Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma has weighed in on the Competition Commission’s decision to prosecute 17 banks for foreign exchange collusion when he replied to the debate in the National Assembly on Thursday.
“As stated in the State of the Nation Address (SONA), government is prepared to act against market abuse, price fixing and collusion in the private sector in order to protect this country’s economy,” Zuma said.
Zuma said the Competition Commission is able to impose fines on companies guilty of collusion. “But the impact is far-reaching as it distorts our economic system,” he added.
The president had harsh words for opposition members of Parliament who spoke against his plans for radical economic transformation.
Turning to the opposition, he said the ANC-led government won’t be apologetic about its undertaking to set South Africa on a path of radical economic transformation.
“Some of you say this won’t succeed because it hasn’t succeed in other countries. They want to protect the status quo and want the economy to remain skewed in favour of a racial minority,” Zuma said.
He repeated the statistics mentioned in the SONA, about the disparity between the incomes of white-headed and black-headed households and the lack of African ownership at JSE-listed companies.
“These ownership statistics should worry any leader who wants to see a sustainable future for his country,” Zuma said.
“The fact that there’s no proliferation of successful black-owned mining companies 23 years into freedom as stated by Honourable (Zet) Luzipho should unite all of us into finding solutions.”
Zuma said the call for radical economic transformation should not only be radical, but also revolutionary.
He also repeated that the state would use “strategic levers” that are available, such as “regulation, legislation, licensing, the budget and BEE charters” to bring about transformation.
“This is a practical, implementable plan,” Zuma said, “that will afford economic opportunities for black people who feel left out in their own country.”
Zuma equated government’s radical economic transformation endeavours to the “second operation Vula”.
Operation Vula was the ANC’s secret pre-1990 programme to establish leadership and financial networks inside South Africa needed to launch a violent revolution. It was an underground operation allegedly also kept secret from then president Thabo Mbeki.
Zuma is said to have been part of the Vula network in his capacity as ANC intelligence chief at the time.
Brief update on nuclear energy
Although Zuma kept mum on the procurement of nuclear energy in his SONA, he did give a brief update on the matter in his reply.
“As you know, Eskom and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) are procurers and operators of the nuclear build programme,” Zuma said.
“But before any nuclear new build procurement can take place the request for proposals has to be issued. Once received and evaluated, the Department of Energy is required to report back regarding the proposed funding model.
“Any procurement process must be on a scale and at a pace that our country can afford,” Zuma said. “From this basis we would then proceed.”
Commitment to state bank
Zuma said he looks forward to working with the financial sector towards the diversification and transformation of the industry so that new players can enter the market.
He also congratulated Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele on the progress he has made with turning the Post Bank into a fully-fledged bank.
“We remain committed to the establishment of a state bank,” Zuma said.