Sibonelo Radebe. Image:
JOHANNESBURG -  A group of of black professionals have been spurred to establish a co-operative financial institution (CFI), a precursor towards Khanya Cooperative Bank, in an effort to address  the need to transform the country’s banking sector.

Steering committee member Sibonelo Radebe, a veteran financial journalist and publisher of, said they were in the process of preparing for a CFI licence.

He said for this type of licence they needed a minimum of 200 people as members and R100 000 equity. They currently are currently short of 50 members, and the membership fee is R2500. The CFI licence would allow them to take deposits and give loans to their members.

Radebe said: “We must get to 200 members before the end of the year, so that by January we prepare the application and take it to the regulator to get the licence. We decided that we are going to start with FCI licence, then three years down the line upgrade to cooperative banking licence.”

He said a commercial banking licence cost about R250m, while a cooperative banking one cost about R20m.

“Our model tells us that within three years we will surpass R20m in deposits, which will qualify us for a cooperative banking licence, and within five years we can get a mutual banking licence,” said Radebe, stressing that they were not establishing another Standard Bank.

“We are about establishing a community-based financial institution which is going to be owned and controlled by members. We want to build an institution of the future, we are building a multi-generational wealth institution,” he said.

Radebe said they were in a better position to establish the cooperative bank and groom into a “richer financial institution” within the next 10 years.

Khanya Cooperative Bank would join a growing list of banks seeking to disrupt the hegemony in the country’s untransformed banking sector, led by Standard Bank, FirstRand, Nedbank, Absa and Capitec over the country’s untransformed financial sector. 

Last month, Discovery moved a step closer to running a fully fledged retail bank after the Registrar of Banks granted the financial services group a banking licence.
In September, TymeDigital by Commonwealth Bank SA said it had been issued with an operating licence by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). This was the first licence issued to a new bank by the SARB since 1999.

In July last year, the Sarb granted authorisation to the South African Post Office (Sapo) to establish its own bank.

“We are for transformation of the sector,” said Radebe, noting that over the past two decades little has happened in implementing a meaningful transformation of the lucrative industry.

“Look, Absa and Standard Bank have been there for 100 years. They have a particular culture, so for you to come in in an established institution and think you will transform it is a dream, it’s not going to happen.”

Black people and communities, stressed Radebe, needed to start institutions from stretch in order to realise a meaningfully transformed financial sector, adding: “In South Africa we have a rich stokvel sector which is supposed to be a rich ground for us to have our own financial institutions.”

Experts estimate that there are over 820 000 stokvels in the country with a combined membership of 11.4 million people, handling over R44 billion per annum. 

Radebe was scathing of politicians who used the call for nationalisation of banks without compensation as a “political football”. 

This as EFF leader Julius Malema’s motion on the nationalisation of banks without compensation was rejected as unconstitutional and a mad idea by MPs at the National Assembly a week ago.

“Politicians are disingenuous. They are using this as a political football. I don’t understand them and it gets me very angry to hear people go to political rallies and talk about the need for a black bank. What have they done about it? It takes 200 members and R100 000 equity to get a CFI licence,” said Radebe.