Who really owns the South African Reserve Bank

Lesetja Kganyago

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has over 800 shareholders, including notable entities such as Absa, the Anton Rupert Trust, Discovery, and FirstRand Bank.

The central bank also has international shareholders from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Norway. 

This is revealed in the SARB’s Shareholder Index as of 30 June 2022. The Shareholders Index Report is a shortened version of the shareholders’ electronic register maintained at the Reserve Banks’ head office. 

The SARB is one of only nine central banks worldwide with private shareholders. It is the oldest central bank in Africa and the fourth-oldest central bank outside Europe. 

The shareholders have no rights or involvement in determining monetary policy, financial stability policy or regulation and supervision of the financial sector. 

Their rights are limited to considering the SARB’s annual financial statements, electing seven of the non-executive directors of the Board of Directors, appointing external auditors and approving their remuneration.

There is no significant financial gain from being a shareholder of the SARB. Shareholders, by law, are entitled to a maximum dividend of 10 cents per share annually paid from the accumulated reserves.

In the 2023 financial year, this amounted to a total payout of R200,000 from the SARB.

Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt said in a recent panel discussion that he receives a dividend of around R8 annually for his shareholding of 200 shares.

Thus, the reason to be a shareholder of the Reserve Bank is not for financial gain but rather to get invited to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the SARB.

At the AGM, the SARB gives its shareholders considerable financial data and information, which can be important for an economist such as Roodt.

This is likely also why some of South Africa’s largest financial institutions, such as Absa, Standard Bank, FirstRand Bank, and Discovery, have a shareholding in the bank.

The South African Reserve Bank building in downtown Pretoria

Since its establishment, the SARB has had private shareholders. It was delisted from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on 2 May 2002, and a trading facility for its shares was introduced on 1 October 2005. 

This trading facility operates in terms of an over-the-counter share transfer facility (OTCSTF) market coordinated within the bank. As such, it is not an online facility and only operates through postal, facsimile, hand-delivered, or email communication.

Only the shareholders who reside in South Africa are entitled to vote at the AGM. They are allowed one vote for every 200 shares. 

The SARB Act stipulates that no shareholder shall hold, or hold in aggregate with their associates, more than 10,000 of the 2,000,000 issued shares.

However, two shareholders own more than 10,000 – the South African Mutual Life Assurance Society with 20,000 shares and the SA Police Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund with 10,520 shares. 

After allowing for specific provisions, payment of company tax on profits transfers to reserves and dividend payments to shareholders, the Reserve Bank’s earnings surplus is paid to the South African government. 

Prominent shareholders

The Reserve Bank has shareholders from South Africa and many other parts of the world, including Germany, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway. 

110 individuals and entities own the maximum of 10,000 shares, owning over half of the SARB’s issued shares. 

The table below shows some of the prominent Reserve Bank shareholders and how many shares they have.

ShareholderNumber of shares
Agri South Africa1,000
Anton Rupert Trust200
Absa Bank10,000
Bidvest Bank500
Discovery Limited10,000
FirstRand Bank10,000
JP Landman Trust200
Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund100
Dawie Roodt200
SA Mutual Life Assurance Society20,000
SA Police Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund10,520
The CFO of Standard Bank South Africa 10,000
The Company Secretary of Anglo American South Africa 10,000

All shareholders


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