Ruben Richards, chief executive of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been fired for not “being the right fit” for the organisation. Richards was appointed in May as the first chief executive of the chamber. Charles Scheltema will temporarily fill the position.
The shock decision has reportedly astounded the chamber’s council and split the board.
The dismissal was mentioned by the Cape Chamber’s president Janine Myburgh’s address at the AGM. She is quoted as saying, “There have been excellent achievements this year, but I will not stand here and pretend we have not faced our challenges. It is unfortunate that we are again looking for an executive director. The Chamber of Commerce is a strange creature. It is not public sector, nor a corporate and not an agile small business. It sits at a juncture of all of these and it is difficult to find the right fit for its chief executive officer.”
Myburgh was light on details when questioned after the meeting, only saying that Richards was still in his probation period and “wasn’t the right fit.”
Richards himself told the Cape Argus that he had not resigned, but had been fired on 29 October. Although Richards would not say what had led to his axing, he said that details would emerge in the coming weeks. He did say that the decision had caused a rift in the board.
“Part of the deciding factor in my employment, I’m told, was the fact that each candidate had to undergo a psychometric evaluation to establish if I was fit for the organisation. The panel made recommendations to the council of the chamber based on this objective fit. It does raise questions about what changed between the time I was considered fit and now, when I am not.”
When questioned on the whether the board was adequately briefed on the decision to fire Richards, Myburgh categorically stated that they where fully aware, and said that the council meetings and decisions were confidential. She was also reportedly concerned that Richards’ removal may have been leaked to the media.
Richards did not rule out a possible challenge. “When one’s integrity is challenged, one has to do what is necessary to defend one’s reputation.”
Richards was deputy director-general of the Scorpions, with qualifications in engineering, sociology and theology. He was also chief executive of Globe Engineering.
When he was appointed, Myburgh said the chamber was “extremely fortunate” to have a man of Richards’s talent and experience. His diverse experience in business, academic, government and civil society was “precisely what is needed right now.”
By Jenni McCann