Cosatu and Saftu welcomed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's directive that the Constitution be amended regarding the role of the Reserve Bank. Picture: Bongani Shilubane
Johannesburg – Trade union federation Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and its rival, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) have welcomed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's directive that the Constitution be amended regarding the role of the SA Reserve Bank (SARB), adding that nationalising the bank would assist in the emancipation of poor South Africans.

Cosatu said it had been calling for the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank for decades and that the bank was "not acting in the interests of the poor majority."

"What is saddening is that this issue was ignored by leaders who were supposed to intervene on behalf of the country and the poor majority," said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

"It is obvious now that South Africa is not immune to the problem that faces many liberation leaders after independence. After 1994 they [leaders] wanted to mimic lifestyles of their former masters when these masters had obtained their wealth through slave labour, paying slave wages, violation of human rights and through bribery. They turned a blind eye so that they could be co-opted into the elite club."

Mkhwebane on Monday criticised SARB for failing to recover more than R1 billion from Bankorp Limited/ABSA Bank, advanced as an “illegal gift” to the Bankorp group, which was bought by ABSA in the early 1990s.

Mkhwebane released a report on the alleged failure to recover “misappropriated funds” in the erstwhile Bankorp lifeboat investigation.

She referred the matter to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to recover misappropriated public funds unlawfully given to ABSA Bank "in the amount of R1.125 billion."

She further ordered remedial action directing Parliament to effect a constitutional amendment to the Reserve Bank’s powers.

The SARB said on Tuesday it would challenge Mkhwebane's "unlawful" remedial action and that she had no powers to direct Parliament to effect a Constitutional amendment.

Saftu said the finance ministry failed to comply with its legal obligation to ensure that the Sarb complied with the SA Reserve Bank Act.

"While this [Mkhwebane's remedial action] would be an improvement, the solution surely has to be the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, so that it becomes a public service rather than a profit making company."

The federation said however, that the SIU probe as directed by Mkhwebane should not be used to deflect attention from "modern day looters" exposed through the leaked Gupta e-mails.

"The Public Protector is therefore right to look into crimes dating from these period, but this in no way excuses or justifies today’s plundering of public resources by the crony capitalists led by [President Jacob] Zuma and the Guptas."

"Saftu therefore insists that while the Public Protector, the Hawks and NPA should continue to investigate apartheid era crimes, they must be consistent and move quickly to investigate all the allegations backed up by findings of Mkhwebane’s predecessor, Thuli Madonsela and the flood of email revelations which clearly point to illegal activity and identify those responsible."

"All those implicated must all be charged, prosecuted and punished and the President and his whole cabinet removed from office without delay."