A 1.5 hour speech and not a word about bank collusion

President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking at the ANC's January 8 Celebrations at the Mbombela Stadium.

President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking at the ANC's January 8 Celebrations at the Mbombela Stadium.

Published Jan 15, 2024


President Cyril Ramaphosa’s one-and-a half hour speech at the January 8 celebration on Saturday left out the biggest scandal of 2023 – bank collusion. Not a word was uttered about it.

According to the Competition Commission, Absa, Standard Bank, Nedbank, FirstRand, Investec, Standard Americas, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Commerz Bank (Germany), Macquarie Bank Limited (Australia), Barclays, Bank of America, HSBC Bank, Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith, JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse Securities (US) are alleged to have colluded to weaken the SA rand between 2007 and 2013.

It is believed that Ramaphosa’s close links to the banks have shielded them from accountability.

His business links were laid bare a few weeks before his 2017 election as ANC president when the banks lobbied against former president Jacob Zuma in favour of Ramaphosa. When Zuma appointed Des van Rooyen as finance minister, the CEOs of banks threatened to “collapse the economy” if Zuma didn’t fire Van Rooyen with immediate effect. Zuma recalled Van Rooyen two days after appointing him.

Ramaphosa was so disposed towards the banks that during the BRICS conference in Sandton in July, he broke protocol by inserting Standard Bank CEO Sim Shabalala into the programme ahead of the foreign presidents. In an opening programme that was known to be a programme of presidents only, Shabalala’s inclusion sent shock waves through the diplomatic community.

The Competition Tribunal ruled it had jurisdiction to hear the so-called “Forex Cartel case”, and dismissed a second round of exceptions and objections. It struck out applications brought by various banks in response to the Competition Commission’s updated complaint referral, or charge sheet.

The commission alleges that between 2007 and at least 2013, a total of 28 banks, from multiple jurisdictions in Europe, South Africa, Australia and the US, conspired to manipulate the rand through information sharing on electronic and other platforms, and through various co-ordination strategies when trading in the USD/ZAR currency pair.

The Competition Appeal Court did not clear SA banks of collusion. Its ruling on rand manipulation was alarming. Persistent concerns linger despite the dismissal of rand manipulation charges against big banks.

The bad and the ugly corruption scandals of 2023

However, a week ago, the Competition Appeal Court dismissed the cases against most of the 28 banks accused of colluding.

But some members, while speaking to The Star, questioned why Ramaphosa was mum on the matter.

Others questioned why, after talking tough against corruption, he did not touch on how the Phala Phala matter was resolved.

The scandal involved millions in foreign currency that was allegedly stolen from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in February 2020.

At the ANC rally, attended by almost 60 000 people, some members questioned why Ramaphosa and the party’s national executive committee had not spoken against the collusion of the bank during the delivery of the speech.

Speaking to Independent Media on Saturday, ANC loyalist Msebenzi Mathole said it was unusual that the party had launched its anniversary celebrations without having considered the plight of South Africans suffering under poverty and unemployment.

“I’m disappointed that the president did not speak about how we are going to rebut the bank situation. The country has lost a lot of money and we don’t know how the country is going to approach this … We should have the idea from the ANC so that we can have confidence in them,” Mathole said.

An elderly woman from Bushbuckridge asked why Ramaphosa would talk of crime but not mention how the Phala Phala matter was resolved.

“I don’t know how and when the money was stolen. I don’t know why that happened. My worry is that it looks like the matter was swept under the carpet …so, please, he must say something on the matter.”

Ramaphosa has talked tough against corruption, saying those caught with their hands in the cookie jar would be immediately arrested.

“Corruption in government, business and society is criminal activity. It detracts from the government’s ability to improve the conditions of those living in poverty and to transform society. Corruption is counter-revolutionary. We disassociate ourselves from those who are corrupt, commit serious crimes, abuse women and children and are involved in sexual harassment,” he said.

The celebrations did not come without their fair share of controversy on the day.

The Ehlanzeni Region in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, had instructed its branches to boycott the January 8 event.

Considering the Ehlanzeni municipality boasts about 8 000 eligible voters, the decision could be a blow to the party’s campaign in the area.

The disgruntled members of the ANC accused officials of ignoring a multimillion-rand smart city project that has been in limbo for years.

Residents of the region, Nkosi City, said it was supposed to create jobs and improve living conditions.

ANC zonal election official Mandla Mhlanga said the structures of the ANC in the region had resolved to boycott the January 8 event until Ramaphosa intervened in the matter.

“We are not not going to participate in any activities of the ANC today or any other time until the president comes to see the Nkosi City development project that never got off the ground,” Mhlanga said.

Residents said the project was supposed to ease unemployment and poverty in the area, since they were policies of the party.

It is believed the project was going to create more than 15 000 sustainable jobs.

The area does not have a hospital within a 15km radius.

“Unemployment and inequalities would be a thing of the past if this project would have gotten off the ground. We just don’t want more talk … we want action.”

ANC Youth League ward 2 secretary Prudence Soko mirrored Mhlanga’s assertions, saying the youth wing of the party had taken the same resolution.

“We have taken a resolution not to go to January 8 and not to participate in any activities of the elections until the president gives this matter attention. This project was going to make sure that our lives improve,” Soko said.

The Star

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