Crime, FNB and Saki Saki’s Afrikaners
Mbeki wasted an opportunity to confirm his own preconception
THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK crime saga just refuses to go away, even though sensibly FNB itself has refrained from further comment. But as the politicians strive to maximise their political capital, the comments get increasingly outrageous and serve only to emphasise how wide the divisions in society still are 13 years into the new South Africa.
It started when my fellow columnist Thabo Mbeki, wearing his other hat, said it would have been a waste of time writing him letters about crime, as he would have paid them no attention. Now certainly we can’t expect so busy a person to read all, or even any, of them himself. However, in a democratic society he should at least weigh them as an indicator of how people actually feel.
It’s an old maxim in the media that only a tiny fraction of people who feel strongly about an issue ever get around to writing a letter to the editor; so if, say, 50 000 people had written to Mbeki it would suggest that millions of people are in fact concerned. On the other hand, if only 23 people wrote in it would support his recent claim that the majority of people aren’t actually worried about crime.
By discouraging a write-in campaign Mbeki thus wasted an opportunity to confirm his own preconception.
Then we have Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota suggesting that we should ignore complaints about crime from wealthy expats sitting in “the exaggerated comfort of European cities”.
He may be right, but the overwhelming majority of recent complaints concerning crime emanate not from the frozen North but from much closer to home. And the fact that most victims of crime are poor township dwellers in no way detracts from the right of other social classes to express their views. It may be regrettable, but poverty contributes no moral or other authority.
It’s ironic that the past week has also brought a number of media stories about the need to persuade skilled expats to return and contribute to SA’s economic development. Ordering them to stop whingeing about crime will hardly help that cause.
But it’s not only current politicians who are stirring the pot. In a Sunday newspaper, Saki Macozoma said the campaign threatens to destroy the trust that’s been built up between business and Government since 1994 and could create a rift “between the rest [and] the Afrikaans-speaking community. Look at the people who have come behind FNB. They’re all Afrikaans.” That will, to put it mildly, come as a surprise to the likes of Raymond Ackerman and the principals of the SA arm of international accountancy company Grant Thornton.
This, of course, is the same Macozoma who recently denied the existence of the black middle class that’s driving so much of our economic growth. He’s also, coin- cidentally, like chief whistle-blower Derek Cooper, a director of FNB rival Standard Bank. But I’m sure that didn’t influence his what some might consider inflammatory remarks.
Not that organised business has covered itself with glory, with its plaintive wondering why FNB should want to act on its own and not through, say, a body like Business Leadership SA. You may think that question answers itself.
But the ultimate irony is that those currently most critical of FNB were also the most critical of business pre-1994 for not speaking out against apartheid. What was sauce for the goose must surely be sauce for the gander?