Banks interfere in geopolitical matters to serve their masters’ agenda

Standard Bank has opted to keep the bank accounts of Independent Media open for the time being. The move is seen as giving space and time for Independent Media to approach the Constitutional Court to overturn the initial unbanking decision. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Standard Bank has opted to keep the bank accounts of Independent Media open for the time being. The move is seen as giving space and time for Independent Media to approach the Constitutional Court to overturn the initial unbanking decision. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 12, 2023


THE weaponisation of banks by political formations or entities is set to have far-reaching implications for economies, governments, and even individuals, not just in Africa but globally. Banks are often weaponised, albeit subliminally, by politics in various ways, such as the manipulation of financial systems and resources to achieve political goals.

Just this week the Nigerian president, who is also the current chairperson of the authority of heads of state and government of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), ordered new sanctions aimed at groups and individuals involved in the coup in Niger, through Nigeria’s central bank, throwing that country’s economy into shambles.

Ajuri Ngelale, the spokesperson for Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, told reporters that the move was made in light of the pre-existing consensus of the West African leaders on the Niger impasse.

Niger, however, is not the first to feel the wrath of the weaponisation of banks by the powers that be. Zimbabweans fell victim after implementing their rather controversial land reform leading to the formation of the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Movement (ZASM).

ZASM has challenged the banks’ decision to sanction its citizens before the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, and the case has been ongoing since last year.

The movement’s chairperson, Rutendo Matinyarare, said recently: “As Zimbabweans, we decided that we will go to the South African courts to say how do these banks close bank accounts based on implementing illegal US sanctions? The banks responded by saying they were not implementing illegal US sanctions but were de-risking from risky people.”

De-risking from risky people? The banks have deliberately been using “risk” or “reputational risk” with no clear-cut explanation so they can just toss those phrases into any of the reasons for closing bank accounts. This then puts the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of the victims who will struggle to prove that they are not the “risk-whatever” that the banks accuse them of being.

All this at their own cost for “affordable” legal counsel and their businesses suffer while the banks unleash armies of senior counsel to crush them, using the funds they gained from having the clients in the first place.

The World Bank said this week that it would halt new lending to the Ugandan government after concluding that its anti-LGBTQ law contradicts the bank’s values. Not that I agree with the anti-LGBTQ law, but what does that have to do with the banks?

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” the bank said.

Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs, Okello Oryem, accused the bank of hypocrisy, saying they were still lending to countries in the Middle East and Asia that had the same or harsher laws on homosexuality.

Their vision to “eradicate poverty can only succeed if it includes everyone” – except, of course, those who politically disagree with the powers that be, particularly the West. A glaring example of this is Neil Farage, who had his accounts closed because of his political views. By the way, Farage has ruled out taking part in frontline politics ahead of the next elections in the UK.

While it’s bad enough that they discriminate based on political and cultural views, it is atrocious that they even move to close the accounts of a whole media house. The banks' move to close Independent Media’s accounts has been widely criticised simply because free media is the citizens and democracy’s heartbeat.

It is the media that is expected to be the voice of those who need to be heard, irrespective of race, gender or sexuality. It is the media that is expected to share the citizens’ political and cultural views. It is the media that is expected to hold the establishment accountable by speaking truth to power.

But when this becomes too much to handle, the powers just activate the “risk-whatever” button and the banks are weaponised. They spring into action with no consideration of the economy, no consideration of how many lives are affected – and, worse still, how much tax revenue stands to be lost due to the jobs bloodbath they are creating.

Banks often engage in political lobbying and provide financial contributions to political campaigns. This can grant them access to policymakers and the ability to shape legislation that aligns with their interests. Banks also often have international operations and connections, making them part of a global financial network.

South Africa’s big four banks are largely connected to and influenced by the West, particularly the US, and this may partly be attributed to the fact that the US dollar is the current global trading currency.

But then, talks of an alternative resources-based currency being mulled by the growing BRICS bloc seem to have shaken the West, with fears that this could severely devalue the US dollar.

This then begs the question: What of our president Cyril Ramaphosa, who is boldly flirting with Russia, the US’s nemesis? It’s no secret that the West has been in support of Ramaphosa (and the other media that sing his praises). Well, at least until the Phala Phala scandal broke.

Zimbabwe, Uganda and Niger, among many others, have all felt the wrath of the West’s weaponised banking system for being deemed to be a “risk-whatever” to them.

Maybe it’s time, Mr President, for you urgently to take the matter up and consider appointing a “minister of banking” to rescue South Africans from imminent de-banking, which could render above-board trade in the country non-existent. It’s time that your government implements clear-cut regulations on clients’ accounts, otherwise we might just find ourselves without bank accounts for being in polygamous marriages, which the West frowns upon.

NOTE TO FELLOW SOUTH AFRICANS: Unbanked US dollars will rapidly lose value if a new global currency kicks in.