By Pinky Khoabane
AFTER two days of a massive expose of corruption and looting by the banks, we have still not heard from South Africa’s protectors of the Constitution, our country and even Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. By the time this was posted, Treasury’s Twitter account had not said a word but then again there is that little matter of Gordhan’s daughter, Anisha, who is currently employed at Investec as a senior executive. Investec is among the 17 banks in hot water for collusion – an otherwise sanitises description for corporate corruption.
The response from South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has been rather inept. It is under its watch and indeed mandate to ensure financial stability and it should have seen this fraud coming, more so that it says it had been reviewing foreign exchange operations of “authorized foreign exchange dealers in the domestic market”. The review, the SARB says, was to establish misconduct or malpractice and according to them, “the review found no evidence of serious and widespread misconduct in the South African foreign exchange market, but saw scope in the improvement in overall market conduct…”. https://www.resbank.co.za/Lists/News%20and%20Publications/Attachments/7681/SARB%20statement%20on%20Competition%20Commission%20announcement.pdf
To borrow from one Sipho Pityana who has in the recent past been championing a campaign to #SAVESA and whose silence has also been deafening – “If it were not so tragic, it would be hilarious”.
The SARB statement is indeed a mockery and so is the review it conducted given that the Competition Commission this week referred seventeen banks to the tribunal for collusion, price fixing and manipulating currencies – the sanitised description for corporate corruption. They are: Bank of America Merrill Lynch International Limited, BNP Paribas, JP Morgan Chase & Co, JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A, Investec Ltd, Stand New York Securities Inc, HSBC Bank Plc, Standard Bank Chartered Bannk, Credit Suisse Group, Standard Bank of SA, Commercerbank AG, Austalia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, Nomura International Plc, Macquarie Bank Limited, Absa Bank Ltd, Barclays Capital Inc, Barclays Bank plc.
Absa, Citigroup and Barclays are said to have co-operated with the Competition Commission and will not be fined but Standard Bank and Investec face a “cumulative R69.7 billion in fines representing 10% of their turnover for each of the years they have breached the Competition Act,” according to Business Day.
The review of the SARB in light of this massive corruption which the Competition Commission says dates back to 2007, brings into question again, the independence of this monitory authority. It says it will wait for the legal process to run its course – we all know this is the lamest way out of a situation instead of taking action. Evidence of fraud and misconduct exists otherwise the Competition Commission wouldn’t have taken the drastic step to refer these banks – of all institutions – to the tribunal. The SARB should be taking serious steps against these institutions. In a debate organized by BlackLandFirst (BLF) on the merits of why ABSA must pay back the money in the case of the lifeboat scandal, Stephen Goodson, a former director of the SARB, said the institution was nothing more than an appendage of the banking system. The events unfolding in the aftermath of the banking corruption scandal would pay credence to his assertion.
But why are the saviours so quiet and always so in the face of massive corruption conducted by the banks and corporations?
In Pityana’s latest missive at government, in what he termed the real State of the Nation Address (SONA), he used the very sad and unfortunate case of the 94 mental health patients who died at the “extreme negligence by our government” as his opening remarks.
“Indeed words fail me,” he repeatedly said in reference to the state of our nation. He took a jibe at President Jacob Zuma saying he would have much to say at SONA, which was to take place a week after his presentation, while omitting many of the mistakes he (Zuma) had made.
He alluded to corruption and looting of state coffers as the crux of the malaise we face today. Pityana cannot be faulted for his views but the only problem is that like many of our messiahs, his outrage is selective. Pityana can hardly see the link between the company he represents – Anglo Ashanti – and the poverty, injustices and worker exploitation thrust upon the same people he claims to care about.
In the aftermath of the bank corruption words have indeed, again failed him – this time in the true sense. He has had nothing to say nor can we expect much from the other fighters for a corruption-free SA. Corruption for them, is sadly selective. If done by public servants it is corruption and worth highlighting while corporations are seemingly immune.