June 6, 2019 / 3:33 PM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's ANC insists policy on central bank role has not changed

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JOHANNESBURG, June 6 (Reuters) - South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) said on Thursday its policy on the role and independence of the central bank had not changed, following a public spat between senior officials in the party over the bank’s mandate.

The row has exposed deep divisions within the ANC, with one group loyal to President Cyril Ramaphosa opposing calls from a rival faction for the bank to do more to boost employment and kick-start growth in the country’s sclerotic economy.

The party said senior ANC officials had met on Thursday to discuss the country’s economic priorities.

They “emphasised the policy positions of the ANC on the independence and role of the South African Reserve Bank as set out in the Constitution,” it said in a statement. “This policy has not changed.”

The party also said the spat had undermined citizens’ and investors’ confidence.

The ANC also said it had a desire for the central bank to be publicly owned, but it “recognises that this will come at a cost, which given our current economic and fiscal situation, is simply not prudent.”

The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party last year introduced a bill in parliament to nationalise the bank, putting pressure on the ANC to follow through with an earlier promise to do that.

Africa’s most developed economy registered its steepest contraction in a decade in the first quarter.

The ANC said that development was also discussed at Thursday’s meeting.

“There is a broad agreement that all viable, legal and other policy instruments at our disposal should be used to ensure that we get the economy growing again and create jobs,” the statement said. (Reporting by Alexander Winning and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Editing by William Maclean and John Stonestreet)

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