Nedbank boss critical of gov leaders attacking democratic institutions

In a mirror of events during the dying days of
apartheid when a big business stuck its
corporate neck out and complained about poor
political leadership, Nedbank chairman Reuel
Khoza has put the cat among government
pigeons by decrying “a strange breed of leaders”
in South Africa who were determined to
undermine the rule of law
Khoza, who is a former Eskom chairman, and
was known to be heavily politically connected to
the ANC during president Thabo Mbeki’s reign,
came out with guns firing in the Nedbank annual
He told shareholders in no uncertain terms that
these leaders were determined to undermine
the constitution.
“Our political leadership’s moral quotient is
degenerating and we are losing the checks and
balances that are necessary to prevent a
recurrence of the past,” he said.
His remarks followed recent moves from the
government to reassess the role of the
Constitutional Court and apparent meddling
from the presidency in the lifting of the
suspension of crime intelligence boss
Lieutenant-General Richard Mduli.
Murder and corruption charges against Mdluli
were mysteriously withdrawn while he is being
tipped to be appointed as the national police
Khoza, who declined to comment further
yesterday, said in the report: “This is not the
accountable democracy for which generations
suffered and fought.”
The integrity, health socio-economic soundness
and the prosperity of South Africa were, he said,
the collective responsibility of all citizens,
corporate and individual.
“We have a duty to build and develop this
nation and to call to book the putative leaders
who, due to sheer incapacity to deal with the
complexity of 21st century governance and
leadership, cannot lead.”
Pressed on whether his comments would not be
bad for businesses, such as Nedbank, Thulani
Sibeko, the group executive for group
marketing, communication and corporate affairs
at Nedbank said: “Dr Khoza is passionate about
ethical leadership in the public and private
“He has spoken along similar lines in several
forums and in books he has authored over many
years, and the statements draw attention to the
collective need to protect and defend the
country’s constitution.”
It is not clear how large the government’s
business is with Nedbank and Sibeko did not
refer to this in answering questions.
Cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi said he could
not comment, as it was not clear which political
leaders Khoza was referring to.
However, he said: “On top of the mind of (the)
government at this point is the big challenge
facing the country… of unemployment, poverty
and inequality. The infrastructure rollout
programme is the step to try and address these
When ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe
was asked yesterday to comment at a press
conference about party matters, including
discipline and leadership speculation by the
ANC’s top six leaders including President Jacob
Zuma, he said Khoza “had two deals fall through
under his watch… he can’t tell (the ANC) about
It is not clear whether that referred to his stint
at Eskom. Mantashe said Nedbank must focus
on business, not politics.
Banking Association chairman Cas Coovadia
welcomed the remarks by Khoza.
“Reuel is recognised by most people in South
Africa for his integrity… for being a pragmatic
and balanced person. Now the fact that he has
said that… is not bad for business. We should
have an environment where business (leaders)
and other stakeholders make constructive
(statements), speak their minds without having
to fear any repercussions.”
He acknowledged that business faced policy
uncertainty in the country. “Government needs
to provide leadership to ensure that we have
appropriate policies to address the multifaceted
challenges we face from a business point of
view, to enable business to conduct itself in a
way that the economy creates jobs. I don’t
think it is a problem to have good, open and
constructive debate.”
Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry
president Michael Bagraim said it was wonderful
to find someone “who is prepared to talk truth
to power… he deserves a medal”. He agreed
that the section nine institutions – those that
form a check on government – were being
undermined “at every turn”.
Bagraim believed Khoza was making a statement
because things in the country were beginning to
fall apart and there was not a recognition that in
the absence of the rule of law, there could be
He noted the chief executive of Barclays Bank
South Africa, later to become FNB, Chris Ball,
had criticised then apartheid President PW
Botha and Botha had come down on him like a
ton of bricks. But Ball had been proved right and
apartheid collapsed.
Ball, however, resigned as managing director in
1989 after a public bruising by a Botha-
appointed commission of inquiry, which probed
whether the bank had ironically supported the
then banned ANC. Ball was part of a business
delegation that held talks in 1985 when the ANC
was in exile.


(date:) 2012-04-03

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