MTN appoints new group chief after Nigeria fiasco

Tuesday June 21 2016

Rob Shuter

Rob Shuter 

By Othman Semakula

MTN has appointed Rob Shuter as the new group president and chief executive officer in a raft of top appointments at the South African-based telecom giant.

The appointment comes on the back of a huge $3.9 billion fine that was slapped on the MTN Nigeria subsidiary for failing to switch off 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards suspected to be used by Boko Haram insurgents.

The fine resulted in the resignation of Mr Sifiso Dabengwa, who took responsibility for the fiasco that wiped 16 per cent off the value of Africa’s largest telecom.

However, following intense negotiations and diplomatic interventions,  the fine was reduced and on June 10 MTN announced the Nigerian Communications Commission had agreed to cut the fine to $1.7b.  

In a statement released Monday, MTN said after the successful resolution of the Nigerian dispute, it had completed a review of its governance and management structures in accordance with its undertakings.

“The appointment of new executives and the expansion of roles of others, together with the appointment of additional non-executive directors… will achieve the objective of strengthening management, enhancing governance and aid strategy in the group,” the statement reads in part.

Mr Shuter replaces executive chairman Mr Phuthuma Nhleko, who stepped in last November after the resignation of Mr Sifiso.

Mr Nhleko said MTN had “weathered a rather difficult storm,” but would continue to review its governance and management structure to ensure it operates at an optimum level.

Mr Shuter, according to the statement will “commence as soon as it is practically possible in 2017 but not later than 1 July 2017 after the completion of his current contractual obligations”, at the Vodafone Group where he is the chief executive officer of the European cluster.

He has previously worked at Standard Bank and Nedbank.

Mr Nhleko, who had been tapped for a caretaker role as the company searched for substantive chief executive officer, will according to the statement,  revert to his role as non-executive chairman as soon as Mr Shuter takes over. 


As of December 31, 2015,  MTN reported a subscription base of more than 232 million subscribers spread across 22 operations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

In Uganda, according to the December 31, 2015 results, MTN subscribers dropped from 11.5 million as of September 30, 2015 to 8.9 million after the company switched off 3.7 million SIM cards that had failed to register by close of November 2015.  

The fall, the report said, had been occasioned by regulatory requirements, which demanded that MTN implements UCC’s SIM card registration policy before end of November 2015. 

The telecom also made other appointments, bring in a new vice president for mergers & acquisitions and strategy to increase the company’s focus on new revenue streams such as mobile money and data.

The appointment which takes effect October 1, the telecom said, will name the person designated for the role before end of June. 

Mr Godfrey Motsa, who has been Vodacom’s chief officer for consumer business takes over as the new MTN vice president for South and East Africa to “enhance governance and depth of experience of the business operations”.

He has previously worked in DR Congo and Lesotho as the Vodacom chief executive officer.

The telecom also “resolved to refresh the board to deepen commercial experience at both group and MTN South Africa boards with a view of improving the risk and governance profiles”.

Mr Paul Hanratty, Mr Stan Miller and Mr Nkululeko Sowazi have been appointed non-executive directors of the MTN Group board effective August 1 whereas Mr Mike Harper, Mr Lerato Phalatse, Mr Mike Bosman and Mr Trudy Makhaya have been appointed to the same role at the MTN South Africa board effective 1 July.