Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

FNB stirs a hornet's nest
Well, it seems no one can make heads or tails of how and why FNB pulled their anti-government campaign about crime. All and sundry have been decrying government's 'interference' in 'forcing' FNB to pull the campaign. Others have blamed other large corporates for telling FNB to stop operating outside of the joint business/government anti-crime initiative. Probably the most detailed account of what happened comes from Alec Hogg at Moneyweb, who writes a well-researched piece on the internal developments within FNB that led to the campaign being dropped.

From his piece, it seems as though some internal conflicts were to blame:
The first sign of trouble came from an unlikely source. Harris's predecessor as FirstRand CEO and long-time business partner, Laurie Dippenaar, is intimately involved in the joint business/government initiative aimed at addressing structural issues within the entire justice system. While FNB was briefing editors about the campaign, Dippenaar was engaged in a high-level meeting with the anti-crime task team, including Safety & Security Minister Charles Nqakula, at which insiders say "great progress was made".

Dippenaar, having been told earlier in the day about FNB's proposed campaign, was obliged to disclose to the meeting what was about to hit the media on Sunday. The news was not warmly welcomed.

FNB head Paul Harris's final say on the matter is as such:
"We spoke to a wide range of our stakeholders and realised there were too many different interpretations of what we were trying to achieve. Perhaps we didn't consult widely enough beforehand.

"The decision to pull was ours and ours alone. But if all this has helped people who never realised before that fighting crime should be South Africa's number one objective then something good might come out of it after all."

To further exacerbate the issue, PSG wrote an open letter to Thabo today expressing support for FNB's campaign and challenging government to "show us you care, that you are serious about eradicating crime".

Whatever the reasoning behind FNB's decision to pull the campaign, the publicity surrounding it has gone a large way to meeting their initial objectives in the first place. South African business, and the public, are talking about it, and one would imagine that many letters will be posted Thabo's way over the next few weeks.

It's encouraging though, that big business is taking the lead here for the public to follow. Crime is a dampening factor in South Africa's success, and it should be on everyone's lips, most notably Thabo Mbeki's.