The heart of South Africa’s banking system is the South African Reserve Bank, which is the primary monetary authority and custodian of the country’s gold and foreign exchange reserves.
The Reserve Bank is managed by a board of fourteen directors, seven representing major commercial and financial institutions, industry, and agriculture, and seven appointed by the government. Of the latter, one serves as governor, and three serve as deputy governors of the Reserve Bank.
The Reserve Bank’s primary functions are to protect the value of the rand and to control inflation. The Reserve Bank regulates the money supply by influencing its cost i.e. interest charged on loans to other institutions. It is technically independent of government control, but in practice it works closely with the Treasury and helps to formulate and to implement macroeconomic policy.
The Reserve Bank issues banknotes and is responsible for the sale and purchase of foreign exchange for the government, as well as for the administration of the treasury-bill tender system. Its major customers are government agencies, private banks, and discount houses, although it also performs clearinghouse functions for private banks and assists banks that experience liquidity problems.
Finally, the Reserve Bank is the authorized buyer of gold bullion, thereby acting as agent for the gold-mining industry in effecting sales on their behalf in the private market.
The Reserve Bank uses monetary policy to control inflation, primarily by adjusting the liquid-asset requirements of private banking institutions and by restricting bank credit in order to control consumer demand.