Re­serve Bank still a tar­get of party fac­tion, dec­la­ra­tion shows

Business Day - - NATIONAL - Natasha Mar­rian mar­ri­[email protected]­nesslive.co.za

The ANC has moved swiftly to in­di­cate that its elec­tion prom­ise on the SA Re­serve Bank is in­nocu­ous.

How­ever, it is clear the fac­tion aligned to for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma con­tin­ues to have its sights set on the cen­tral bank.

The left — the SA Com­mu­nist Party and the Con­gress of SA Trade Unions — has also been ag­i­tat­ing for a more flex­i­ble man­date for the Bank.

The ANC re­mains a broad church, but to ef­fect the kind of eco­nomic turn­around it out­lines in its man­i­festo, it can­not con­tinue to tug at op­pos­ing forces.

The pres­ence of the Bank prom­ise in the man­i­festo was a nod to the Zuma fac­tion and was prob­a­bly in­cluded to breathe life into the ANC’s “unity” mantra, which Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa and other lead­ers pushed in the lead-up to this week­end’s man­i­festo launch.

What is clear is that the ANC’s unity project spells pol­icy uncer­tainty on steroids.

The man­i­festo says: “The ANC be­lieves that the SA Re­serve Bank must pur­sue a flex­i­ble mon­e­tary pol­icy regime, aligned with the ob­jec­tives of the sec­ond phase of tran­si­tion. With­out sac­ri­fic­ing price sta­bil­ity, mon­e­tary pol­icy must take into ac­count other ob­jec­tives such as em­ploy­ment cre­ation and eco­nomic growth.”

In Septem­ber, after the Bank de­cided to keep the repo rate un­changed, an ANC com­mu­ni­ca­tor was chas­tised for re­leas­ing a state­ment in which she “im­plored” the mon­e­tary pol­icy com­mit­tee (MPC) mem­bers to “pri­ori­tise the plight of poor South Africans”.

The state­ment sug­gested the ANC was at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence the Bank’s de­ci­sion — a vi­o­la­tion of its in­de­pen­dence as en­shrined in the con­sti­tu­tion.

It also fol­lowed the party’s con­fer­ence res­o­lu­tion to na­tion­alise the Bank and was rem­i­nis­cent of the views of pub­lic pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane, who rec­om­mended the man­date of the Bank be tam­pered with — a find­ing that was set aside by the courts. The ANC quickly re­tracted the Septem­ber state­ment and vowed that it was com­mit­ted to the in­de­pen­dence of the cen­tral bank.

The de­bate on the na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of the Bank re­vealed that mem­bers ar­gu­ing in favour of it ap­peared not to have recog­nised that the own­er­ship of the Bank does not af­fect its man­date.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal leader Sihle Zikalala at the time told Busi­ness Day that the Bank’s man­date had to be re­viewed, with his prov­ince ad­vo­cat­ing its na­tion­al­i­sa­tion.

THE BANK WOULD BE NA­TION­ALISED EVEN IF SOME MEM­BERS OF THE PARTY’S NA­TIONAL EX­EC­U­TIVE COM­MIT­TEE DIS­AGREED

On Sun­day, ANC sec­re­tary­gen­eral Ace Ma­gashule, in an in­ter­view with eNCA, flut­tered be­tween the man­date of the Bank and its na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, say­ing the Bank would be na­tion­alised even if some mem­bers of the party’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee dis­agreed.

In the 10 years of the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion, when ANC res­o­lu­tions were im­ple­mented only if they were ben­e­fi­cial to the pres­i­dent, his friends the Gup­tas and his fam­ily, it is strange that his close ally, Ma­gashule, never spoke out against his fail­ure to im­ple­ment con­fer­ence de­ci­sions. It is now po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent and ben­e­fi­cial to his fac­tion, as he made it clear that he be­lieved this group­ing would re­gain con­trol of the party in five years’ time: “It is just a mat­ter of five years, com­rade. The [elec­tive] con­fer­ence hap­pens ev­ery five years, so let’s work hard.”

This, of course, is only once Ramaphosa helps the ANC to re­gain elec­toral sup­port, which has been on the de­cline since 2009.

Who can for­get how Zuma him­self in­ter­vened at the Man­gaung elec­tive con­fer­ence to en­sure the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan was adopted as ANC pol­icy, but for­got about it al­most im­me­di­ately after the res­o­lu­tion was taken?

In fact, the word­ing of the clause on the Bank in the lat­est man­i­festo comes di­rectly from a Man­gaung res­o­lu­tion, which was reaf­firmed at the Nas­rec con­fer­ence in 2017. The in­clu­sion then of a seem­ingly harm­less para­graph in its man­i­festo is not as in­nocu­ous as se­nior ANC lead­ers would like us to be­lieve.

As an­a­lysts have in­di­cated, it is strange for an in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion’s man­date to be aligned with the “sec­ond phase of the tran­si­tion ”— the strate­gic pos­ture of a po­lit­i­cal party.

It also in­di­cates that Ramaphosa’s hands will be par­tially tied in ef­fect­ing re­forms for SA.

The ANC, once again, is its own great­est op­po­si­tion.

/Robert Tsha­bal­ala

De­lib­er­ate clause: The treat­ment of the SA Re­serve Bank in the ANC’s elec­tion man­i­festo has an­a­lysts talk­ing.

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