The action taken by the Competition Commission against rogue traders in three of our banks after investigators found evidence of collusion to manipulate currency prices for their own gain is very welcome.
Last week, the commission lodged a case with the Competition Tribunal implicating 17 banks in illegally fixing the rand-dollar exchange rate.
The Competition Commission seems to be consistent in eradicating this form of corruption.
I must say, I like it!
Yesterday it was reported that one of the banks, Citibank, would pay an administrative penalty of R69.5-million for being part of the international forex trading cartel, as it was cooperating in the investigation.
Reports also indicate that Absa may not be targeted for fines because it cooperated with regulators.
This step must be commended. Private business is part of the fabric of South African society.
As such, those in the banking sector are not only legally obligated to act as responsible citizens, but are morally obligated to contribute to the wellbeing of our country.
Incidentally such a contribution will ensure an even more favourable operating atmosphere for these individuals and business in general.
We are also aware that simultaneously a political battle is going on for the soul of South Africa. In this battle nothing is spared and every possible event used as a weapon to drive through the blunt wishes of those who currently wield disposable political power.
There was little likelihood that the banking saga incident would not be used by the howling supporters of the Guptas to batter the banks.
Or that the battle to dislodge Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan from the Treasury would not be heightened and that the rent-seekers in President Jacob Zuma’s cabal would not waste any time in pointing to this incident as proof that the Guptas were mistreated by South Africa’s banks.
But as fate would have it, further information about the Guptas also came to light with a report that the Oppenheimer’s aviation company Fireblade has cut ties with the Gupta family after they tried to smuggle a “green suitcase containing “suspicious items” (thought to be diamonds) out of the Oppenheimer’s VIP terminal at OR Tambo airport.
This is amidst another battle that is under way – one in which the Guptas seem to be after gaining control of this terminal.
Maybe, the Guptas have a lot of “stuff” to “take out” of this country.
By the way, didn’t these people say they were leaving South Africa some time back?
While this has been going on the Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas – the whistleblower in the state capture saga, has continued to impress.
His clear grasp of our challenges, particularly the economic issues, was evident in his article “Brokering a New Deal for SA” in City Press this weekend.
As expected, these challenges are intertwined with almost every other challenge we face in the country.
Jonas makes a case for the true transformation of the economy, not merely redistribution.
Our economy is clearly not growing enough. It is woefully inadequate to cater to the needs of all of us.
We need to develop a mentality of producing instead of consuming; of creating new wealth instead of rent seeking; of creating a new economic structure instead of mimicking the old apartheid economic structure.
Jonas stipulates three national obsessions that we must have in order to establish a “new economic consensus”. These are: inclusive growth based on enabling technologies; a strong capable state free of corruption; and quality education and training which will enable the first two points.
The importance of education is not completely new. Our government allocates a huge chunk of our budget towards education and training for this very reason.
However, that attempt is hobbled by horribly poor political appointments, which in turn results in poor capacity and corruption in government, together with an outdated attitude towards technology. All of this points to problematic leadership.
Against this backdrop we must commend the call by Mathews Phosa for people to speak out. His moment of clarity seems to have come after the heartless refusal by Baleka Mbete, the speaker of parliament, to grant a moment of silence to the Life Esidimeni victims.
“Good men cannot be silent in the face of evil. Silence is connivance. Therefore I speak,” Phosa wrote in the Sunday Independent this weekend. “Now we have a president, who, when we plead with him to go, stays. My plea remains: Please for once, serve your people, and go.”
That is our plea as well!