Absa appoints new chair amid storm over Pityana snub

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Sello Moloko. Photo: Absa
Sello Moloko. Photo: Absa
  • Former Momentum Metropolitan chair Sello Moloko has been appointed as Absa's incoming chairperson to replace Wendy Lucas-Bull in March next year.   
  • The announcement comes just hours after Absa's lead independent director and former Business Unity SA president Sipho Pityana's allegations that the Reserve Bank's banking authority blocked his nomination to become chair.
  • Pityana is taking legal action against the bank, which reportedly objected to his nomination because of an allegation of sexual harassment.

A day after business leader Sipho Pityana's explosive claims that he was blocked from becoming Absa chairperson by the banking regulator, Absa appointed Sello Moloko to the position.

He will replace Wendy Lucas-Bull at the end of March next year. Lucas-Bull is retiring from the position.

Moloko resigned as chairperson of Momentum Metropolitan on Monday. He also chairs Telkom and is a former CEO of Old Mutual Asset Managers. In the past, he chaired the boards of Alexander Forbes, Sibanye-Stillwater and General Reinsurance Africa. Soweto-born Moloko obtained a BSc with Honours in mathematics and a post-graduate certificate in education from the University of Leicester in the UK. 

His appointment comes shortly after Pityana, the lead independent director of Absa and former Business Unity SA president, claimed that the Reserve Bank's Prudential Authority blocked his nomination to become Absa's chairperson.

This was reportedly due to a claim of sexual harassment made against Pityana during his time as chairperson of Anglo Ashanti. 

Pityana says the allegation is "false and untrue" and claims that the banking authority "unlawfully objected" to his nomination.

Pityana alleges that Absa submitted his nomination as chair to the authority, which regulates local banks. He says that as part of an "informal process", the authority consulted with third parties, including with AngloGold Ashanti chair and former Absa CEO, Maria Ramos.

According to him, the authority then blocked his nomination to become Absa’s chair, after it was informed of the harassment case.

Pityana is now taking legal action against the Reserve Bank.

The central bank told Fin24 that it would challenge Pityana’s allegations in court, and said it had a mandate to assess the competence and integrity of a bank’s directors.

"It is the responsibility of the regulated entity to nominate members of the board and is ultimately responsible for the appointment of directors of the board as well as executive officers. The Prudential Authority (PA) has the mandate to assess the fitness and propriety of proposed appointments of directors and executive officers, and has the right and responsibility to object to an appointment based on competence or integrity of the proposed candidate," the Reserve Bank said in a statement.

Absa confirmed that it was cited as an "interested party" in the legal proceedings instituted by Pityana, but that no relief is sought against it.

"Absa has conducted a robust chairman succession process, which started in October 2020.  During this process which involved an extensive search, Absa considered both internal and external candidates who applied for the position of Chairman of the Absa boards," the company said in a statement. 

"After the completion of this process the Absa Boards resolved to nominate Mr Sello Moloko for the position and submitted his nomination as Independent non-executive director and Chair to the Prudential Authority for approval. The Prudential Authority approved Mr Moloko’s nomination and Absa has made the appropriate announcements in this regard.”

Absa is still searching for a CEO to replace Daniel Mminele, who resigned in April.

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