Deputy President David Mabuza has reaffirmed the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) intention to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank and place “public interest and development” at the centre of central bank’s existence.

The ANC resolved at its 2017 national elective conference – where President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as the party’s leader – that it would work to nationalise the Reserve Bank and do away with its private shareholder structure.

The status and mandate of the bank has proven to be one of the trickiest economic policy matters for the governing party, with President Ramaphosa fielding questions about the bank’s independence at the World Economic Forum 2019 in Davos. 

The ANC moved to initiate a motion in Parliament to debate a change in ownership of the Reserve Bank early last year, but did an unexplained about turn.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, meanwhile, introduced the South African Reserve Bank Amendment Bill, which seeks to give the office of the minister of finance more power to influence the Reserve Bank.

Will it be nationalised? 

Democratic Alliance MP and finance spokesperson David Maynier had asked Mabuza in May whether government intended to amend the objectives of the Reserve Bank and nationalise it. 

In a Parliamentary reply published this week, Mabuza noted the ANC resolved at its 54th National Conference that the Reserve Bank be nationalised, adding that nationalisation of central banks was “found in many international jurisdictions”.

“Needless to say, the implementation of this resolution will have implications on the ownership of the bank as well as its focus to be an instrument of development. The Reserve Bank, like other central banks, must place public interest and development at the centre of its existence,” said Mabuza.

He did not say how or when this would be done.

Mabuza said that the questions around the nationalisation and the independence of the bank were separate.

“The Member confuses being under private control with independence. Not unless the implications is that central banks like those of United States or Japan are not independent

President Ramaphosa gave a substantially similar answer in Davos this week in an attempt to calm investor jitters. 

“The governing party has taken a resolution that the central bank should come under public ownership – that is a separate matter, it is being processed,” Ramaphosa told journalists at a media briefing, adding that the reserve bank’s independence would be respected. 


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