STOCK TAKE | Was Sello Moloko forced to make a call?

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Absa chair may have been forced to resign at Telkom

Why now? 

The timing of Sello Moloko's resignation as Telkom chair this week is curious.

It followed a few hours after Business Day published claims that the Prudential Authority (PA) wanted Moloko to focus his attention on his position at Absa.

More importantly, it came almost 13 months after he was first announced as Absa's chairperson. He was already filling that role at Telkom at the time.

Moloko was confirmed as the chairperson designate of the Absa board to replace Wendy Lucas-Bull in October 2021. He began his tenure as a chairman in April. So, there were six months after his appointment for anyone to raise concerns about Moloko having "too much on his plate" before he resumed his duties at Absa.

Instead, he led both boards for almost eight months before the news about the PA's reservations broke, followed by Moloko's subsequent swift resignation from Telkom.

The PA spent a lot of time dealing with the new Absa chairman issue. It was the PA that raised objections to Sipho Pityana's appointment to succeed Lucas-Bull. So, it's strange why it only emerged as an issue now.

READ | 'The decision simply went against him': Reserve Bank denies blocking Pityana as Absa chair

Other bank chairs have demanding side hustles. Capitec chairperson, Santie Botha, also heads the boards of Curro and Famous Brands. Standard Bank chairperson, Nonkululeko Nyembezi, does that job at Business Leadership SA as well.

Nedbank chairman, Paul Mpho Makwana, was the chairperson of ArcelorMittal SA at the time of his appointment but has since resigned. However, he is still the chairman of Safcol SOC Limited.

This raises the question of what exactly the PA's reservations were. Was this raised with Absa and Moloko when the PA approved his appointment as the bank's chairperson? Or is there more to this story? Telkom's financial position has deteriorated – its interim profit halved, as was announced this week – and it has been involved in tricky negotiations with MTN and Rain. Has this contributed to concerns that the telecommunication firm may become a greater distraction?

Unfortunately, the PA told News24 that it does not comment on entities it regulates and won't confirm whether, indeed, Moloko resigned from Telkom because of its concern. But, as the Pityana case showed, these things always have a way of coming out sooner or later

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