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.

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.

Stranded commuters say Ramaphosa’s rail promises ring hollow

Cape Town’s largest passenger rail line has been closed for months, hitting people’s pockets and adding to road traffic congestion

EFF ‘circus’ becomes contagion as MPs heckle Malema

ANC MPs test the EFF’s disruptive tactics on the leader of the Red Berets in Sona reply

Ramaphosa ‘neutral’ in Mkhwebane, Parliament impeachment row

However, the president says even if he has a conflict of interest, another Cabinet member could suspend the public protector

Strike-off case pulls in judge

Judge Mushtak Parker is implicated in an application to strike off his former partners. He is also involved in the fight between the Western Cape high court’s judge president and his deputy

Press Releases

Response to the report of the independent assessors

VUT welcomes the publishing of the report of the independent assessors to investigate concerns of poor governance, leadership, management, corruption and fraud at the university.

NWU student receives international award

Carol-Mari Schulz received the Bachelor of Health Sciences in Occupational Hygiene Top Achiever Award.

Academic programme resumes at all campuses

Lectures, practicals, seminars and tutorials will all resume today as per specific academic timetables.

Strategic social investments are a catalyst for social progress

Barloworld Mbewu enables beneficiaries to move away from dependence on grant funding

We all have a part to play to make South Africa work

Powering societal progress demands partnerships between all stakeholders

So you want to be a social entrepreneur?

Do the research first; it will save money and time later

Social entrepreneurship means business

Enterprises with a cause at their core might be exactly what our economy desperately needs

Looking inwards

Businesses are finding tangible ways to give back – but only because consumers demand it