The managing director of South Africa’s largest cellular network provider has stepped down, which has left the company and the industry stunned. Sipho Maseko resigned from Vodacom last week, without a clear explanation as to why.
“We did try and convince him to stay on. But he was determined that he had better prospects elsewhere, but he did not disclose them to us,” Vodacom head of corporate affairs Maya Makanjee said on Sunday.
Maseko had been with Vodacom for just a few months, signing on as managing director for the company’s South African branch back in September. Previously, he had worked with BP South Africa for 14 years, eventually becoming the CEO of the country’s branch.
For Vodacom, Maseko’s hiring was celebrated. When appointed to Vodacom, group MD Pieter Uys lauded Maseko. “Sipho has impressed us with his business acumen, leadership approach and track record in a multinational environment. We believe he will make a refreshing contribution to our business and we look forward to welcoming him on board,” Uys announced at the time.
Soon after Maseko began his duties, the company shifted its management structure, calling for Maseko to serve as the group chief operating officer, as well as the MD of South African operations. This forced him into a close working relationship with Uys.
“The relationship between a group CEO and chief operating officer can be very difficult as the two positions often overlap and this could cause a lot of strife,” former Telkom CEO Papi Molotsane told South Africa’s Business Day. Molotsane quit Telkom after only 18 months as its CEO in 2007 and was replaced by then chief operating officer, Ruben September, who immediately eliminated the position.
Molostane believes that Maseko’s resignation likely points to better opportunities outside of Vodacom. Telecom lawyer Dominic Cull said that new employees within the industry often struggle to adapt. Maseko has yet to give word on his future employment prospects.