Opposition firebrand Julius Malema introduced a bill to nationalise South Africa’s central bank, raising pressure on the ruling ANC to go through with a plan it shelved in 2018 and rattling markets wary of threats to the institution’s independence.
The rand fell more than 1% overnight after Parliament released details on the bill late on Thursday, including clauses to “make the state the sole holder of the shares in the bank” and “provide for the appointment of certain board directors by the (finance) minister”.
Most central banks around the world are state-owned.
But markets have been worried about moves to bring the privately-held South African Reserve Bank into government control – particularly after the past administration was accused of meddling in appointments and decisions.
Malema’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, with only 25 out of the country’s 400 parliamentary seats would have no chance of pushing the bill through on its own. But the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has backed the smaller party’s bills before, including divisive legislation in February pushing to expropriate land without compensation.
The ANC promised on Friday to study the proposed privatisation – a policy it had said it would pursue in December, calling the central bank’s ownership status a “historical anomaly”.
The party put the plan on the back-burner three months later, saying it needed more consultation.