Cisco changes stance on Mbeki’s board

US NETWORKING giant Cisco Systems has backtracked on a statement it made last week in which it said it had pulled out of SA’s presidential advisory task force.

This U-turn highlights the gap between what the local office is doing and what US executives think it is doing.

Vice-president of business

Now Cisco has backtracked on Lighton’s comments in a damage control exercise involving a four way conference call with Business Day and Cisco officials in California, London and Johannesburg.

That came after Cisco fielded calls from its customers asking why it had pulled out of the high profile council that seats it around the table with Mbeki and several government ministers.

The report of its withdrawal is also likely to have upset relations with the government, which is the heaviest spender on technology equipment and services in SA.

Regional vice-president Mark de Simone admitted that Cisco had not attended the event last year, but said he was personally committed to attending this year’s meeting.

He said a “miscommunication” between Cisco SA and its US headquarters had come about because executives who followed many countries did not always have the exact details of what was happening in each country. “We are still part of the advisory board and I plan to participate in the next advisory board,” he said.

Lighton explained the withdrawal, saying: “Our GM left the committee because it was a conflict of interest to be making recommendations of policies to the South African government about ICT and at the same time being in a company selling technology.”

Lighton said the decision to pull out was taken by the former GM of Cisco SA, Clive Flynn. But Flynn has since resigned amid a restructuring of its operations in SA and his lack of support for the president’s think-tank has been replaced with fresh enthusiasm.

De Simone said he saw a lot of value in the advisory council. A restructuring of Cisco SA to have a nonexecutive chairman separate from the operational managers would eliminate possible conflicts inherent in its dual roles.

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Cisco changes stance on Mbeki’s board