It is my privilege and my very great pleasure to propose that The University of the Witwatersrand award an Honorary Doctorate to Mervyn King.
Status in South Africa
Mervyn King is a Senior Counsel and former Judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa. A He has chaired and been a director of several companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, including First National Bank Holdings Limited, Capital Alliance Ltd, Metro Cash & Carry Ltd and Frame Group Holdings. A
He is Chairman of the King Committee on Corporate Governance in South Africa, President of the Advertising Standards Authority, First Vice President of the Institute of Directors Southern Africa, a member of the Securities Regulation Panel which oversees all mergers and acquisitions in South Africa, and Chairman of the Appeal Committee of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. A
He is presently Chairman of the Automobile Association of South Africa, Strate, the settlement arm of trades in equities and other instruments in South Africa, Brait Societe Anonyme listed in Luxembourg, London and Johannesburg and a director of JD Group listed in Johannesburg.
Status in the International Domain
Mervyn King was the first President of the Commonwealth Association of Corporate Governance, a former Governor of the International Corporate Governance Network, and the South African representative of the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration in Paris. A He is a member of the Private Sector Advisory Group to the World Bank on Corporate Governance, a member of the international advisory boards of Stern Stewart of the USA, Tomorrow?s Company of the United Kingdom and the Central European Corporate Governance Association. He is the Chairman of the Asian Centre of Corporate Governance, Chairman of the United Nations Committee on Governance and oversight and Chairman of the Global Reporting Initiative.
He has consulted, advised and spoken on legal, business and corporate governance issues in 32 countries and has received many awards. He is the author of a book on Corporate Governance: The Corporate Citizen (Penguin, ISBN 0143025082, 2007).
In 1981 Mervyn became chairman of Operation Hunger. The mission of Operation Hunger was to feed as many children as possible in the rural areas. He remained chairman for eight years and then became Honorary Life President of the organisation. Operation Hunger fed over two million children a day for years.
Mervyn has always been an ardent supporter of cricket. In 1984 while he was a director of the then Transv l Cricket Union, Ali Bacher conceived of the notion of ?mini cricket? to try and develop the game among disadvantaged communities in South Africa . The problem was one of finance. Mervyn created the South African Executive Cricket Club of which he became chairman. He appointed ten business leaders to raise R100,000.00 from each of their industries for ten years. This meant that a million rand a year for ten years was underwritten for the development of cricket in South Africa . It was through this club that he became a party to driving the unification of the Black Cricket Union and the White one and was present at the unification of the two boards.
It was the work he did in cricket that brought him into contact with Steve Tshwete who became Minister of Sport in 1994. There were huge problems in athletics and Mr. Tshwete asked Mervyn if he would chair a commission of enquiry into athletics and make recommendations for the future conduct of the sport in South Africa. He chaired the commission, on a pro bono basis, wrote a detailed report, which was implemented so successfully that they asked him to become the president of Athletics South Africa, which he did.
Having successfully completed this task, when trouble arose in tennis Minister Tshwete appointed him as the commissioner looking into tennis and as in athletics he wrote a detailed report for the restructuring of tennis in South Africa. This was successfully implemented. Here again he acted pro bono.
Performing arts have always interested Mervyn King. As chairman of Life he was party to starting the Vita Arts Awards. This interest culminated in him becoming chairman of the Johannesburg Youth Theatre Trust. He raised funds for them and assisted in obtaining premises for them from the Johannesburg municipality from which the Youth Theatre operated in Parktown. He became the Youth Theatre?s Honorary Life President.
In the early 1980s there was a realisation that people in built up areas of Johannesburg like Hillbrow, Bellvue etc. had no recreational area. There is a ridge running through Hillbrow, Bellvue, Yeoville and Observatory right down to Bedfordview. Mervyn conceived the idea of creating a walking and picnic trail from Hillbrow to Bedfordview. He had to convince the Johannesburg council of the merits of the idea; and eventually saw the construction of a pedestrian bridge built over Nugget Hill; ensured rights of way over certain properties and negotiated change of traffic flows with the traffic department. A For all this work when the trail was opened some three years later the Council named it ?The Mervyn King Ridge Trail?.
Further, being a director of many companies and the chairman of the Institute of Directors, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and the JSE then asked him to chair the private sector body to draft corporate governance guidelines for South Africa. This occurred in 1992 at a time when South Africans were aware that they would be moving into a new democratic society. There were very special circumstances pertaining to the way companies were to be run in the new South Africa. Not least of the circumstances was that citizens from previously disadvantaged communities would be moving into the mainstream economy and there were virtually no guidelines as to how companies should be directed and controlled. Mervyn King set about putting together a committee representing a profile of South Africa and by 1994 they issued a report that had taken some eighteen months to complete and many hours, nights and weekends of work. It was regarded as being ahead of its time in governance because they adopted an integrated and inclusive approach embracing stakeholders other than shareholders in regard to the business life of a company. In contrast the Cadbury Report in England dealt only with the financial aspects of governance.
All of that work was again done pro bono by Mervyn King. Thereafter the Minister of Finance asked him to chair the committee on Insider Trading as the authorities were open to huge criticism for the apparent existence of insider trading without any prosecutions taking place. The problem was that there was only a criminal sanction as in the United Kingdom and proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the state of a person?s mind is as difficult to prove as trying to prove the state of his/her digestion. In chairing that committee Mervyn incorporated the best of the provisions of the Securities and Exchange Commission of America, European bourses and United Kingdom laws and drafted an Insider Trading Act, which was eventually passed by parliament. The Financial Services Board was able to deal with alleged perpetrators of insider trading on a civil basis. Also the ?name and shame? provisions in the statute had a material positive effect on the trading patterns of financial instruments in South Africa.
After 1994, with advances in technology and electronic communication, it was necessary to re-assess risk management and integrated sustainability-reporting for large international corporations. The King Committee was an on-going committee because they had stated in 1994 that the governance of companies was integrally related to how society evolves: how a company is governed is a constantly changing dynamic. Mervyn King and various colleagues recommended in 2000 that new governance guidelines should be drawn up. Interested parties such as the JSE all agreed to this and Mervyn had to re-establish the committee, which had some new members. They decided this time to make the report a work of reference and consequently set about over a period of about eighteen months drafting and writing what became known as the King II Report. The report, issued in March 2002, was acclaimed internationally.
The Curriculum Vitae of Mervyn King will no doubt tell the interested reader more. This is a man of whom the University of the Witwatersrand can justifiably be proud. He is a committed South African citizen, a dedicated campaigner for justice and fairness, and a person who is accessible, willing to help, and selfless. I recommend him for an honorary doctorate at Wits.