We would be hesitant to accuse President Jacob Zuma of losing the plot completely, but even the most casual observers must surely have noticed an inconsistency in some of his observations.
His contention, made in parliament, that this country’s big four banks had almost simultaneously cut financial ties with the Gupta family’s company Oakbay Investments smacked of possible collusion has, at best, dubious merit.
These banks, as all financial institutions, are tasked under the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica) which was established to “identify and prevent the proceeds from unlawful activities passing through South African systems”.
It further stresses that: “The purpose of the Act is to monitor and mitigate activities related to money laundering, terrorist funding and tax evasion. Accountable institutions have a regulatory duty to have sufficient and proper systems in place to ensure Fica verification is completed. Such institutions must have internal rules, controls and processes in place to ensure that verification is properly documented.”
It might well be true that bankers are not the personal favourites of many South Africans caught in the debt trap, but the rules which regulate the institutions are clear for any citizen to access.
So, to suggest, as the president did, that the action taken by the banks is a sinister attack on a single family, must surely verge on the risible and give cause to the thought that if Zuma had more cordial communication with his minister of finance, this could have surely been clarified through the simple expedient of a phone call.
Similarly, Zuma’s finding it “funny” that close focus of ratings agencies should be concentrated on political volatility – and this barely a week before the influential Standard & Poor’s reach a decision on whether to downgrade this country to junk status – is, many would find, an observation of appalling naivety.