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Ramaphosa hits out at SA banks, calls for reform

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for decisive action to reform South Africa’s economy, which he claims is dominated by five major banks and a handful of companies.

In a call for sweeping economic reforms, President Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted the challenges facing South Africa’s economy, dominated by a few large banks and beset by a history of financial mismanagement and crises. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya, Independent Newspapers

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has called for decisive action to reform South Africa’s economy, which he claims is dominated by five major banks and a handful of companies.

Wearing a Madiba-style shirt yet appearing exhausted from his campaign trail in KwaZulu-Natal, Ramaphosa addressed business leaders at a dinner in Durban, urging them to collaborate with the government to rebuild an economy battered by rising costs and high unemployment.

During his speech at the event hosted by the Minara Chamber of Commerce at Al Baraka Bank, Ramaphosa said, “Yes, we face unique challenges. We have endured nine lost years of state capture that weakened our economy. In the last five years alone, we’ve suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic, destructive riots that erased R50 billion from our GDP, and devastating floods. Despite these setbacks, we recognise that the ANC must undergo renewal to become an organisation that is fit for purpose.”

Ramaphosa’s plea for economic and financial transformation aligns with his recent endorsement of the Postbank Amendment Bill, which establishes an independent state bank — a long-standing demand of the ANC and a potential catalyst for reducing the banking sector’s grip on the economy.

Criticising the five banks — FNB, Absa, Investec, Standard Bank, and Nedbank — for their monopolistic control, Ramaphosa highlighted how this dominance has particularly excluded black South Africans from pivotal roles in the financial sector.

Despite attempts to underscore the ANC’s achievements over the past 30 years, the mood at the event was subdued and far from celebratory.

Minara Chamber of Commerce president Solly Suleman invoked divine guidance for the president and the ANC to address past errors and improve the nation’s standing.

“Government alone cannot create jobs. Our public sector is bloated, and the ethos of ‘Batho Pele’ — ‘People First’ — is often forgotten by civil servants,” Suleman commented, citing an extreme case of a teacher who has been on sick leave for seven years, which shocked attendees.

Echoing a widespread sentiment, attendees described Ramaphosa’s speech as a reiteration of familiar rhetoric, lacking in convincing new initiatives.

However, on his campaign trail, Ramaphosa remained optimistic about the ANC’s prospects, stating, “We are poised to win this election. This is not mere optimism; it’s based on the palpable enthusiasm of our people during this campaign. Many will be surprised, and the predicted decline of the ANC will indeed come as a shock.”

Yet, business leaders were eager for specifics on how the ANC plans to tackle significant issues like construction sector corruption and mafia involvement.

Concerns about minority representation within the ANC were also raised, with one delegate noting, “Mr President, while we appreciate your advocacy for Palestinians at the international level, we are troubled by the scant representation of minorities in the ANC’s top ranks. The concept of the ‘rainbow nation’ now seems more mythical than real.”

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