PRETORIA - Cabinet has approved a Bill aimed at ‘protecting' the independence of the South African Reserve Bank to prevent a fringe group of shareholders from influencing the bank's decision-making capabilities, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says. He adds that it has come to the bank's attention that a "fringe group" is attempting to improperly mobilise their shares as well as share profits and assets in an attempt to influence decisions. "It has come to the attention of government that a number of shareholders are involved in activities which could undermine the bank's independence," Gordhan says. "Cabinet considers this to be unacceptable and has agreed that urgent legislative steps must be taken to protect the bank's independence." The Reserve Bank's shareholders are limited to own 10 000 shares, with voting restricted to one vote for every 200 shares held. Each shareholder is allowed a maximum of 50 votes. Gordhan adds that one of the aims of the South African Reserve Bank Amendment Bill is to prevent abuse and the formation of voting blocks by the bank's "limited number" of shareholders.
JOHANNESBURG - Though not as visible a crisis as electricity provision, water supply is already impeding South Africa's socioeconomic development in some localities, states a new report based on round-table discussions convened by Business Leadership South Africa and the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE). CDE executive director Ann Bernstein says that there are a number of water-related issues in South Africa that need "urgent attention" to avoid a water crisis, including political leadership, strengthening water management institutions, maintenance of existing infrastructure, tackling the impacts of acid mine drainage and curbing water waste. Department of Water Affairs (DWA) water services CEO Helgard Muller says that the department's overall planning is in place, but that it still needs to make definite decisions, source funding and establish the right institutions. The DWA's strategies include a pricing strategy, a water-for-growth-and-development strategy, a national water resource strategy, and a turnaround plan from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Further, he notes that the department needs to improve its strategic leadership. "It is a serious problem in the water sector and we have seen a succession of directors-general and other staff members," Muller says.
Africa & the world
KINSHASA - A final decision on a deal to wipe out the bulk of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC's) $11-billion debt is due before the end of July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says. The timing means that President Joseph Kabila will not have a done deal on debt relief before the June 30 celebrations to mark 50 years of the DRC's independence, but he will be able to point to the likelihood of an early green light from the IMF. "Staff expect to complete all work and circulate the related documents to the executive board before end-June. Board consideration is, therefore, expected to take place before end-July," an IMF spokesperson says. In practice, IMF staff tend to submit such plans to the fund's executive board when confident they will be approved. The DRC's debt stands at $10,9-billion, a figure that could fall to $2,3-billion if all foreign donors commit to write off debt under an IMF scheme to help poor countries. The DRC's annual debt servicing burden would fall from $920-million to $194-million, a boon for one of the poorest countries in the world, where the economy is still recovering from a 1998 to 2003 war in which some five-million people died.
KHARTOUM - Darfur's most powerful rebel group says that it is suspending peace talks with Sudan's government, accusing Khartoum of attacking villages and military positions in breach of a ceasefire. The announcement from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) is largely symbolic as formal talks have been stalled for months, but it underlines the distance between the two sides seven years after the conflict in the Darfur region began. "Because of the ongoing comprehensive offensive against the civilian population in Darfur and because of the aggression against our forces on the ground, the JEM has decided to freeze its participation in the Doha peace process," JEM spokesperson Ahmed Hussein Adam says.