The South African Council of Churches (SACC), through its Unburdening Panel, has called on all people who may be aware of questionable and inappropriate business dealings in the transition to democracy to please come forward.
The SACC welcomes that the finding of the longstanding investigation by the Public Protector, that the Bankorp bailout inherited by ABSA Bank has reached a conclusion point.
There will no doubt be further developments and contestations on this conclusion, given the long history and the various interpretations that have accompanied this story over time, including ABSA’s argument related to the 1992 purchase options. What seems clear though is that there has been some benefit enjoyed by ABSA in all of this. As the SACC, we believe it is better for the stability of our country that agreements are reached expeditiously, for due restitution to be made. In this regard, we believe that ABSA should do the right thing and honour the Public Protector’s remedial action without delay. That is good for the country; and that is good for the common good!
Much has been said about the depth of what has yet to surface of apartheid era mutualities, between business and government ministers. Whatever the logical justification of this bailout at the time, the fact that the Minister of Finance who approved it at the time – Minister Barend Du Plessis, did not declare his conflict of interest in relation to his brother’s position in Bankorp, places the bailout in the unethical realm. This is highly immoral and deserves strong condemnation. Imagine if that were a present day Finance Minister!
It is regrettable that the TRC Terms of reference did not include economic wrongdoings – a platform for economic transformation for a reconciled economic dispensation.
In conclusion, as the SACC we do not believe it is the province of the Public Protector to change laws, not least the highest law in the land, the South African Constitution. We understand the scope of the Office of the Public Protector to be to protect the public from the misapplication of existing laws in the interests of the citizens.
The SACC respects the constitutionally entrenched independence of the South African Reserve Bank, and while Parliament is the body to change the Constitution, we would advise caution in any consideration for change. This must however, not stop the process of corrective action for the wrongs of the past. Where restorative justice is called for, it must be made for all to see and without equivocation, that is the foundation of the South Africa We Pray For!