With a proposed bill that would allow for the creation of state-owned banks just one signature away from becoming law, exactly what role state banks would play in SA remains something of a mystery. To say nothing of the generally dismal track record of its state-owned enterprises, I’m not convinced that the country needs state banks. But if we are to get them, it’s worth discussing what we hope they will do. There seems to be this idea among state bank proponents, the EFF in particular, that existing commercial banks are privately owned and, to quote EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu, “used as instruments and mechanism of financial exclusion and reproduction of apartheid economic activities”. State banks, the party says, would provide enterprise finance, housing finance and vehicle finance for all South Africans “in a manner that promotes development, not the narrow pursuit of profits”. First, it must be noted that all of SA’s major banks are listed on the JSE and therefore public...

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