Wakeford speaks out in wake of currency scandal
Comparing the bankers involved in the massive rand price-fixing scandal recently uncovered in South Africa to “modern-day marauding Vikings”, business leader Kevin Wakeford has slammed their actions as bordering on criminal.
Wakeford, 52, who formerly led both Port Elizabeth’s business chamber and the South African Chamber of Business (Sacob), is arguably one of the country’s leaders most qualified to comment on the widespread manipulation of the rand’s trading value, which came to light after a two-year investigation by the Competition Commission.
The businessman, having “stirred up a hornets nest”, lost his job at Sacob and suffered other negative effects after famously instigating the then controversial Rand Commission in 2001.
Today Wakeford, who went on to serve a number of major firms, is the chief executive of government’s multibillion-rand arms procurement company Armscor.
Wakeford’s move was prompted by the rand’s sudden and dramatic collapse against the US dollar and although the commission was later shut down, it was credited with halting the collapse of the currency and later reversing the slide.
Wakeford’s actions were later substantially vindicated by the 2008 global financial crisis which exposed economically devastating shenanigans and practices by major banks.
In 2013, Wakeford, who is credited for being the first international whistle-blower for currency manipulation, was further vindicated when financial journalist Barry Sergeant outlined the notorious saga in his book The Assault on the Rand.
Speaking in the wake of the latest currency scandal – which involves 17 banks, three of which are South African – Wakeford told Weekend Post his belief in the fact that the rand was being manipulated had never wavered.
Asked whether he had removed his involvement in the Rand Commission from his CV after being asked to leave Sacob, Wakeford responded: “I never removed my involvement in the commission from my CV. I have always acknowledged my involvement with my head held high.”
Questioned around whether he had been surprised at the latest currency revelations, Wakeford said he certainly had not.
“If the commission had been allowed to complete its work, if its scope had been appropriate, then, even then, at that stage, the commission would have noted activities that pointed to manipulation.”
Maintaining he believes there are sufficient checks and balances within the banking system to prevent manipulation activities, Wakeford said blame could be apportioned to the fact that banks themselves were not exercising the appropriate oversight and were not performing their regulatory and legal duties.
“Based on codes of conduct and those that are embodied in good corporate governance, the directors of the banks involved should be held accountable and brought to book.
“There has been gross negligence within these institutions and the effects of their actions – which led to the undue devaluation of the currency – are felt right down to the rural woman who purchases maize or cooking oil that has been traded in US dollars,” he said.
Wakeford, who says that the currency manipulation amounts to fraud, says the time has come for much more accountability in the financial sector, management with consequences, and for erring institutions to be brought to book.