SOUTH AFRICA – Tongaat Hulett, South Africa’s diversified agribusiness firm, has announced the resignation of Jenitha John as the company’s corporate governance director.

Tongaat said in a statement that Jenitha’s departure from the company’s board was owed to “other work commitments, and Tongaat Hulett’s increased demands on her time, given the current business challenges.”

“The board of directors of Tongaat Hulett Ltd wishes to advise that Mrs Jenitha John, an independent non-executive director and chairman of the Audit and Compliance committee, has tendered her resignation with effect from 31 May 2019,” the company said in a statement.

Jenitha’s resignation comes amidst the ongoing strategic and financial review in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed sugar producer that may see it restate previously released financial information.

Jenitha, who chaired the audit and compliance committee, was responsible for overseeing the company’s corporate governance and has been a member of the sugar producer’s board since 2007.

The company has henceforth appointed Ms Fatima Daniels to assume the responsibility of Audit and Compliance Committee Chairman.

This adds to the recent list of departures witnessed in the agriculture and agro-processing firm after the long serving chief executive officer, Peter Staude’s, left the company in October last year.

Gavin Hudson took over from Staude in February and immediately initiated a wide-ranging strategic and financial review.

As part of a restructuring process, the sugar producer has also confirmed that retrenchment letters had been issued to their employees which will affect about 5000 employees operating in six Southern African Development Community countries.

“In the face of significant business challenges, Tongaat Hulett can confirm that the company is looking to reduce its headcount as part of a broader restructuring of the business.

“The strategy seeks to address its debt burden, streamline operations and fundamentally change its business model,” the company said.

Hudson said it was critical to cut costs while increasing efficiencies, and the company would strengthen its corporate governance and leadership team.

“We have a burning platform and an opportunity to renew our business model: returning the business to where it should be in the medium to long term; operating strategically, sustainably, efficiently and profitably,”  he said.

The company’s trading at the bourse has recorded continuous decline pushing the loss in 2019 so far to almost 67% which has left the company with a market value of US$171.01 million (R2.5bn) from about US$1.641billion (R24bn) less than five years ago.

Tongaat, which is due to release full-year results, has already issued a profit warning saying it would post a full-year loss after projecting a landslide in headline earnings for the year to March by 250%.