As his first term comes to an in November, it's all eyes on President Cyril Ramaphosa to see whether he will appoint Lesetja Kganyago for a second term as SA Reserve Bank governor. On Friday July 5, speaking at a Legae Peresec breakfast, Kganyago said he would serve again.
"I am appointed by the President in consultation with the board. Should I be asked since you are in this era of sending people (a reference to Ramaphosa's voluntarism theme of Thuma Mina or Send Me), I will gladly do it. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," said Kganyago.
Ramaphosa has spoken up repeatedly to support Kganyago's independence both in national and international forums, and he and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni have a great rapport, as the Cabinet minister is a previous SARB boss who insists on still being called "Governor".
There is a curve ball in the picture now. This week, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde was named as the incoming Governor of the European Central Bank, which leaves her job open. A massive global debate is about when the West gives up its right to always lead the so-called Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank and IMF, and there is a lobby in the emerging world for that supremacist position to be broken.
The IMF factor
Who better for this role than Kganyago, an IMF grandé and chairperson of its governance committee? Kganyago is close to Lagarde and South Africa is a well-regarded player in economic global governance, as it plays a careful hand of staying on China's friendly side while maintaining good relationships with the political entity that used to be called "The West" but which is now an increasingly divided and fractured space.
Kganyago said that South Africa's post-apartheid central bankers had all had "independence of mind" and were bound by the Constitutional imperative to serve independently and without fear or favour.
"If somebody gets in there and violates the credibility of the institution and it is compromised or undermined, you will have all sorts of problems," he said, in reply to a question of whether or not he would take a second term, if offered.
He said that it was fortunate that all the post-apartheid presidents had appointed "credible individuals" to the institution and said that the membership of the community of central bankers included both systems of support and of peer review.
He gave an example of when Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had ruled that Parliament should change the Reserve Bank's mandate as part of her findings on the CIEX lifeboat, he had found succour and support among fellow central bank governors as he had been on his way to a Bank of Settlements meeting in Europe at the time.
"'Are you OK?' 'Is there any way we can help?' 'Stand your ground'," his fellow central bankers asked and told him, said Kganyago. "There is peer review among central bankers and that is an additional check on the central banking system," said the SARB governor.
Kganyago has been with the SARB since 2011 and he is also the chairperson of the IMF's International Monetary and Financial Committee, the policy advisory committee of the Board of Governors of the IMF.