The curatorship of VBS Bank is quickly taking on a racial life of its own with accusations of intolerance to black excellence flying thick and fast.
VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi in a letter to the South African Reserve Bank’s (Sarb) Kuben Naidoo, blamed the Sarb for applying different standards to the black-owned VBS compared to when it was white owned.
Matodzi noted the bank was being targeted because of its loan to Jacob Zuma, and that he had tried to manage the problems with National Treasury, but to no avail.
“In the end, we were faced with a well-organised and powerful system which does not tolerate growing black banks and black excellence,” Matadozi wrote.
The EFF also questioned the apparent racial overtones of the VBS curatorship.
“Why is the Reserve Bank quick in saving a white-owned bank, and quick in placing a black-owned bank under curatorship,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi queried in a statement yesterday, referring to the Capitec Bank/Viceroy saga.
Leon Louw, Free Market Foundation executive director, said it was concerning there appeared to be rising tensions.
“Certainly it’s an impression one gets through media commentary, listening to callers to radio stations, looking at tweets, there seems to be a rising racial tension,” said Leon Louw, Free Market Foundation executive director.
“The race card is played over such issues as Capitec, Steinhoff, Absa, and VBS. Things are often skewed with racial overtones whereas if one looks at the facts, they are quite different.”
Louw noted the Public Investment Corporation – responsible for managing the government employees’ pension fund – had also invested in VBS, the second time it had become involved in a dodgy scheme.
“I think not only should heads roll there, it should be sued,” Louw said.
He noted that as a mutual bank, it was the people who deposited money into the bank who owned it and the Reserve Bank had a duty to protect them.
The view from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) was somewhat different.
“South African society is resilient – and, as our research shows, moderate, tolerant and collaborative in sentiment,” said the IRR’s media head Michael Morris.
“The people as a whole are getting along fine, not least – as our research shows – because they share similar views about what’s important such as jobs and policies likely to produce them, better schools and better services,” Morris said.
“We do not believe racial tensions are rising, despite the damaging vitriol from the mouths of some politicians, or narrow-minded individuals on social media. Our polling data (based on a representative sample of 2 300 people) shows race relations are sound, contrary to popular perceptions. A poll carried out for the IRR in September 2016 found that some 72% of South Africans report no personal experience of racism in their daily lives. This percentage, though down from 80% in 2015, has gone up significantly from the 49% who reported this in 2001.”
Morris said government’s own surveys had found most rural people wanted to live in the cities, or have money rather than land, while those who wanted to farm were being failed by poor policy and woefully inadequate support.
“The government now seems intent on making this worse by denying farmers title to land (security of tenure that gives them collateral to develop their businesses), deepening the very dispossession it pretends to be addressing,” Morris said.
“If we are in trouble as a society, it is because the ruling party – and its hanger-on in the EFF – are out of touch and are doing all the things that will make it harder for ordinary people to succeed.