Pretoria – The Public Service and Commercial Union of South Africa has expressed its intention to join a looming class action, spearheaded by Godrich Gardee Attorneys, against the banks, on behalf of more than 6 000 clients previously “discriminated against” by financial institutions in South Africa.
The union’s secretary-general, Tahir Maepa, called on all members previously wronged by the banks, which had “unjustifiably” repossessed their houses, and those whose businesses went under because of “the banks’ stranglehold”, to come forward.
“This is so that we sue these banks, and we hurt them where it matters the most. The only thing that will make these banks listen is to deal with their share price. That is the only thing that they are afraid of,” Maepa said.
Last week, Gardee announced that his clients would apply to intervene in proceedings instituted by Dr Iqbal Survé, chairman of the Sekunjalo Group of companies, and more than 43 others at the Western Cape Equality Court.
Maepa criticised the banking sector for being anti-transformative and discriminatory against black people.
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“The banking sector is now being used as another form of political axe against anyone and anybody who is deemed to be against the current governing administration, or against the economic exclusion of black people who are suffering in this country,” he said.
He said the banks were “utterly racist”, citing the systematic closing down of banking facilities of the Sekunjalo Group as an example. “Sekunjalo is being targeted, not because, in our view, it has done anything wrong, but because it is the largest black group that is not under the control of the banks. It is independent and it doesn’t need to be financed by these banks,” Maepa said.
Trevor Shaku, spokesperson for the South African Federation of Trade Unions, attributed the problems in the banking sector to several white monopolies in charge of commercial banks.
Shaku said it was possible to bring about changes in the banking sector but that it would depend on the political will of the government of the day.
One of the changes could be achieved by setting up a state-owned bank and making the commercial banks remain like any other enterprise. Alternatively, he said, people should be allowed to bank directly with the central bank.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said many of the banks were “creatures of apartheid that have cropped up in a different government to actually prevent many people from participating in this economy”. He added: “The issue of transformation in the South African banks is actually South Africa’s Achilles heel on the economic front and on the transformation front.
According to Pamla, the country’s biggest challenge was the financial sector “that has a monopoly on what happens to the economy, and it abuses that monopoly”.
“We don’t even want to talk about how they have been investigated where it has been shown that when it comes to giving loans – car or home loans – to black people, they use a different yardstick. They don’t measure the qualifications of a black person as they would do to a white person.”