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Power Struggles at Safaricom: Behind-the-scene wars to succeed Bob Collymore

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The journey to pick the next Safaricom PLC CEO after the death of immediate CEO Bob Collymore has exposed the behind-the-scene happenings at the telecommunication giant company in Africa.

It was a top secret affair until the Safaricom board of management appointed former Safaricom CEO and the current chairman of the board of Kenya Airways Mr. Michael Joseph to take over as Interim Chief Executive Officer, something that has triggered mixed reactions. Many have been questioning the criteria the Safaricom board used to settle for Michael Joseph and not a Kenyan to steer the telco.

Michael defended himself that he was coming to an all familiar position thus is capable of providing ‘the necessary guidance and leadership to the company and its employees’.

In his words he said, “Safaricom has always been my company, it’s always been my baby. I nurtured it upto when I handed over to Bob. Now I’m just looking after it for a while, like a grandparent looking after the grandchild, until we appoint somebody else…It’s not something new for me, I’m not having to start afresh, I’m well prepared for the role; but I must emphasise it is temporary”

Internally

Safaricom has the option of either retaining Michael Joseph fully, or settling for Nicholas Mulila, Rita Okuthe, Joseph Ogutu, Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge, Stephen Chege or get a person from Vodafone all together. Those are the only ones who can run that company.

For Joseph Ogutu, he is the Safaricom’s Director of Strategy and Innovation with experience in the telecommunications of over 25 years. His daily work involves developing strategic direction for the business with focus on developing Safaricom as an industry leader in driving innovation in products and services. He acted as interim CEO when Bob was on sick leave.

Joseph had already retired but Bob Collymore extended his contract not long ago. But even if he were to be appointed, he may not serve for long. This makes it tricky for him. But this is Kenya, you know.

For Nicholas Mulila, he is the top schemer for the CEO job. He is alleged to be the one who hid all of Bob Collymore’s underhand deals. And that he was very efficient at it.

Both Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge and Stephen Chege are scheming together to take the Safaricom PLC CEO docket to the mountain. The government too is said to be pushing for the duo. However, the Safaricom Board does not feel comfortable with the two. This might have prompted the interim CEO Mr. Michael Joseph’s response to CS Mucheru.

This is what he had to say;

“Safaricom is a very special company, you just don’t put anybody a CEO because they are there. It has to be somebody special who could continue the role. At this point we (the board) thought that none of the ex-com (Executive Committee) were ready for this role today,”

Sylvia, the Director of the Consumer Business Unit at Safaricom since 2018 and who is said to be the least preferred by Safaricom board, is struggling to clear her name in court over allegations that she run over a nine year old girl killing her instantly while drunk driving a Toyota Prado KBU 483M which has Safaricom Ltd registered as its legal owners. It is also alleged that she went further to interfere with the case after trying to settle the matter out of court unsuccessfully.

Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge.

Sylvia is also alleged to be enjoying a romantic affairs with a top statehouse operative, a relationship that is said to have caused her a divorce.

What annoys the board further is her playing real politics in this succession plan.

It is said the media limelight was all in preparation for this moment, that she made sure she used the marketing budget at Safaricom PLC to focus on her immediately the new interim CEO was named by the Safaricom PLC board.

“She has now decided to use bloggers and a marketing firm to propel her chances in the social media. They are promoting the hash tag #sylviamulinge using technology because she is in charge of marketing.” A source revealed.

Shoddy deals

Sylvia who is described by her colleagues as “Very aggressive in seeking positions” is alleged to have done shoddy deals with Bob Collymore. “Though Bob preferred her, but I think they did some shoddy deals together because she made so many mistakes but was never fired..like 50 times combined what others did,” A source confided to 254News.

Rita Okuthe is described by her colleagues as a person who has faith in God, of high integrity, one who doesn’t take bribes at all and is a graduate of London school of Economics and has been in the industry since 1999. You recall days of “Niko na Safaricom” [am with Safaricom] adverts? Then, she was the marketing Director at Safaricom.

But who is this lucky Kenyan the government is vouching for?

Other than Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge and Stephen Chege, names of Former Gatanga MP and “Boys club” member Peter Kenneth, Group Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Commercial Bank Group Joshua Nyamweya Oigara are constantly being mentioned in the corridors of power as potential successors.

A section of “Boys club” members.

A section has started pushing for Peter Kenneth on social media. However, many Kenyans hold a school of thought that settling for a Kenyan to head the giant Telecommunication Company will mark the beginning of the end of the telecommunication giant.


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