The guy with tough questions

Simpiwe Piliso

Simpiwe Piliso

Shareholder activist Theo Botha is every corporate board's nightmare. As the man known for putting executives in a tight corner with his tough questions, Botha has often been described as one of the most unpopular men in local business.

Now the Black Management Forum has honoured Botha for his role in "bringing change to the behaviour of companies".

"This award is bestowed in recognition of Theo Botha's role in shareholder activism, also in acknowledgement of the open and transparent manner in which he has motivated changes in South African corporates," said forum president Jimmy Manyi.

Botha said the award was an honour.

Although not a shareholder in all the companies whose annual general meetings he attends, Botha is often given a proxy which he uses to represent some or other shareholder. "If I can't get a proxy, I usually buy a share in that company," he said.

He said his main objective was to "tie in good corporate governance using ethics as a framework. It's a matter of exposing directors. Directors say they are independent ... some directors have been directors for 20 years, they are bound to lose independence. And there's nobody to question them."

Last week, he attended Altech's annual general meeting where he questioned the board on how a R5billion company had won government business with empowerment transactions that he calculated to be worth a mere R32million.

He said scores of companies were concluding small transactions to gain empowerment credentials.

"Is that really empowerment?", Botha asked, adding that established companies should "do it properly or don't do it at all".