these people are 'nuts'

SA Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus yesterday urged a halt to a debate about the nationalisation of the central bank, calling those behind it greedy and the concept "nuts".

She said proposals to pack the bank's seven-member board with political appointees would "make it a very difficult working environment".

Briefing Parliament's finance committee, Marcus said the "false debate" about the status of the central bank should stop.

"This is something that is absolutely against the national interest. It is certainly against the interest of the central bank and in my view these people should not be allowed to get currency around it, as if this is real or doable.

"It is fundamentally against the principles, policies and objectives of the central bank," she said.

The SACP has argued that nationalising the bank would dilute the influence of business on monetary policy and "reorient" the monetary policy committee, which sets the bank's interest rate.

Cosatu said in a recent statement: "It is a dangerous anomaly that a body which should be protecting the public interest when it makes decisions on interest rates, which have a major impact on all South Africans, should be owned by a group of anonymous private shareholders."

Marcus dismissed the debate, saying it was creating an artificial market in the bank's shares based on the belief that its owners would share its reserves of almost R12billion among themselves if it were nationalised or liquidated.

She said the price of SARB shares had jumped nearly a quarter to R12,50 on the debate and some owners were offering their holdings at R4600 a share.

"Who would want to push for the liquidation of the central bank in their right minds? It's nuts," she said. "What's driving it is greed in my view."

Marcus, who was a member of the SA Communist Party in her youth, dismissed calls from the SACP and Cosatu for the appointment of political representatives to the board of the bank.

"Quite honestly, [the bank] should have the most prestigious board with the best quality people on it that can guide you on all the issues and become a real resource to the organisation," she said.

"It is their fiduciary duty to act in the interests of the organisation, not in what is a possible outcome for me to do better out of it."