It is somewhat easy to demand expedience over principle in the Old Mutual versus Peter Moyo saga. The boardroom battle knocked R10bn off the value of the company in the weeks after it sparked (though it has regained about half that). The dramatic public fallout could have been avoided if the company had negotiated a settlement with Moyo to walk away. He was paid R35.5m by Old Mutual in 2018, and even a multiple of that would be a smidgen relative to the costs of the dispute in lost reputations, leadership paroxysms and share prices. 

That logic has supported many golden handshakes across the private and public sector. SA’s labour regulations, particularly the Labour Relations Act’s (LRA’s) unfair dismissal terms, apply equally to workers and capitalists. It is different elsewhere — in the US, for example, if you earn more than $100,000 a year or your job is to supervise people, the Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t cover you. Rightly, legal protections focus on vulnerable work...

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