Vilakazi's application, seeking to declare 10 directors of the BMF's investment arm (BMFi) delinquent under South Africa's Companies Act, illuminates the complex layers of corporate power plays within one of the country's leading advocacy groups for black business professionals.

The litigation filed by Vilakazi is the culmination of events that started with her suspension in January by the BMF board, owing to allegations related to moonlighting activities at the Wits Business School beginning in 2018. The suspension, according to the BMF, was necessary to safeguard the organization’s reputation while Vilakazi worked to clear her name.

Lifting the veil on her suspension, Vilakazi accused certain board members of engaging in a struggle for dominance within the BMFi. Vilakazi's Notice of Motion sheds light on the contested influence over BMFi, which she argues offers substantial perks for its directors, such as board sitting fees of R10,000 per meeting, a payout not extended to BMF board members.

Alleging a contravention of governance standards, Vilakazi states that the former BMF president, Andile Nomlala, improperly appointed five BMF board members to the BMFi board, disrupting established governance protocols. When an internal correction was sought, the directors in question defied requests to step down, thus amplifying calls for their delinquency declaration.

The court documents obtained by the Business Report reveal Vilakazi's assertions that the disputed directors clung to their BMFi positions to leverage lucrative deals and insider opportunities for personal advantage. Such behavior, Vilakazi suggests, runs afoul of the principles the BMF professes to uphold.

The investment arm in question, BMFi, is not a minor stakeholder in South Africa's economic landscape—it boasts a significant investment portfolio involving prominent companies across various sectors, including hospitality, construction, education, and transportation.

In the face of this legal escalation, the BMF issued a statement underscoring its adherence to transparency and integrity, as well as its reluctance to discuss details of the case, citing the sub judice rule. The statement also highlighted Vilakazi's ongoing rights as a member and alluded to the importance of the upcoming November elections.

The unfolding saga serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of corporate governance, particularly in entities that are custodians of collective resources and trust. As the case progresses through the South African judicial system, stakeholders are left to ponder the future direction of the BMF and its capacity to advocate effectively for black management in the country.

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