#StateCaptureInquiry: ‘Banks did not collude in cutting Gupta ties’ — FNB official

FNB officials did not collude with other banks when they closed down the Gupta bank accounts, the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.

This is according to the testimony of FNB’s former chief executive Johan Burger, who was asked about allegations that the big banks were acting in concert, in an effort to forward the interests of white monopoly capital. Standard Bank’s Ian Sinton had earlier testified that these allegations had been put forward at two separate meetings with the ANC and government in the wake of the bank’s closure of Gupta-related accounts.

Burger’s testimony forms part of a series of statements heard by the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — from South African banks which in 2016 began closing the accounts of Gupta-owned companies.

In 2016, Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank unexpectedly cut ties with Gupta-owned businesses and shut down their bank accounts. The closures 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.

The former president called the banks’ actions suspicious, saying their action could point to collusion.

Burger, led by advocate Refiloe Molefe, categorically denied any collusion between the banks in taking the decision to close the accounts.

His testimony dealt with attempts by the ANC and government to intervene in the closure of the accounts. He recounted how the bank refused to attend a meeting at Luthuli House and a subsequent meeting with members of Zuma’s Cabinet because the bank was not given any further information regarding the agendas of these meetings.

On Monday Sinton said Standard Bank was invited to and attended two similar meetings.

At a 2016 Luthuli House meeting with then ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte and the head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee, Enoch Godongwana, the bank’s officials — including Standard Bank chief executive Sim Tshabalala — were asked if it was part of a campaign by white monopoly capital to drive away black business.

Sinton said that the bank was subject to similar questions during a meeting with an inter-ministerial committee, which included Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and then mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Unlike Standard Bank, Burger said that FNB declined to meet attend meetings with the ANC and the inter-ministerial committee. He told the commission that, in the 32 years that he has been a banker, he has never received and requests from government to discuss a bank’s relationship with a client.

Burger said that the bank was willing to engage with government regarding the regulatory framework of the closures but would not discuss the specifics of any client-bank relationship.

He said he had requested that then finance minister Pravin Gordhan attend the inter-ministerial committee meeting, because he would have the best grasp of this regulatory framework. Gordhan was a member of the committee.

“From our perspective, it was just, for us it was very important that because he was part of the IMC [inter-ministerial committee] that he was present when we met with the IMC,” said Burger.

After the failure to meet this request, the meeting was called off.

Gordhan was asked by Oakbay 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. FNB and other banks supported Gordhan’s application.

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

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.

Related stories

For whom the Bell tolls

The cautionary tale of Bell Pottinger reminds us of the role of journalism in a democracy and why we owe it to ourselves to be more responsible about the media we consume

Coronavirus and the economy: We didn’t prepare for tough times

South Africa was well-placed for the 2008 crisis. But R3.18-trillion debt and low growth hamper its ability to limit the economic effects of Covid-19

Anarchy rules at home affairs

It is unwise to entrust our fingerprints, biographical details and legislative authority to a syndicate of delinquent government officials

Jockeys without horses: Let’s all learn to be constructive

Although Benjamin Fogel denies the relevance of the South African Communist Party — and gets a few facts wrong — some of his points are correct

Let’s go back to the NDP

To improve the South African economy, we need to institute practical measures to effect change

Zondo asks court for more time

The deputy chief justice says the inquiry’s terms of reference are too broad and it would take six years to look into state capture in such detail

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday