Reserve Bank accused of black balling black players in the banking industry

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Ayanda Mdluli

JOHANNESBURG- Some members of the Economic Freedom Fighters remain convinced that the governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Lesetja Kganyago, along with the registrar of the institution are hell-bent on blocking wholly owned black-owned banks from being established players in the market.

The financial services sector, especially mainstream banking is largely closed off to black players who want to establish fully licenced banking institutions that will put them on par with the big boys such as FNB, Capitec, Standard Bank and Nedbank.

Kuben Naidoo the Deputy Governor and the Registrar of SARB was asked to meet parliament on Tuesday this week to account on VBS Mutual Bank and also touch on issues relating to transformation in the financial services sector.

Naidoo told parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance that the SARB had been engaging with VBS Mutual Bank for 18 months before it was placed under curatorship on the 11thof March.

He explained that VBS Mutual Bank had experienced a series of different liquidity events. The most recent one was on the 16th of February where the bank did not have any money in the overnight settlement system to make a payment.

This issue is what culminated in VBS Mutual Bank being put under curatorship by the finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene leading to a widespread backlash from lobby groups, civil society, and various political formations.

During this whole debacle, what is currently being ignored is that VBS Mutual Bank is not the only black bank that Kuben and Kganyago had caused its demise.

A bank called Ubank which was formerly known as TEBA was started by South African mineworkers in an effort to establish a financial institution that speaks to the needs of the people. However, the dream of seeing a bank that would be sympathetic to the plight of black over-indebtedness was dealt a killer blow when it was forced to shut down and sell its assets to a company called African Unity, which is based in the Western Cape.

According to sources who spoke to Africa News24-7 on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals revealed that African Unity is about to acquire 40% of Ubank.

According to data seen by Africa News 24-7, PSG, the Western Cape financial services group owns about 49% of African Unity. Furthermore, PSG is owned by Jannie Mouton, who is also the founding shareholder of major retail bank Capitec. PSG has a direct shareholding in Capitec.

African Unity did not respond to questions by the time of publication.

In a leaked communication within the Economic Freedom Fighters, it is alleged that Kganyago and Naidoo have already approved the transaction despite repeated presentations from various lobby groups and political parties, pleading with the two to ensure that a black-owned bank does not wind up under white ownership.

In other correspondence seen by Africa News 24-7, some lobbyists raised questions on why Mouton would want to acquire 40% of a black-owned mineworkers bank.

“The answer is simple White Monopoly Capital is not prepared to allow the black child to participate in the real commanding heights of our economy,” it read.

In the following chronological order, the SARB under the leadership of Kganyago has granted a license to former CEO of FNB Michael Jordan. It has also granted a license to Discovery Bank owned by the CEO of Discovery Adrian Gore. Furthermore, it has also granted license to TymeDigital an international bank which is only 10% black-owned.

On top of all the granting of licences to white and foreign-owned institutions, the SARB has effectively shut down VBS Mutual Bank, which is black-owned while allowing the fall of Ubank from black hands.

A source close to the developments said these are very serious shenanigans.

“The Ubank matter is treated very quietly and below the radar so that it does not attract the ire of EFF and the public at large. The irony is that there is a black consortium which has raised enough funding to buy 40% of Ubank but instead of approving the black consortium they go for a Jannie Mouton owned consortium which is a travesty for transformation in the sector,” said the source.

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