Gwede’s threat raises hackles

2012-04-14 14:52

Organised business formations have reacted strongly to ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe’s tacit threat to withdraw the governing party’s accounts from Nedbank.

On Friday Mantashe wrote an opinion article in The New Age newspaper where he said the party would discuss whether it “makes sense” to bank with banking group Nedbank after the lender’s chairman said the “moral quotient” of the nation’s political leadership was “degenerating.”

He added that the ANC should consider its relations with Nedbank because the lender “sees government as foolish and insane”.

On Friday he told City Press he would reconsider doing business with the bank – both he and the ANC are clients – if “you are this mad”. Other than Nedbank, the ANC also uses FNB.

He said he had banked with another bank but withdrew his accounts after they treated him badly and had moved to Nedbank.

“They didn’t insult me, they insulted the ANC, so I’m still weighing if I should do my business with Nedbank or with somebody else because it is important to value my business, however small it may be. If you don’t value my business I must not give it to you when I have choices,” he said.

Mantashe said by writing his remarks in an annual report, Khoza’s only intention was “to hurt the country” because the report’s audience was investors.

Business Leadership SA’s Michael Spicer called Mantashe’s response “­pathetic”.

Nomaxabiso Majokweni, Business Unity South Africa CEO, said while it was the ANC’s prerogative to decide whom to bank with or which service provider it did business with, “it would be sad if the ANC withdrew its accounts because of it”. Majokweni said it was not true that business did not engage the ANC or government, saying they continously engaged both.

She said a company’s annual report was one of the avenues to raise debates in the public interest. Majokweni defended business’s right to raise its views about how the country was led. She bemoaned the latest remark by Mantashe, saying “we would have expected further engagement between the ANC and Dr Khoza.”

Kuseni Dlamini, political analyst and former head of Anglo American SA & Old Mutual Emerging Markets, said Mantashe’s statement had to be understood in the context of the “anger and disappointment” generated by Khoza’s statement.

He urged the parties not to waste the opportunity emanating from the fallout to seek a national consensus. “No country in the world has ever become prosperous with government and business having polarised views about the way forward.”

Khoza’s recent criticism was a repeat of what he wrote in 2007, before the party’s elective conference in Polokwane where President Jacob Zuma defeated former president Thabo Mbeki.

Mantashe said the different sectors in society must show “reciprocal respect” and insisted the ANC’s door was always open for business leaders to talk.

“Insulting the political leadership in annual reports is taking things too far,” he wrote.

“When business develops unpatriotic tendencies through their reckless pronouncements, their sentiments are used by potential investors to measure the wisdom of investing.”

Khoza, who was a presidential adviser to the previous government of Thabo Mbeki, said in the lender’s annual report last month that the administration of Jacob Zuma was “losing the checks and balances that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the past.

“We observe the emergence of a strange breed of leaders who are determined to undermine the rule of law and override the constitution,” Khoza said in the report.

“This is not the accountable democracy for which generations suffered and fought.”

Zuma’s lack of a formal education and training in intelligence services ­haven’t prepared him to lead South Africa, Khoza wrote in his 2011 book ­“Attuned Leadership.”

Zuma doesn’t have the “complexity that is demanded of leadership in the 21st century,” Khoza wrote.
 
Since Khoza’s annual report comments, Nedbank, which is controlled by London-listed life insurer Old Mutual Plc, has been publicly criticised five times by government.

Earlier this week the government also attacked Nedbank for failing to have a black or female chief executive.

“Perhaps the answer to Khoza’s outburst is not so much to be irritated by him, but for the workers and the poor of the country to intensify the struggle for the transformation of the financial sector,” Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande wrote in his editorial in The New Age on Friday.

Khoza said this week that part of his life’s mission was to “contribute to the upliftment of South Africa and help achieve a better life for all.”

Nedbank said in a statement that it did not plan to elaborate on Khoza’s earlier statement.

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