Sim Tshabalala. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Sim Tshabalala. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

The major banks have testified how they closed Gupta bank accounts because the law required them to act when they saw evidence of unexplained and irregular transfers of money. What was really shocking was what happened next. ANC leaders and Gutpa-friendly ministers attempted to intimidate the banks into reopening the accounts at a series of meetings. 

This is how the drama unfolded:

1. The ANC said attacking the Guptas was attacking black business

Standard Bank’s former head of compliance, Ian Sinton, testified that the bank was summoned to ANC headquarters to explain the closure of Gupta accounts. The ANC’s then secretary-general (now chair) Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte and economic policy head Enoch Godongwana were present at the meeting.

“We were asked to comment on the perception that we were part of white monopoly capital (WMC) oppressing black business. We were asked to comment on reports that we were taking instructions from Stellenbosch in closing accounts. It was the first time I saw my boss‚ Sim Tshabalala‚ get really angry.”

2. Mosebenzi Zwane threatened to change the law to force Standard Bank to open the Gupta accounts.

Sinton testified that the then mineral resources minister, Mosebenzi Zwane called the bank to a meeting where he leant on them to reopen the Gupta accounts.

“He said that as a member of the ruling party, he had the ability to get the law changed, and he was inclined to propose a change in the law whereby it would become illegal for the banks to close accounts.”

3. Zwane leaned on Nedbank to take over as the Gupta’s primary bankers

Nedbank group CEO Mike Brown told the state capture inquiry he had met Zwane and it was made clear that Nedbank should look positively at banking for the Guptas.

“He went on to suggest that would Nedbank consider stepping in to save jobs and provide an amicable solution. I reminded Mr Zwane that we were not here to discuss specific client matters.

“I left the meeting with the impression that a good outcome for the [inter-ministerial committee] would be for Nedbank to agree to take over the primary transactor of the Gupta accounts.”

4. ANC called FirstRand CEO to try and arrange a meeting

Former FirstRand group CEO Johan Burger told the state-capture inquiry he received a call from Godongwana, saying he had been asked by Mantashe to arrange a meeting between the ANC and the bank.

“It was unexpected to get a call from a political party to ask questions around a bank and client relationship. In my 32 years as a banker, this is the first call I have ever got from any political party.”

5. Gupta accounts closed because of ‘large unexplained transfers’

Absa’s Yasmin Masithela explained why the decision had been taken to close the Gupta accounts. Absa refused to meet the ANC over the closures.

“There was also evidence of large unexplained transfers of funds between the Oakbay companies and related parties to other banks.”