South Africa's private sector has no interest in developing the country and wants "to ensure that the government collapses", Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has said.
Ntshavheni was alluding to British multinational Standard Chartered's admission to manipulating the dollar-rand exchange rate and agreeing to pay a R42.7-million fine.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing in Tshwane on Monday, Ntshavheni reacted to the Competition Commission's 15 November statement that it was prosecuting 28 local and international banks for fixing bids, bid-offer spreads, the spot exchange rate, and the exchange rate.
Commissioner Doris Tshepe said the currency manipulation severely impacted the rand, and added:
The commission welcomes [Standard Chartered's] decision to reach a settlement on this matter and encourages other respondent banks to consider settling the complaint against them.
Ntshavheni, however, took it a step further, riling at South Africa's private sector and accusing it of trying to destroy the country.
"It (currency manipulation) is a very sad state. We have maintained over the period that the performance of the rand and sometimes the performance of the economy has been manipulated by [the] private sector, [which] has no interest in the development of this country," Ntshavheni said.
She said the private sector continued to "engineer and do machinations to ensure that the government collapses".
"That's why also self-feed into the narrative that there is a collapsing state [and] there's a collapsing economy because that's what they wish for, and their actions do that. But, despite those efforts, the South African economy continues to be resilient," the minister added.
She charged, "At least we now have Standard Chartered to form part of the witnesses in the prosecution so that we can have recourse. People cannot be left untouched because they wanted to collapse this country. There must be consequences, and there will be consequences."
Israel 'atrocities' condemned
Turning to the situation in the Middle East, Ntshavheni said Cabinet was concerned "by the atrocities of the Israeli government against the people of Palestine, including the deliberate attacks on the United Nations School in Gaza and the massacre of hundreds of children who had sought refuge at the school".
The Cabinet reacted to the fresh resurgence of the 75-year-old Israel-Palestine conflict, which resurfaced following a 7 October attacks by the political and military group Hamas – which controls the Gaza territory, one of three in Palestine – on Israel in which 1 200 people were killed, many of whom were civilians, and scores were kidnapped.
In turn, Israel launched a slew of retaliatory, carpet-bombing attacks on Palestine, killing more than 12 000 people – mostly civilians and children – including the 18 November bombings on two Gaza schools, one of which was run by the United Nations, and the Jabalia refugee camp, according to an Al Jazeera report.
Ntshavheni confirmed that the government recalled its diplomats in Israel for "consultations", but would not reveal whether it was a permanent recall.
She said the Department of International Relations and Co-operation met with Israel's ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotsercovsky, to relay its displeasure.
However, Ntshavheni added, "There is no decision to close down the embassy of Israel from Cabinet. We have gone to the ICC (International Criminal Court), as part of the state parties, [and] we have referred the matters there."
Last week, however, the ANC caucus supported an EFF motion to shut down the Israeli embassy.
Ntshavheni said the government joined Comoros, Djibouti, Bolivia, and Bangladesh in referring Israel to the ICC for war crimes and genocide.
"Our ambassador in the Hague delivered the referral in person, which asked the ICC to investigate the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide with a view to holding those most responsible accountable."