Mkhwe­bane’s woes deepen as she fields blows on two fronts

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - SIYABONGA MKHWANAZI AND LUY­OLO MKEN­TANE

THE SA Re­serve Bank (Sarb) yes­ter­day moved to deepen Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane’s woes, hit­ting her on two fronts.

Gov­er­nor Le­setja Kganyago told Par­lia­ment that Sarb knew as early as December that Mkhwe­bane would han­dle the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into bil­lions of rand Absa re­ceived from the apartheid-era gov­ern­ment as a bailout “badly”.

This was while a se­nior coun­sel rep­re­sent­ing the bank at the high court in Pre­to­ria had a field day, punch­ing holes into Mkhwe­bane’s rec­om­men­da­tions into the mat­ter, say­ing she jumped the gun.

In Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, Kganyago told the stand­ing com­mit­tee on fi­nance that the Sarb re­mained an in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion.

He said the ap­pli­ca­tion by Speaker Baleka Mbete to de­fend the in­de­pen­dence of the cen­tral bank had em­bold­ened them and was very im­por­tant to its man­date.

The Sarb’s man­date was to pro­tect the value of the cur­rency and en­sure fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, Kganyago said.

He told MPs that they had started pre­par­ing the pa­pers for the high court months be­fore Mkhwe­bane re­leased her re­port in June that the man­date of the bank be changed.

This was after they got wind of this in the me­dia.

“We sus­pected in December when the first draft re­port was leaked that this mat­ter will be han­dled badly.

“We felt we were un­der at­tack, that we had to de­fend this in­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

Kganyago said in­vestors and cen­tral bank gov­er­nors across the world con­tin­ued to be jit­tery about South Africa’s pol­icy un­cer­tainty.

In the high court, Mkhwe­bane’s rec­om­men­da­tions came un­der fire from the Re­serve Bank se­nior coun­sel ad­vo­cate David Un­ter­hal­ter, who said she had over­stepped her mark in the re­port.

Mkhwe­bane, in her June 19 re­port on Bankorp’s apartheid bailout amount­ing to bil­lions of rand, had rec­om­mended that the man­date of the Re­serve Bank to tar­get in­fla­tion at 3%-6% must be changed and rather fo­cus it on “so­cio-eco­nomic well-being of cit­i­zens”.

Un­ter­hal­ter ar­gued that the rec­om­men­da­tion had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the econ­omy as the rand im­me­di­ately took a knock amid fears that the Na­tional Trea­sury’s de­ci­sions could be­come more po­lit­i­cally in­clined.

There were also threats that the coun­try’s econ­omy could be fur­ther down­graded.

While Un­ter­hal­ter ac­knowl­edged that Mkhwe­bane’s pow­ers were “im­por­tant”, he also noted that they were al­ways sub­ject to the con­sti­tu­tion.

The pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s re­me­dial ac­tions are legally bind­ing, but she has said she would not op­pose Sarb’s ap­pli­ca­tion, which Un­ter­hal­ter said was ur­gent.

Judge John Murphy re­served judg­ment.

He would hand it down on or be­fore Au­gust 18.

Sarb deputy gov­er­nor Kuben Naidoo said they were con­tin­u­ing to fight il­licit fi­nan­cial flows.

He said their blood boiled each time they heard about these sto­ries.

The Gup­tas have been ac­cused of il­le­gally ship­ping funds out of the coun­try.

MPs said the bil­lions being re­ported to be shifted to Dubai must be probed.

EFF’s Floyd Shivambu said Sarb must work with the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, SAPS and the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre on the mat­ter.

When con­tacted for com­ment last night, Mkhwe­bane’s spokesper­son, Cleopa­tra Mosana, said they would await the out­come of the judg­ment.

‘JUMPED THE GUN’: Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane

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