NOT WITH MY BANK FEES!
SA’s struggle against the evil that was apartheid succeeded only when ordinary men and women in the free world boycotted SA products and sporting teams. The power of the consumer, especially in the 1980s, helped fast-track what successive generations of freedom fighters, including organised political liberation movements and their symbolic militaries, had been struggling to deliver for more than four decades.
Similarly, freedom from our criminal, unethical and oppressive business and political practices lies in the power of the individual consumer. At individual level, your refusal to buy goods and services from companies that either benefit from or turn a blind eye to corruption, including that of state capture, is what shall liberate us from this cesspit of corruption.
As for me, this is the last month in which my meagre salary will go through Standard Bank, with whom I deposited my first R1,200 pay cheque late in 1997. That ends a relationship started by my mother in the 1970s, the first person in my family to have a bank account. Later she used the bank’s ATMS to send her mother cash to help us buy food in the Transkei.
I’ve been forced to find another bank because Standard Bank insists it will continue doing business with KPMG, a company that has done its bit to help corrupt elements inside and outside the state to steal from the public. While my banking fees are not even a drop in the Standard Bank revenue ocean, I am using what little power I have to effect the change I want to see.
While I can’t arrest thieves and fraudsters, I can stop what has not yet been stolen from me being used to prop up corrupt and unethical firms. Standard Bank can go ahead and do its bit to support corrupt firms, like its auditor, but not with my banking fees.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, trying sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito,” goes the African proverb. When ordinary men and women in Australia, New Zealand and the UK refused to go to watch the mighty Springboks tackle their national rugby teams, the tide began turning towards the dawn of democracy at the southern tip of Africa.
When consumers in New York and London refused to buy goods made with exploited labour in SA, the resultant civil rights campaigns and consumer boycotts against SA in the capitals of Europe and the US forced reluctant allies of the racist regime to impose economic sanctions.
When ordinary people in the free world refused to bank with institutions that bankrolled the oppressive Pretoria regime, life quickly became harder for SA’S middle classes and businesspeople.
The then ANC president Oliver Tambo, who was born 100 years ago this month, thus became the people’s most successful ambassador.
Together with other comrades, Tambo spent half his life on aircraft and trains, shuttling between continents to sensitise ordinary people about their power to help extend the freedom they enjoyed to his native land. This induced the stroke that eventually killed him.
“My problem in calling for pressures on SA is to convince the youth to convince their governments and people that it is not the SA goods that are cheap, but the forced labour of the Africans,” said Tambo.
Foreign investors were left with no choice but to pull their funds out of the illegal regime whose survival depended on the perpetuation of a crime against the people. That is what eventually brought down the minority regime and forced a transition to democracy in this country of ours.
If enough of us do what little we individually can, we can overcome our current oppressor: corruption.
This is the last month in which my meagre salary will go through Standard Bank