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Even private sector banking on Postbank’s license, Ndabeni-Abrahams tells Parly

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (@PresidencyZA/Twitte)


Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (@PresidencyZA/Twitte)

  • Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told Members of Parliament that
    her department still had a banking licence for Postbank on its radar.
  • She said government wanted to be sure that Postbank had the
    capacity to operate successfully as a bank first.
  • Members of Parliament maintained scepticism at whether Postbank
    could succeed or avoid being looted.

  • Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies
    Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told Parliament on Wednesday afternoon that plans to
    unbundle Postbank from the SA Post Office had sparked excitement among South
    Africans and companies in the banking sector alike, who were keen to see the
    change a licensed state bank with bring to the market.

    Plans to convert Postbank into a fully-fledged bank
    with its own banking licence emerged in earnest in 2017 when the Postbank sent
    an application for a banking licence to the South African Reserve Bank that
    year
    .

    However, the application process has seen several
    delays since, with the Department of Communications having to remind South
    Africans last year that it would continue to press on with plans to get the
    licence.

    Last year, the bank recorded account growth of just
    0.5% and – due to not having a full banking licence – it has been unable to
    offer credit services. The
    Covid-19 pandemic, meanwhile, cost it approximately 18% of its revenue,
    Business Insider reported
    .

    It subsequently opened millions of accounts to serve
    customers receiving social relief of distress grants.

    READ
    | Postbank
    journey to bank status at an advanced stage, says minister

    Replying to questions orally in a virtual plenary
    of the National Council of Provinces, Ndabeni-Abrahams said her department was
    aware of the challenges Postbank faced in terms of the unbundling but said both
    it and National Treasury had to be thorough in the process.

    “We asked National Treasury [for] support in
    ensuring there is a clear plan for the Post Office as well as the Postbank. We
    need a bank that is capable, with financial status and resources and that is
    why we have the unbundling to repurpose aspects of the Postbank,” said
    Ndabeni-Abrahams.

    ‘Have faith’

    Ndabeni-Abrahams said, in light of the financial
    challenges that the South African Post Office has faced in recent years, it was
    critical that government invest time in ensuring the Postbank had the means to
    service South Africans in finance.

    “A bank’s controlling company must be
    financially stable such that it does not have a negative impact on the bank.
    The licensing requires us to look at the entire ecosystem. The Postbank is a
    bank that is closest to the poor and could do a lot of good for them. We are
    pursuing that license because it needs to function like a fully-fledged
    bank,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

    When asked by MPs whether Postbank could be viable
    on its own as a bank, Ndabeni-Abrahams said ordinary South African people and
    businesses in the banking sector alike were waiting with anticipation for the
    Postbank to be established as a fully-fledged bank.

    “I would encourage members to utilise the bank
    and see that there are services the bank can offer. Whether R350 grants or not,
    when we report on the balance sheet the bank has been doing well because there
    have been more deposits and transits,” she said.

    Members including Democratic Alliance MP Tim
    Brauteseth from KwaZulu Natal and Freedom Front Plus MP Armand Cloete from the
    Free State asked how government hoped to prevent Postbank from falling prey to
    corruption, to which Ndabeni-Abrahams simply urged MPs to “have
    faith”.

    “The ANC government is doing everything in its
    power to fight corruption. We will be in a good place to ensure this bank
    services the people. Everyone in the process has agreed to look into the detail
    and policy from all angles,” she said.

    Ndabeni-Abrahams
    told MPs that she was aware of delays and backlogs at Post Office branches in
    the delivery of services, especially to low income communities where it relates
    to grant relief provisions, saying the Post Office was working with local
    authorities to address the problem.


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