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Sipho Pityana threatens Absa with legal action after axing

Fired Absa director Sipho Pityana has described his ousting as “outrageous” and “unlawful” as he prepares to mount a legal challenge against the bank’ board to fight the decision.
Pityana told PowerFM on Wednesday evening that the board of directors had invited him to resign earlier this month, but he challenged them to show why they had made the decision.

“I believe that their decision is outrageous, it is unfortunate and unlawful from my perspective,” he said.

In a statement earlier on Wednesday, Pityana said he had instructed his legal team to take the decision of the Absa board to terminate his directorship on review with the courts.

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“My reading of the reasons for the board’s resolution is that my alleged neglect or dereliction of the performance of my functions all comes down to the fact that I took, or had the temerity to take, the Prudential Authority to court seeking a declarator that its conduct was unlawful,” he said.

The court challenge follows his action again the Reserve Bank’s Prudential Authority, which he accuses of blocking his appointment as Absa chair.

He said the Absa board had given him a 48-hour notice to resign as a director on November 2, stating that his legal action against the Prudential Authority had resulted in a misalignment of interests between his and those of the bank.

At the heart of Pityana’s legal wrangles with Absa are issues around his December 2020 resignation as AngloGold Ashanti chairman.

It later emerged that he had faced sexual harassment allegations, while heading the board of the gold producer.

He claims that former Absa CEO Maria Ramos informed the Prudential Authority about the allegations when they were considering his suitability to chair the Absa board. Absa indicated to the authority that the bank intend to nominate him as chair, Pityana says.

Pityana told PowerFM that the Reserve Bank does not ordinarily get involved in the nomination process of candidates, but can only do so after the selection has been made by the board.

“Drawing the regulator into the process before that is effectively inviting the regulator to participate in the selection and appointment of a director, which the law does not allow.”

“The bank has the appointment,” he said, “and the regulator’s involvement in this process was outside of its scope and mandate, and it was unlawful.”

He went on to say that the Reserve Bank’s participation was a “affront” to him because it meant he wasn’t a “fit and legitimate person.”

“It’s hurtful to me, and it’s bad for the bank’s governance and financial services in general.”

According to PA CEO Kuben Naidoo’s affidavit, the bank never submitted a written notice of his nomination to the PA.

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