SA banks are not involved in funding Hamas – Godongwana

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana on Wednesday rubbished claims made in a Jerusalem Post article last week that major SA banks could be involved as conduits to funding Hamas.

“I want to debunk a myth that appeared in the Jerusalem Post, which tried to describe South African banks as being involved in funding terror organisations. I want to debunk that myth,” Godongwana said.


Read: WEF: Godongwana defends SA’s investment appeal amidst Israel case

He was speaking at an event hosted by Absa in Sandton announcing the bank’s expansion into China, with the opening of a non-banking subsidiary there and the planned launch of its office in Beijing in May.

“There are normal channels of communication between governments, in case of those [situations] … For instance, part of the people who are quick to do that is the USA government. Anytime such an instance is picked up, the Secretary-Treasurer of the US normally sends a note to us and informs us,” the minister added.

“Our relationship … despite what the newspapers are saying, that relationship with all of those countries – at a government level – is fine. I can tell you now, forget what people say about our relationship with the United States; at a government level, that relationship is fine.

“Of course, like everybody else, we quarrel here and there, which is normal,” Godongwana said.

SA’s relations with Israel have been strained further since the country lodged a genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel related to its war in Palestine’s Gaza Strip.

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While stopping short of demanding a ceasefire, the ICJ on 26 January ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians and do more to help civilians.

Before the ICJ made the ruling last Friday, Israel’s national airline, El Al, announced that it would be scrapping its route between Tel Aviv and Johannesburg at the end of March due to a steep drop in demand.

Absa China expansion

Meanwhile, Godongwana welcomed Absa’s move to open an office in the Chinese capital, Beijing. While he confessed that he could not speak much about the SA economy currently due to the National Treasury being in a “closed period” ahead of the 2024 budget, he said no one could ignore the Chinese economy.


“It is one of the important economies … Dynamic, growing – and if you want to do business – you need to be present in that environment. You are not making any mistake by having a relationship with the Chinese and in Brics [the current Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA economic bloc],” he told Absa executives and guests attending the event.

Absa said the new office will enable the group to offer local support to Chinese clients and stakeholders to conclude transactions across the African continent.

“This is part of a wider commitment from Absa to expand its operations with international representative offices in strategic markets and offer deep expertise in African markets to its overseas clients,” it said.

Absa Group CEO Arrie Rautenbach said the China move is part of the group’s ambitious international strategy, noting that “over the last two decades, China has emerged as Africa’s key trading partner”.

He said opening up an office in China made commercial sense.

“[This] announcement reinforces our ambition to grow our international strategy – particularly as China is such a strategically important market for Africa. Our expansion into this dynamic market represents an exciting opportunity to unlock new avenues of growth and prosperity for Africa and China,” he added.

Rautenbach did not comment on the Jerusalem Post article.