Sipho Pityana takes aim at Prudential Authority, plans to sue for defamation

27 October 2021 - 19:18 By Thabiso Mochiko
Sipho Pityana, the lead independent director at Absa, plans to sue the Prudential Authority for defamation. File photo.
Sipho Pityana, the lead independent director at Absa, plans to sue the Prudential Authority for defamation. File photo.

Sipho Pityana is planning on suing for defamation of character.

Pityana, the lead independent director of the Absa board, plans to file a lawsuit against banking regulator the Prudential Authority for defamation after the regulator’s involvement in the process of appointing the bank's chair. He has not ruled out suing members of the Prudential Authority in their individual capacities.

Pityana filed court papers this week seeking a declaratory order against the Prudential Authority, saying it blocked his nomination for Absa chair.

“I am very clear that their conduct was defamatory ... I will separately institute a lawsuit against them for defamation of character but this is not part of this application,” he said in an interview with Business Times.

Asked if he will sue any individual members of the Prudential Authority, Pityana said: “I have not gone into that at this stage, I know for a fact it will be against the Reserve Bank and whether that [will include others] is a matter I will consider.”

Pityana said the Prudential Authority unlawfully objected to his nomination and that it circumvented procedures. This, he said, damaged his reputation and denied him his right to be heard and challenge its objection, as provided for in law.

He said that when the regulator decided to object to the nomination, “it means you are either a person who is not fit and proper or that it is not in the public interest to serve as a director of the board”.

“That is serious and harmful and can’t be arrived at without me being given the right to be heard,” he said.

Absa subsequently appointed Sello Moloko as chair. The Reserve Bank, on behalf of the Prudential Authority, has said it will defend the court action.

Pityana said through an “informal process”, the Prudential Authority conducted deliberations about him that involved external parties — in particular, his successor as chair of AngloGold Ashanti, Maria Ramos, about a “false and untrue allegation” of sexual harassment that was made against him in 2020. This was raised by Ramos with the head of the Prudential Authority, Kuben Naidoo, when Pityana’s name was put forward by Absa.

Pityana resigned from AngloGold Ashanti after the conclusion of the investigation. According to Pityana’s court papers, Ramos said he resigned to avoid an adverse decision against him by AngloGold Ashanti’s board. This Pityana vehemently denies.

He said his attorneys successfully objected to the draft findings, which were found to be flawed and could not be relied upon. He said he was not found guilty of any sexual harassment.

“I know that one of the assertions pushed to regulators and Ms Ramos is that I left AGA to avoid the investigation and avoid adverse action by the board. The reality is different in that I responded to the investigation in detail, showing shortcomings and after which I stepped down as the chair and remain a director and made it clear that I would like to confront whatever allegations and whatever final report says and if need be I will take the matter to court on review.”

It was the AngloGold Ashanti board that proposed the settlement and that the investigation be concluded, he said. The company has reportedly rejected the allegations made against Ramos, saying they are baseless.