AFTER nearly 30 years of unfulfilled promises to ensure the protection of citizens from abuse by South Africa’s banks, the ruling party’s failure to live up to its undertakings is due to self-profit at the expense of those who need access to fair banking services.
It is not a secret that Standard Bank intends to dismantle Independent Media’s operations after issuing a notice to shut down the group’s bank accounts, which it intends to do on September 15. This is an abuse of dominance, especially given that the bank is relying on adverse media articles ‒ conveyed by Independent Media’s competitors ‒ to claim they stand to risk their reputation by banking any of the more than 200 Sekunjalo Group companies, including Independent Media.
Independent political analysts, opposition politicians and economists have pinned the blame for this excessive dominance and power wielded by the big six banks in the country, on the shoulders of the ANC, and have criticised the ruling party for sabotaging plans to create a state bank in exchange for directorship positions at these banks and financial support from the owners of the banks.
Independent political analyst and senior lecturer at the University of Limpopo, Dr Metji Makgoba, said the ruling party was in bed with private banks and the ANC would not want to interfere with how these banks dominated the financial sector.
“The creation of a state bank is against the neo-liberal capitalist ethos of the ruling party that favours corporate domination over state intervention. The existence of a state bank will disrupt the relationship between the ruling party and the ruling elite in ways that would threaten the hegemony of the ANC, especially in the lead-up to the upcoming elections.
“The ANC has been comfortable to have a symbiotic relationship with South African banks that undermine the role of the state in protecting citizens and the marginalised. This means black people will continue to be harassed and abused by these private banks that have been looting the poor with reckless abandon. These banks and their structure of fees and billings are the primers of poverty and inequality because they insist on making profits even when there are no production costs,” Makgoba said.
Makgoba felt there was an urgent need for a state bank, but the government was unable to create it, given its alignment with global powers that have been trying to reproduce themselves across the globe.
Political analyst Professor Tumi Senokoane from the University of South Africa agreed: “The ANC has no political will to have a state bank for fear of upsetting the ruling elite or the white global system. It appears that if there is no opportunity to loot then they disregard anything progressive.”
Independent economist Bonke Dumisa said: “The promise for a state bank by the ruling party was an attempt to calm down some unnecessary agitation within the party when it said it was going to convert the nearly bankrupt Post Office Bank to a state bank.”
ATM leader Vuyolwethu Zungula accused senior leaders of not ensuring that banks did not abuse their dominance because they owned shares in those banks.
“It’s well known that some of them own shares in the commercial banks and they wouldn’t want to create competition for themselves in the form of a state bank. Commercial banks are hungry capitalists which impoverish the poor and marginalise communities. Without a state bank, black people are poorer and more vulnerable,” Zungula said.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa argued that the party had no economic policy.
“They lost appetite immediately they were given crumbs by their erstwhile oppressors in the form of BEE where they have been used as a token to access State tenders. They fell into that trap. Look at the Reserve Bank, which is controlled by the Treasury but messing up our economy under its nose,” he said
Last month, EFF leader Julius Malema weighed in on Standard Bank’s decision to shut down accounts belonging to Sekunjalo-related companies, including Independent Media, and called for a mass mobilisation against the country’s banks.
“Now they are fighting with Independent because they have a problem with Iqbal Survé (Sekunjalo chairman). Iqbal is not part of the Stellenbosch mafia, and, by extension, they are going to victimise ordinary workers by closing Independent’s bank accounts.
“That’s why the need for a commercial state bank is more urgent than ever before. It's extremely urgent; we are being harassed by the banks and we are being harassed by Afrikaner males who are owning these banks,” Malema said.
The bank served Independent Media with notice that its accounts would be shut following a judgment by the Competition Appeal Court (CAC) in its favour, which would have been immediate. However, because Sekunjalo launched legal proceedings at the Constitution Court, Standard Bank deferred its actions until September 15, the date of the original Competition Tribunal matter. The Competition Commission is expected to have finished its investigations into the claims of collusion the group brought against the banks by this date.
Commenting on the ANC’s failure to implement its conference resolutions, political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said the failure to implement conference resolutions was deliberate and it was the ANC president of the party who set the agenda.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is a former non-executive director for Standard Bank Group. His government has been blamed for cosying up with the banks to support business interests. Asked for comment, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Mgwenya did not respond to questions sent to him on Thursday.