Former South African central bank Governor Tito Mboweni stood down as AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. chairman, adding to speculation he may take up a senior post in the government after elections in May.
A former labor minister, Mboweni, 54, was elected to the African National Congress’ 80-member national executive committee in December 2012, signaling his return to mainstream politics. He had been chairman of AngloGold, the world’s third-largest producer of the metal, since June 2010.
“He is a party heavyweight,” Pierre du Toit, a politics professor at the University of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, said in a phone interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a go at a senior cabinet post. Whether he gets it or not is a different matter. There is big competition within the party for those posts.”
South Africa is due to hold its fifth multiracial elections on May 7 that opinion polls show will extend the ANC’s two-decade rule by a further five years, and return President Jacob Zuma to office for a second term.
Mboweni served as labor minister in Nelson Mandela’s government following the first post-apartheid elections in 1994, a position he held until August 1999, when he was named head of the central bank. During his decade at the bank, he helped to build foreign currency reserves and introduce an inflation target, a policy that is opposed by labor unions. He was replaced at the bank by his one-time deputy, Gill Marcus.
Mboweni, who is also chairman of Nampak Ltd. and Sacoil Holding Ltd., stood down “as a result of his increasing portfolio of professional commitments,” Johannesburg-based AngloGold said today in a statement.
Sipho Pityana, who has been an AngloGold non-executive director for seven years, was elected unanimously by the board today to replace Mboweni. Pityana was South Africa’s first director general of the Department of Labour following democratic elections in 1994 and is chairman of investment company Izingwe Capital Ltd.
AngloGold shares have dropped 42 percent since June 2010, when Mboweni became chairman, while the gold price rose 8.3 percent in the period. Gold producers’ profits have been squeezed by rising costs globally, while in South Africa, output has been disrupted by strikes and wages have almost doubled in the five years to 2012, according to estimates from the Chamber of Mines.
Mboweni oversaw the appointment of Chief Executive Officer Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan last year, replacing Mark Cutifani, who left to become CEO of Anglo American Plc. Mboweni also sanctioned a cost-cutting plan that has helped boost AngloGold’s share price 62 percent since it was announced on Aug. 7.
The shares fell 0.7 percent to 190.85 rand as of 1:19 p.m. in Johannesburg.