ANC push for S.Africa to own central bank: papers

Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:16am GMT

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Top officials in South Africa's ruling ANC are pushing for the state to take over ownership of the country's central bank, one of the few in the world to still be owned by private shareholders, newspapers reported on Sunday.

The Sunday Times and Sunday Independent said ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe had presented a document to the party's top decision-making committee questioning why the bank was still owned by the private sector.

He had argued that the party should not shy away from looking at the state's role in the banking industry as a whole.

"Why have we been reluctant to even open the discussion on the role of the state in the banking industry," the newspapers reported him as saying in the document that was supported by some executive committee members.

"Including discussing the fact that the South African Reserve Bank is one of less than five central banks in private hands in the world."

The Reserve Bank is owned by shareholders, who are entitled to appoint half of the board of directors. Shareholdings are limited and liquidity tight.

But shareholders have no say in the day-to-day operations, or policies, of the bank. The governor and deputies are appointed by the president and are responsible for running the bank.

Accountable to parliament, it independence is protected by the country's constitution.

Changing the ownership structure of the central bank would not have a major impact on its operations but a move to more state control may raise fears of political interference in policy decisions.   Continued...

<p>ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe speaks during a media briefing at the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg April 6, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko</p>
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