Financial Mail - - BETWEEN THE CHAINS - @Sikonathim

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.

Ex­tend­ing free­dom

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

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