Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

It was good to see the banks belatedly defending themselves in parliament this week after weeks of attacks from people aligned to President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma himself has questioned the banks’ behaviour following their decision to shut the accounts of his friends, the Gupta family. The banks did this because the Guptas are considered "politically exposed persons". To critics, however, this was evidence of collusion, and a desire to freeze out black entrepreneurs.

So it was heartening to see Banking Association MD Cas Coovadia laying bare the truth. This includes the fact that 77% of South Africans now have access to a bank account, far higher than the 44% of 2003. And it includes the fact that, in the three years to 2015, banks lent R94bn to "affordable housing" and R41bn to small and medium-sized black companies.

But facts seem almost beside the point, when it seems what Zuma really wants is to punish the banks for freezing out the Guptas. Which is a pity, as it will pervert the real discussion that is needed.

Transformation has taken place, but it has been slow when it comes to management, for example. And it is unclear whether capital is getting to the right places to build new black-owned firms.

This would be a step towards real transformation. But, then, this is unlikely to be what Zuma is after anyway.

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