ANC bullying

David Bullard argues that the anger at FNB for capitulating
to the ANC, though understandable, is unfair
I feel a bit like the last hyena to arrive at the kill this week.
The whole sorry FNB carcase has been so thoroughly picked
over, gnawed at and regurgitated that there isn’t much left
for me and even the vultures have moved on, preferring the
rich pickings of the Nkandla kill. But there are still a couple
of bones to grind so here goes.
It’s hard to believe that the whole FNB business wasn’t an
intentional publicity stunt. I say that because FNB and its
parent FirstRand are highly sophisticated operators and
nothing gets done at a large corporate without being first
signed off by someone in a high position. That rule is central
to the very notion of corporate job preservation. So to even
suggest that an expensive advertising campaign could be
launched for a major bank like FNB without a single senior
executive of that bank signing the project off beggars belief.
I have to say that had I been a senior executive at FNB I
would have certainly signed the project off knowing full well
that it might cause rather more than ripples among certain
members of our beloved ruling party. I doubt whether even
I would have anticipated the blind rage shown by the ANC’s
bully in chief, Gwede Mantashe, but even if I had it would
have been a risk worth taking.
The advertising campaign (for those of you who may have
slipped in and out of a coma this past week) simply
involved getting young, mostly black South Africans to talk
about their hopes and expectations for the future. The
comments were apparently unscripted and weren’t
particularly surprising given the political climate in the
This is obviously why certain elements of the ANC, ably lead
by the frothing and spitting Mantashe, labelled the whole
campaign as "treasonous". It was, of course, nothing of the
sort but if you happen to be member of a political party
with a reputation for sleaze and little else then the
comments would undoubtedly have rubbed a scab off an
ever festering sore.
The ANC made clear its feelings about the FNB ad, carefully
avoiding any rational debate or discussion, and the poor
bank were forced to issue what the media has gleefully
interpreted as a grovelling apology. Bearing in mind the
viciousness of the ANC and the fact that the children who
had been filmed making the comments were all easily
identifiable I think FNB did the right thing. I wouldn’t put it
past the ANC to compile dossiers on those involved in order
to victimise them at some future date. The party’s capacity
for evil appears to know no bounds.
One of the things that really rankled with the comrades was
a comment by a sixteen year old that the Basic Education
Minister, Angie Motshega, was "brainless". How can a mere
sixteen year old call someone in such an exalted position
and a respected elder of the ruling party brainless they
fumed? So having sex at the age of 12 is OK with the ruling
party but having an opinion at the age of 16 isn’t it seems.
In a robust democracy it’s perfectly acceptable to pass
such comments on those in power and one only needs to
look at examples from the merciless US, UK and French
press to know that our politicians are treated with kid
gloves by comparison. When, if ever, are they going to start
behaving like adults?
I would suggest that FNB have done ordinary South Africans
a huge favour. Far from rushing to close bank accounts in
protest, people should be grateful that the campaign
brought out the real ugliness of the ANC for all to see. While
the SA delegation was poncing around in Davos telling
doubtful investors that SA is open for foreign investment,
the general secretary of the party and his henchmen were
revealing the true spirit of the party. The message is
abundantly clear; deal with us at your peril and on our
terms, or else it will be worse for you.
The recent threat to withdraw Amplats’ mining license
unless the company rethought its plan to retrench 14000
workers is another fine example of government bullying.
Once again it was that business genius Gwede Mantashe
who labelled Amplats "unpatriotic" and accused big
business of treating the government with disdain.
I wonder why David Cameron didn’t threaten to throw
Honda out of the UK when they announced they were laying
off 800 workers because of poor sales. Probably because
he understands better than Cde Gwede that companies
don’t run on fresh air and that they need to make profits to
survive and be able to pay wages. As I have said many
times before our cabinet ministers really could benefit from
a course in basic economics.
The collective feeling of disappointment that FNB was seen
to backtrack by apologising to the ANC is an understandably
emotional one. We have all been brought up to believe that
the good guy triumphs over evil in the end. When the caped
crusader of FNB rushed in last week with the refreshingly
innovative You Can Help campaign it looked for a moment
as though the voice of the ordinary South African might be
Far from being an attempt to unseat a democratically
elected government or to stir up opposition ahead of the
next election the campaign was, I believe, an honest
attempt to give young South Africans a voice and to ask
whether we couldn’t be doing better than we are as a
The government’s wholly unreasonable and bullying
response makes it quite clear that the subject of service
delivery is not up for discussion. So the good guy retires
with a torn cape and a bloody nose and we are left casting
around for a new hero to save us. Or maybe a heroine?


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