Most of those pushing for the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank have, at one time or another, been associated with allegations of connections to state capture, or to claims they or their organisations have benefitted from corruption.
The issue of nationalising the central bank only emerged during the latter days of the Jacob Zuma era and then as part of a broader narrative about white monopoly capital. Ironically, that entire discourse – including the focus on the unresolved issue of land restitution – was constructed by a foreign, white-owned group of spin doctors, Bell Pottinger, who were being paid by the Gupta family.
Yet, even now that state capture investigations are well under way and the country has a shopping list of urgent matters to deal with, the Reserve Bank proposed takeover has loomed large again in the debates of the ANC, our ruling party.
It appears to many experts that the issue is, once again, characterised by factionalism within the party. Those loyal to former president Jacob Zuma are in favour, those loyal to President Cyril Ramaphosa appear to be against the move.
The worrying question is: why would the ANC want to take over the institution tasked with setting broader economic policy, and one whose independence is guaranteed by the constitution? What would be the motive? Would the centralised control of everything facilitate the organisation’s often-touted socialist solution, the National Democratic Revolution? Would it be to facilitate even more looting?
Threatening the independence of the Reserve Bank sends strong messages to the outside world (whose investments we are courting). Firstly that constitutional safeguards could be threatened, with all the instability that implies. Following on from that is the indication that we are heading down the road to becoming a banana republic.
That’s not the image we want to share with the world.