The logos of three of South Africa's biggest banks - Absa, Standard Bank and First National Bank - adorn buildings in Cape Town. Picture: Mike Hutchings
Johannesburg - Confusion is brewing regarding the ANC’s will to establish a state-owned bank after the head of its economic transformation subcommittee disputed that this proposal was in the party’s discussion documents.

This follows last month’s release of the ANC’s policy discussion documents ahead of its national policy conference starting next month, where the party writes that it should “recommend ways to reduce and remove barriers to entry and dismantle monopolistic and oligopolistic structures in key sectors.

“For example, a state-owned bank, possibly based on a transformed Post Bank, can serve to widen access to banking services for many and can assist in changing the structure of South Africa’s financial sector.”

However, when The Star requested an interview with Enoch Godongwana, head of the ANC’s economic transformation subcommittee, for more detail, he responded via SMS: “There is no state bank in our document.”

The Star sent a follow-up SMS explaining what the party’s document states, but Godongwana had not responded to it at the time of publication.

NOT ON THE AGENDA: Enoch Godongwana’s response.

This is despite calls for greater transformation and state involvement in the financial sector by black professionals, such as Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (Absip) president Sibongiseni Mbatha, who told The Star last month that there had been few gains made in transforming the financial industry.

“There is a problem of market concentration where white corporations manage the majority of assets in the country, including the banking sector where the big five banks control 90 percent of the market,” Mbatha asserted.

He noted that Absip represented roughly 10 000 industry professionals.

Mbatha also said he believed the ANC did not involve technocrats when formulating economic policy, adding that Absip would make its submissions ahead of the party’s policy conference.

Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) managing director Cas Coovadia told The Star that Basa would not oppose the creation of a state bank, “provided it operates on sound principles, is properly regulated and taxpayer money is not used to bail out the bank at any time”.

Read also: State bank 'would close gaps'

The banking sector has been embroiled in an alleged price-fixing scandal in relation to foreign exchange trading, as revealed by the Competition Commission.

The commission stated last week that despite filing its papers with the Competition Tribunal on February 15 against 17 banks, “none of the banks have to date filed their answer to the case, except HSBC, which has filed papers disputing that it participated in the cartel”.

Asked why the banks had not responded to the commission’s affidavit to the Competition Tribunal, Coovadia said: “Basa is not in a position to comment on this.

POLICY: A ragout of the policy document.

“We have not been contacted by the Competition Commission on this, and the issue is between the commission and the specific banks concerned.”