‘Frailty, thy name is wo­man’

As­so­ci­a­tion with Fi­den­tia led to the tragic end of Baloyi’s pub­lic life

Finweek English Edition - - Companies & markets - BY MICHAEL COUL­SON

MANY A CELEBRITY has learnt that those who live by the sword die by the sword; those who build ca­reers by hyp­ing their tal­ents and qual­i­fi­ca­tions can find the heat of pub­lic­ity un­com­fort­able when things go wrong. The saga of Danisa Baloyi is an in­struc­tive ob­ject les­son.

Baloyi is a clas­sic Greek or Shake­spearean tragic hero: the over­achiever brought down by a la­tent but in­her­ent in­ter­nal flaw, such as am­bi­tion (Mac­beth), in­de­ci­sion (Ham­let) or lust (Oedi­pus). Not that I’m sug­gest­ing the last-men­tioned ap­plies in Baloyi’s case, but the first two cer­tainly do.

In a re­cent Broad­strokes col­umn on Fin­week’s sis­ter web­site fin24.co.za, I sug­gested Baloyi would be un­wise to carry out her threats to sue Absa for the loss of her di­rec­tor­ship. I imag­ine she’ll now take that ad­vice, as, fol­low­ing me­dia al­le­ga­tions that she doesn’t hold the doc­tor­ate she claims and that no­body can find out who awarded her the hon­our of “Busi­ness­woman of the Year”, she an­nounced she would with­draw from pub­lic life.

That’s mak­ing a virtue of ne­ces­sity, as it’s clear pub­lic life has with­drawn from her. As I wrote in Broad­strokes, there may be no ev­i­dence that she’s guilty of any crime. How­ever, mere as­so­ci­a­tion with Fi­den­tia makes her un­fit to serve on the board of a ma­jor fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion.

Had she ac­cepted that and with­drawn from Absa with good grace she could well have rid­den out the storm. With the ben­e­fit of hind­sight she should ac­tu­ally have seen the writ­ing on the wall in Jan­uary, when the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Board found a “ma­te­rial con­flict of in­ter­est” in her roles as a 10% share­holder and of­fi­cial at Fi­den­tia and a trustee of the Liv­ing Hands Trust, which is turn­ing out to be one of the main vic­tims of the scam.

As it is, the cir­cu­la­tion of th­ese latest al­le­ga­tions – which her farewell state­ment makes no at­tempt to re­fute – will com­pli­cate any bid to re­turn to pub­lic life when, as Baloyi puts it, “all mat­ters have been re­solved”.

You have to sym­pa­thise with those who ac­cepted her at her own val­u­a­tion. She’s ob­vi­ously in­tel­li­gent and well con­nected, though it’s no­table that – with the ex­cep­tion of the Don Suite ho­tel group’s Thabiso Tle­lai – none of them has shown any in­cli­na­tion to sup­port her.

Af­ter all, in the 40-odd years since I last grad­u­ated I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to ver­ify my de­grees and while I – by chance, root­ing through a dusty cup­board a few weeks ago – came across a card­board tube con­tain­ing one rolled-up de­gree cer­tifi­cate, I haven’t a clue where the other one may be.

But there’s a broader im­pli­ca­tion, too: the spin-off for the whole con­cept of black em­pow­er­ment. Now – be­fore I come in for an­other at­tack from my fel­low-colum­nist at the ANC – let me re­peat that I’ve al­ways ar­gued that the po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of 1994 would be mean­ing­less un­less it was fol­lowed by an eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, and that the lat­ter would be much harder to im­ple­ment.

That’s proved to be the case, as the oft­heard com­plaint that em­pow­er­ment has largely meant en­rich­ment of the few makes man­i­fest. Trou­ble is, there aren’t enough cred­i­ble em­pow­er­ment part­ners around. When one of the most prom­i­nent may have feet of clay, the in­tegrity of the whole process is thrown into ques­tion.

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