Johannesburg – A group of Black First Land First (BLF) supporters picketed outside the Gandhi Square Absa branch in the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday afternoon, as part of their national protest against Absa to pay back the money.
Clad in BLF regalia, leader Andile Mngxitama told News24 that he commended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane for saying that the Reserve Bank had to be reformed to serve the interests of the people, lauding her for showing leadership and vision that would help transform South Africa in the interests of the majority.
"Absa is very arrogant. We have already written them a letter to advise them that they must pay back the money and they have told us that they are not going to do so; they are going to go to court. Why go to court when four investigations have shown that money is stolen? [The] evidence is overwhelming," said Mngxitama.
Mngxitama said that three other investigations - by Judge Dennis Davis, Judge Willem Heath, and the CIEX - had found Absa to have unlawfully benefited from the South African Reserve Bank, making it a "criminal organisation". He said that the government should not be doing any business with the "rogue organisation".
The bank, also owned by London-based Barclays, was asked to pay back misappropriated public funds it had received in a bailout by the Reserve Bank during the apartheid years after the findings of the public protector made last week.
Mngxitama said that CEO of Barclays Africa, Maria Ramos, could not do anything to stop his movement from mobilising.
"You can’t have a reserve bank which serves the interests of white monopoly capital. Parliament must amend the Constitution so that the reserve bank prioritises the socio-economic interests of our people. That is correct, and it is consistent with the Constitution, it is consistent with the needs of our people," he said.
He said that they were left with no option but to protest, adding that this is just the beginning as the Absa branch shut down its garage doors to the public.
"After five days, if Absa does not indicate paying back the money, we are going to shut down Absa nationally, not just here in Gauteng," he said.
The pickets are taking place across various Absa branches in Gauteng, including branches in Johannesburg, the West Rand, Sedibeng, and Tshwane.
Mngxitama said that the bank had been asked to pay back R1.1bn, an amount which Mngxitama says is far lower than what was allegedly "stolen" by the bank.
"The real corruption which involved billions - not small change - is white corruption, and Absa and banks in South Africa are the most corrupt institutions. We want our government to withdraw all its accounts with Absa, and we must set up a black bank and a state bank which can serve the interests of black people," he said.
The former EFF member explained that the party did not want the money to be spent by government, but to rather be redirected to the youth.
Also read: No obligation to pay R1.125bn bailout - Absa
"The money must go to free education for black people, and also the money must go to the black youth which is unemployed, which has got no further education, which is in the townships, sitting there in despair, with no income, and with no future. That money can kick start their careers so that they become useful members of society," he said.
On the EFF
Mngxitama lambasted the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and its leader Julius Malema. He said that, in 2015, they had said that they would occupy Absa, but Malema allegedly changed his mind after sitting with representatives of Queen Elizabeth II and members of British "imperialism".
Mngxitama said that Malema was tired of counting British pounds and that he had been "kissed by the Queen".
He said that the EFF and Malema are agents of white monopoly capital who "just speak to fool our people to say they are for economic freedom, or they are for land, they are not for any of those things".
"They are fighting President Zuma and the Guptas because the Guptas are fighting white monopoly capital and white monopoly capital has bought Julius Malema and the EFF to fight with them on their side against the Guptas because they got the instruction from London," he ended.