The decision by the board of Absa to remove Sipho Pityana has provoked an enormous amount of controversy and a great deal of debate. Parmi Natesan, CEO of the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA) says that the public needs to ensure it understands the law relating to the removal of a director, but that it also takes into account the complexities of the decision process the board would have undertaken.
“The legality of Mr Pityana’s removal from the Absa board will be decided in reference to the stipulations of the Companies Act, which provides the conditions under which such an action may be taken,” she says.
In terms of the Companies Act, there are two ways to remove a director. One is for the shareholders of the company to adopt an ordinary resolution at a shareholders’ meeting. The persons entitled to exercise voting rights in the election of a director would be eligible to vote in this matter.
Alternatively, as was the case in this instance, the board can remove a director via a board resolution if a director or shareholder has alleged that the said director has become ineligible or disqualified from sitting on the board; is so incapacitated that he or she cannot perform directorial functions and is unlikely to regain that capacity within a reasonable time; or has neglected or been derelict in performing his or her directorial functions.
In both cases, the affected director needs to be given notice of the meeting and the content of the resolution, as well as reasonable opportunity to make a presentation prior to the vote taking place.
“We live in the Age of Social Media, and we are often quick to form and then voice strong opinions. In this instance, the Companies Act lays down the framework under which a director may be removed from office; and there is a due process to be followed,” she says. “In addition, even after the decision, the director concerned has the right to apply within 20 business days to a court to review the determination of the board.”
We will now wait and see how this further legal process unfolds. This is a highly complex case, with many issues to be taken into consideration. One thing is clear though—boards have to take tough decisions if they believe it is in the best interests of the company, while staying within the lines of the law. Whether this was the case is a matter for the experts to decide, and we should let them do so.
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