‘Frailty, thy name is woman’
Association with Fidentia led to the tragic end of Baloyi’s public life
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That’s making a virtue of necessity, as it’s clear public life has withdrawn from her.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Had she accepted that and withdrawn from Absa with good grace she could well have ridden out the storm.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.