Ray Hartley Editor: BusinessLIVE
Atul Gupta. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND
Atul Gupta. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

News that the Competition Commission has decided that 16 South African banks are to be prosecuted over forex collusion has turned the spotlight on corporate abuse.

The fine could be as high as 10% of turnover. Somebody do the math - 10% of the turnover of SA's top 16 banks must be an awful lot of money - enough to start a state bank, perhaps?

Because if you are a conspiracy theorist - and who isn't these days? - you might ask if this is just another leg in the battle between the Guptas and the banks which was ignited when their accounts were closed because of unexplained funds.

Add to that the fact that hardly had the laser-jet ink dried on the commission's announcement when the ANC Youth League, which appears to act for the Guptas, announced that this was evidence that the banks needed to be shut down and replaced by a state bank of some sort.

In this world view, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the banks are on one side, defending and funding 'white monopoly capital', while the Guptas and the youth league are on the other, trying to bring about transformation.

Lean closer over your craft beer while I confirm the conspiracy by pointing out how the new public protector is a supposedly independent watchdog, but seems to be determined to trash Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report ... 

And so the very real baby (corporate collusion which damaged the economy) is at risk of being thrown out with the bathwater (it's all part of a conspiracy by President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas). 

This should not be allowed to happen.

For one thing, there is no reason to doubt the bona fides of the Competition Commission. It is hated by business, but that is because it does its job too well. 

Take the recent announcement over reparations by the construction industry for its collusion over the World Cup stadiums. I researched this very thoroughly (I had to, it was a major part of my book The Big Fix - How South African Stole the 2010 World Cup )  and there can be no question that corporate South Africa had its hands deep in the cookie jar.

 It would be a great pity if this effort by the commission to root out the rot in the banks were to be dismissed as yet another conspiratorial machination.

 It's serious and it must be taken seriously.

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