Nene 'pulled plug' on ANC's Reserve Bank vote
Downgrade fears over motion to nationalise Reserve Bank
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene is said to have pulled the plug this week on an ANC motion to debate the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank, in an attempt to avoid another credit rating downgrade.
ANC insiders said Nene told the party's political strategy committee on Tuesday morning that the debate must not go ahead because it might unsettle the markets at a time when Moody's ratings agency was in the country and lead to another downgrade.
The ANC announced the withdrawal of the motion a few hours before it was scheduled, claiming the party needed to consult structures and stakeholders.
The withdrawal exposed further cracks in the party as some structures, including the ANC Youth League, publicly criticised the decision because the nationalisation of the bank was a national conference resolution taken at Nasrec in December.An MP who attended the meeting said: "Nhlanhla told us the timing was not good because Moody's is in the country.
"He also advised that caucus should first conduct an assessment of the best international practices on the ownership of central banks so that the motion is better informed, to avoid sending a wrong message to the money market," the MP added.
Another party leader said after Nene's input, other party MPs backtracked, saying they were not ready to debate the motion.
When approached for comment yesterday, Nene confirmed attending the meeting but declined to say what his input on the motion was, saying it "would be improper".
He added: "Discussions at strategy [committee] were on the fiscal framework. Among other things, strategy discussed its own matters, which are confidential in nature ... which I cannot share with you."
He said the withdrawal of the motion was a decision of the committee, not his.
"I actually found it strange it was called a withdrawal because, according to the whippery when they told us because it falls within our portfolio, it was as a result of a reformulation and that it was not properly processed. So that was a matter outside of our decision. It was a strategy matter."
But other ANC MPs said they were caught off-guard on Tuesday when the motion was discussed by the strategy committee.Senior ANC MP Lerumo Kalako, who is also the whip of the party in the portfolio committee on trade and industry - whose chairwoman, Joan Fubbs, had sponsored the debate on the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank - said they were not ready to debate the motion.
Kalako said he argued for the motion to be withdrawn aboutsix hours before it was due to be debated by political parties in the National Assembly.
Kalako said the debate was tabled prematurely because the ANC conference resolution on the nationalisation of the bank had not yet been discussed by the various structures of the parliamentary caucus.
He said ANC MPs could also not go ahead with the debate because they had not been instructed to do so either by the national executive committee of the ANC or its parliamentary political committee. He said Fubbs did not know about the motion.
Fubbs yesterday declined to speak on the matter, referring queries to ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.
Spokesperson in Mthembu's office, Nonceba Mhlauli, said discussions of the strategy committee were confidential. She reiterated that the debate was postponed to allow for further consultations within caucus.
Enoch Godongwana, the chairman of the ANC's subcommittee on economic transformation, said he did not know how the motion got on the agenda of parliament on Tuesday. "I only saw it in the newspapers. If the ANC was working normally, as chairperson of the subcommittee on economic transformation I was supposed to be informed and be given an opportunity to express my views [on the] implications of such a move. That did not happen," said Godongwana.
"I am not aware of where such a motion comes from. I was not party to the decision to put it forward and I was not party to the decision to withdraw it."
ANC spokesman Pule Mabe said the debate had been withdrawn to "deepen the content of the envisaged motion" and it would be rescheduled to a later date.
The move has embarrassed the ANC, with its political opponents slamming the abrupt withdrawal of the motion. The EFF said it would table its own motion on the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank as the ANC "was [showing] cowardice" on the matter.