Standard Bank was accused of belonging to WMC lobby at Luthuli House meeting

The ANC questioned Standard Bank’s decision to cut ties with the Guptas, asking its officials if it was part of a campaign by white monopoly capital to drive away black business, said retired Standard Bank official Ian Sinton, at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday.

Sinton’s testimony forms part of a series of statements to be heard by the commission this week regarding the closure of Gupta-related bank accounts. Though Sinton is retired, he has been retained by the bank as its general counsel to deal with certain issues, including the closure of the Gupta’s bank accounts.

In 2016, Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank unexpectedly cut ties with Gupta-owned businesses and shut down their bank accounts. The move to close the bank accounts came amid allegations that the Gupta family had improper influence over then president Jacob Zuma.

At the time the Guptas owned Oakbay Investments, the holding company for a range of interests including listed Oakbay Resources and Energy, as well as The New Age newspaper and broadcaster ANN7.

Sinton’s testimony dealt with three separate meetings the bank was invited to in the wake of its decision to close the accounts of Gupta-owned companies. Oakbay, the ANC and an inter-ministerial committee all asked to meet with officials from the bank.

The meeting with the ANC, which took place at Luthuli House on April 21, reportedly included ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte and the head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee, Enoch Godongwana.

Sinton told the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that the bank’s policy is to engage meaningfully with government and that declining to meet with the ruling party would be disrespectful. The bank’s chief executive Sim Tshabalala attended the meeting.

READ MORE: State capture inquiry: Zondo to hear why banks cut Gupta ties

During the meeting the bank’s officials made it clear that they were not in the position to discuss the affairs of any of their clients, but could discuss policy regarding the closure of accounts generally, Sinton said.

Sinton said that at the Luthuli House meeting, the ANC asked the Standard Bank officials to comment on the perception that they were acting on behalf of white monopoly capital to drive black business out of the country. They rejected the accusation, Sinton told the commission.

“It was first time I saw my boss Sim Tshabalala so angry,” Sinton said.


Sinton confirmed that despite these meetings, Standard Bank was not persuaded to reopen the Gupta accounts. At the time the banks cited the need to comply with international banking rules when dealing with customers and concern over their reputations. Members of Zuma’s Cabinet were asked to intervene, with the former president calling the banks’ actions suspicious and saying their action could point to collusion.Then finance minister Pravin Gordhan was asked to stop the banks terminating the accounts, spurring Gordhan to seek a court order stating that he cannot prevent banks from cutting clients. Sinton had filed an affidavit with the Pretoria High Court in the matter.

In the affidavit Sinton alleged that Standard Bank was asked to meet both the ANC as well as the Cabinet inter-ministerial committee, in an attempt to place it under political pressure to reverse its decision.

“It was clear from the inquiries directed by the minister and their adviser … that their main concern was the Oakbay accounts. They wanted to secure an outcome favourable to Oakbay, by using their political and executive power,” said Sinton’s affidavit.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
Advertising

Coalition politics and law: The fight over Tshwane

With coalition politics on the rise, particularly in local government, this kind of court case is likely to become more common

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread
Advertising

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday