Former president, Thabo Mbeki has weighed in on the case between the South African government and the four big banks— Absa, denied that the government was responsible for failing to recover the billions allegedly lost through unlawful apartheid-era Reserve Bank bail-outs as was recorded in public protector’s leaked Absa report.
According to report from Mail and Guardian who first reported the leaked Public protector report, Thabo Mbeki chastised Thuli Madonsela for her ‘pre-conceived notions’ in her investigation, saying she conflated the government with an autonomous institution— the Reserve Bank.
He said the report finding, drawn from his interview with Madonsela, was either willfully incorrect or showed a lack of understanding of how the bail-out worked. He said in an interview on Tuesday:
“I made it very clear to her in my interview that there [is] no way the Bank can claim anything from Absa. Absa settled all its obligations in 1995 and to think that a successful claim against it can now be made is naive.”
It was reported that Absa may be required to pay back R2.25 billion as interest from a bailout given to Bankorp before the bank was acquired by Absa in 1992. Evidence presented by Stals suggested that the Reserve Bank agreed with Absa to repay both the capital amount and the interest, on which it later revoked, repaying only the capital amount.
Stals also noted that he would wait for public protector’s final Absa report and if it remained the same, he would pursue the matter in court.
Meanwhile, M&G stated that in Mbeki’s interview with Madonsela, he maintained that the government was never involved and that he, as the then head of state, could not be questioned about decisions taken by an autonomous institution like the Reserve Bank.
Mbeki reportedly said:
“I don’t remember government having anything to do with that. With regard to the Absa thing… the only person who could have been involved is the minister of finance. I think your best chance is to talk to the minister of finance and the governor of the Reserve Bank. Reserve Bank matters don’t come to Cabinet.”
Asked why the government did not on its own act on the case, Mbeki said the Reserve Bank and the Treasury had considered the matter and decided against destabilising the banking system.
From the analysis, it is obvious the Absa report was erroneous because according to analysis, Absa actually paid back the money. The bank paid back the capital amount in large deposits, showing up as unusually big payments in the financials. The interest was seemingly repaid, regularly and over time, as funds kept back in accounts held by commercial banks with the SARB.
Mbeki was also asked about how a British intelligence officer, Michael Oatley, was contracted to recover money he claimed had been illicitly given by the apartheid government to banks and individuals in the country and abroad. But, according to Mbeki, Oatley did not deliver and a decision was made to terminate the contract.