Reviving the black bank dream


The Association of Black Securities and Investment Professional (Absip) is making a last-ditch effort to revive the dream of a black bank in a frantic search for an alternative banking channel for black people.

Talks around the establishment of a black-owned bank have been doing the rounds for a while now and it appeared as if the quest had run out of steam because of a lack of financial backup.

Two South African veteran businessmen, Richard Maponya and Sam Motsuenyane, under the Nafcoc umbrella, spearheaded the launch of African Bank in the 1970s with a R1m capital investment, but this was hit by financial troubles in 1995 and sold.

When African Bank collapsed two years back, Nafcoc believed that the bank would be returned to its rightful owners. But the good African Bank was 50% owned by the Reserve Bank and a banking consortium.

Many efforts have since been made, all of which came to very little.

Now in what appears to be a last ditch-ditch effort, the accounting lobby group, Absip will be hosting a roundtable discussion on Monday to try to find consensus on what is meant by a black bank.

The roundtable will also expand on how far has South Africa has gone towards financial inclusion and what attitudes are required to realise the black bank ambition.

But some quarters argue that this move is yet another attempt at flogging a dead horse.

“It is waste of time. It will never happen. The topic of a blank bank is no longer relevant. After two decades of democracy, a country with 90% of black people as the majority, they are still fighting to have their own bank.

“Everyone knows South Africa belongs to blacks. Where is the IDC and the PIC in terms of financing to make it happen?” veteran black lobbyist and retired professor Themba Sono said.

“White-run commercial banks will never finance this kind of initiative. Until the IDC and the PIC come to play perhaps the dream will come true,” Sono said.

Chris Malekane, an associate economics professor at Wits, recently said that a black-controlled bank could only happen when the economy of the country was totally in black hands.

“The day the government nationalises, it will mark the first step to realise this dream. Black economic empowerment heavyweights must start commanding this dream otherwise it will
remain just a pipe-dream,” Malekane said.

Progressive Professionals Forum spokesperson Phapano Phasha said there was a black bank in the name of VBS which needed support to compete with the giant.

“There is a black-owned bank. Where are black professionals to step in to support VBS. The bank is now under curatorship. Why not supporting it.

“For many years VBS struggling to get a license. Why can’t Absip be on the forefront and try getting out VBS of its current financial climate,” Phasha said.

She said it appeared that black professionals wanted to see VBS going down and see themselves being the custodians of the first black-owned bank.

“There is no solidarity among professionals and black professional bodies. Absip must start its roundtable discussion by focusing on helping VBS rather to watch it going under,” she said.

Phasha said people were talking about ownership, but what about regulators blocking the participation of black people?

“This is another challenge we are facing,” she said.