Stiff opposition to the SARB Amendment Bill

SOUTH African Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus' bid to clarify the powers of shareholders and the board took a pounding in Parliament this week.

SOUTH African Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus' bid to clarify the powers of shareholders and the board took a pounding in Parliament this week.

The statutory National Economic Development and Labour Council was the lone voice in support of the sweeping SARB Amendment Bill during two days of public hearings by Parliament's finance committee.

Individual shareholders, Idasa, Ratings Afrika and others argued that the proposals ran counter to the global trend towards better corporate governance and proposed that the Bill should be significantly changed or abandoned.

While some presenters defended the Bank's token dividend payments, shareholder Mario Pretorius called for an update of the profit share rules to make it possible to distribute capital in some way. "Pay us a little bit more," he said.

Others insisted they were not in it for the money, but said as shareholders they should have the right to ask questions at annual meetings and to get answers.

The only shareholder who argued that his views on monetary policy should be heard was German national Michael Duerr, who clashed repeatedly with former governor Tito Mboweni at Bank meetings.

"This Bill should be scrapped because it is going 180degrees in the wrong direction," he said.

Charl Kocks, chief of the risk analysis company Ratings Afrika, said yesterday the current draft would move the Bank further from the current norms of good corporate governance.

Marcus has asked Parliament to process the Bill before the Bank's annual meeting in September, when three new members need to be appointed to the board. The Bill proposes, among others:

l To tighten the rule limiting any single shareholder to a maximum of 10000 of the Bank's 2million-issued shares

l To prevent family and close associates from accumulating a block together.

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