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South Africa: Politicians hold fruitful engagement on establishing specialised cooperative bank

JOHANNESBURG, September 22, 2023 - The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus [MPWC] in the Parliament of South Africa yesterday held a constructive and fruitful engagement with the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities [DWYPD] regarding the establishment of a cooperative bank for women, youth, and persons with disabilities.

The chairperson of the MPWC, Nkhensani Kate Bilankulu, said the committee noted that plans were at an advanced stage and it is possible that the bank can commence its operations by June 2024. “The initiative is commendable. It is heartening to note this intervention as this group of individuals are vulnerable and overlooked many times. This is a positive step in the right direction,” said Nkhensani.

The Minister of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, told the committee that her department has noted that women, youth and persons with disabilities tend to be excluded by the financial institutions regarding access to financial assistance. Based on that, she said the department decided to initiate a cooperative bank owned by these groups of people.

The MPWC heard from the department that the proposed name for the bank is the South African Innovative Financial Services [SAIFS]. Dr Thandeka Ellenson who is the chairperson of the steering committee on the project, told the committee that the finalisation of the development of business plan is on September 21, 2023  and the plan is going to be submitted to the Prudential Authority. The qualification figures for the application is 200 members and R100 000 minimum. To date, SAIFS has 429 active members, and the bank balance is R257, 400. 00 cash deposits [this exceeds the minimum requirement].

The MPWC heard each individual member has paid the R500 membership fee, a R100 administrative fee and each company has paid R1, 000.00 membership and R100 administrative fee. The target is 10 000 members and R5 million for the next 12 months from the date of approval.

The committee also heard that next month awareness campaigns and further recruitment will take place. In conclusion, Bilankulu said the committee welcomed the initiative. “We will closely monitor it to ensure it always puts the interest of women, youth and people with disabilities first.”

Several members of the MPWC raised concerns regarding the name of the bank and urge the committee to re-think it and rather come up with a user-friendly name that people can relate to. Members of the committee also questioned the ownership of the bank and encouraged further dialogue with the public to encourage people and inform them about the cooperative bank.

The MPWC also expressed concern for the low number of women Members of Parliament [MPs] attend its meeting. All women MPs are members of the MPWC. It further noted with concern that only 15 of about 182 women MPs are required to constitute a quorum.

MPs also complained that this figure for a quorum is far too low taking into account the total number of women MPs and resolved that this should be taken up with the Joint Rules Committee of Parliament in an effort to encourage more women to participate in these meetings.

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