Johannesburg, South Africa – 26 May 2017

The Black Management Forum (the BMF) which is at the forefront of transformation within Corporate South Africa met with ABSA Group CEO, Ms. Maria Ramos and some her executives on Thursday, 25 May 2017. The meeting follows the walkout of black professionals at ABSA Capital’s staff meeting after Phakamani Hadebe was overlooked for a promotion to head the CIB business. The BMF sought to understand the circumstances surrounding Hadebe’s resignation and to discuss the broader lack of transformation at ABSA. As the BMF, we have been very intentional in our focus on the composition of executive teams and company boards with regards to gender and race as we believe that gate-keeping is sponsored from the very top, leading to transformation being undermined and ultimately reversed as is the case at ABSA currently.

At the meeting, the BMF highlighted its grave concerns with regards to:

  1. Dismal Board and EXCO representation of Black Executives, and the general lack of transformation in senior teams managing key ABSA business units.
  2. The concentration of business power in the hands of a single executive, Mr. David Hodnestt’s who, in addition to his ‘double-hat’ roles as Deputy Group CE and CEO of SA Business Operations, is now - even if temporal - a Head of CIB and a Head of Retail and Business Banking. We asked if ABSA had no other executives to fill these roles and whether SARB is comfortable with Mr. Hodnestt’s many roles that clearly pose salient risks.
  3. The growing trend in Corporate South Africa’s apparent preference of foreign nationals over South African nationals and black South African nationals in particular, even on businesses that derive a large part of their earnings in South Africa.

The meeting with ABSA was very robust and candid. The following were the outcomes emanating from the above engagement:

  1. The crisis at hand should not be allowed to go to waste but rather should be used to interrogate institutional and transformation issues that led to the crisis in the first place.
  2. A more detailed follow up engagement will be held with ABSA’s Executive Committee (Exco) to delve deeper into transformation issues within the organisation.

Group CEO, Maria Ramos commented that the professionals that staged the walkout will not be victimised in anyway. The BMF will closely watch ABSA and follow the developments in this regard.

The BMF thanks Ms Ramos and her team on their willingness to engage on these issues and for their posture in dealing with the crisis so far. The BMF commends the courageous and principled stand taken by the black professionals at ABSA. They have set an example on how to professionally and yet firmly challenge institutionalised racism in Corporate South Africa.

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For more information, contact:

Anele Ndlovu
Head of Marketing and Communication
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076 431 2899