A shareholder in South Africa’s central bank accused the former governor Tito Mboweni of having threatened him and said he had to leave the country because he feared for his safety.
“Mboweni phoned me in February 2008 and threatened me for 15 minutes, called me a racist,” Michael Duerr, a German national, told Parliament’s finance committee in Cape Town yesterday. “Everything is on tape, everything is documented. I can go in front of every court. I am sick of this, what they did with me.”
Mboweni left the Reserve Bank in November last year, and has since been appointed chairman of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Africa’s biggest gold producer, and an adviser to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Duerr and Mboweni clashed at a central bank meeting in September last year, which Duerr attended dressed in traditional Bavarian shorts called lederhosen and demanded to discuss the bank’s financial statements.
Thaba Mufamadi, chairman of the bank’s finance committee, prevented Duerr from elaborating on his allegations. Duerr declined a Bloomberg request to listen to the taped conversation, saying in an interview that he regarded the matter as closed as Mboweni was no longer in his post.
Mboweni referred queries to the central bank and declined to comment further when an attempt to speak to him was made by Bloomberg.
“We have no knowledge of this as it was part of a private telephone conversation between the two,” bank spokesman Brian Hoga said in an interview in Cape Town. “No complaint was laid.”
The Reserve Bank is one of nine central banks around the world that have private investors, who are allowed to own a maximum of 10,000 shares that entitle them to 50 votes at annual general meetings. They receive a fixed dividend of 10 cents a share.
Duerr and fellow shareholder Mario Pretorius have been pushing for greater disclosure from the bank and for its board and shareholders to have greater oversight over its operations. The bank and the Finance Ministry accused the two of trying to profit from holding stock and compromise the bank’s independence.
On May 3, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that new laws will be introduced to prevent shareholders from controlling voting rights through relatives and close associates. The South African Reserve Bank Amendment Bill also proposes increasing the size of the bank’s board to 15 from 14 members and raising the number of board members appointed by the government to four from three.
The finance committee is holding public hearings on the legislation this week. The central bank and National Treasury will deliver their responses tomorrow.
“You should send this bill to the dustbin,” Pretorius told the committee. “It does nothing but take away the powers of the board” and prevents shareholders from questioning any decisions made by the management.
Mufamadi said in an interview he expected parliament to pass the legislation when it reconvenes in August.