Amid a very public spat in the ANC about expanding and changing the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank, former president Jacob Zuma has tweeted a screenshot of the resolutions at the party’s 2017 elective conference at Nasrec – which included in effect nationalising the central bank.
Although he was not explicitly supporting any particular faction in doing so, the implication of the tweet has nevertheless been interpreted by many as factional in nature in any case due to disagreements about the bank currently being expressed publicly in the ANC.
The 2017 conference was marked by a tussle between the so-called Radical Economic Transformation grouping led by Zuma and other senior leaders such as Ace Magashule, and the more moderate, market-driven group exemplified by Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa was elected ANC president that year, with Magashule becoming secretary-general. Since then, the divisions have continued to play out as both men and their backers tussle for power and control of the party and, ultimately, the state.
Although he won the presidency, Ramaphosa’s faction did not win all the policy debates at the conference, particularly those that centred on issues of nationalisation of assets such as the Reserve Bank and changing the constitution to allow for more easy land expropriation without compensation (which has been a millstone around Ramaphosa’s neck ever since).
Now, after a week of very public infighting among ANC members following statements made by Magashule in his post-lekgotla briefing on Tuesday about the party’s plans for the central bank – and after Ramaphosa on Thursday also commented publicly on the matter in his capacity as ANC president – Zuma has left little doubt about where he stands on it too.
Ramaphosa said late Thursday: “The officials viewed the recent public spats about the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank as not being helpful, and mitigating and undermining the confidence of citizens and of investors.
He added in his statement, supposedly on behalf of the ANC’s top six leaders, that “it is our desire for the South African Reserve Bank to be publicly owned. However, we recognise that this will come at a cost, which given our current economic and fiscal position, is simply not prudent.”
This was in clear response to Magashule’s assertion to journalists that the ruling party still wanted the mandate of the bank to be expanded to focus on development and job creation, and even “quantitative easing”, which the central bank has clarified wouldn’t work in South Africa’s inflationary economy.
Magashule’s comments had led former Reserve Bank governor turned Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to express “exasperation”, saying: “Government sets the mandate for the SARB. There is no quantitative easing thing here. The primary mandate of the SA Reserve Bank is to ‘protect the value of the currency in the interest of balanced economic growth and development,’” tweeted Mboweni before heading over to Facebook to expand on his position.
Mboweni’s sentiments were echoed by the ANC’s economic transformation head, Enoch Godongwana, who said a national executive committee lekgotla was not a decision-making body.
Speaking to radio host Stephen Grootes on SAFM on Wednesday, Godongwana explained Magashule’s statement had not been inaccurate.
“We’ve been debating this issue about the mandate of the Reserve Bank for a while. From the National General Council in 2015 to Nasrec in 2017, and we closed that debate. So no other structure can take such a decision and overrule the decision of conference,” said Godongwana.
He also remarked that there was an obsession with the bank within the ANC because this was not the first time a discussion on the body caused so much discord.
In a follow-up interview with the station’s Krivani Pillay, ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe explained that the lekgotla was merely a platform of conversations held by the ANC with its various stakeholders and that Tuesday’s media briefing was used to communicate the outcome of those conversations.
According to Mabe, the resolutions that were outlined should not be confused with policy objectives.
“There is nothing untoward said by the lekgotla which will change the way the SARB operates as things stand now,” said Mabe.
Following Ramaphosa’s statement, Magashule allegedly briefly contradicted him publicly on Twitter in a tweet that has since been deleted. Magashule has said screenshots that were supposedly quickly taken of his tweet are “fake”, which not everyone has accepted.
A fake tweet! You mean this tweet that was deleted? pic.twitter.com/U1mIVmaKie
— Pieter Du Toit (@PieterDuToit) June 6, 2019
Now Zuma has also entered the fray, dismissing criticism that anyone should say the ANC had “policy uncertainty” when it came to the bank, and clearly throwing his weight behind Magashule’s interpretation of the ANC’s position.
Is there policy uncertainty? Here is a reminder of one of the resolutions at the last ANC elective conference in Nasrec pic.twitter.com/X26bb5vI1e
— Jacob G Zuma (@PresJGZuma) June 6, 2019
(Background reporting, Kaunda Selisho)