As any innocent white South African who has been the victim of a vindictive and dishonest black colleague will tell you, the race card is a very potent weapon.
In the highly-charged social cauldron that is South Africa, with the injustices and barbarity of apartheid hanging over us all, ever present, it is so hard to apply the brakes when the pendulum swings the right way.
Take the example of the clearly ineptly-run VBS Bank. It has just been placed in curatorship, a procedure to try and turn around a troubled business.
What de we make of the rhetoric as it was heading for the iceberg. VBS Chairman Thifhiwa Matodzi wrote a strongly, and rather lengthy, letter to the regulatory authorities.
The message was clear. The bank was not bailed out and supported because it was black owned.
“We were faced with a well-organised and powerful system which does not tolerate growing black banks and black excellence, said Matodzi.
If that is not a race card, I don’t know what is.
And when the (black) Reserve Bank Governor was asked about this accusation, he dismissed it with contempt.
Only a fool would pretend that racism was eradicated by the Mandela rainbow.
But what absolute, misleading, offensive nonsense it is to suggest that the authorities tried to crush a black-owned bank because of its blackness.
Walk through the corridors of the Reserve Bank or the Treasury, and you will still see white faces, but these are not white-run institutions, any more than any other aspect of our public sector deliberately operates in a pro-white, anti-black manner.
Everybody wants any black bank to succeed; nobody wanted to crush VBS. There are so many examples of successful, well-run black businesses in SA. This was not one of them.
This bank did achieve some notoriety a few years back by offering a Nkandla morgage to former President Jacob Zuma. But there is no evidence that this was anything other than a commercial transaction. And certainly it would not explain the bank’s current woes.
The Black Business Council, which is a very powerful lobby group, entered the debate on Monday. It expressed “serious concern” at events that culminated in the placing of VBS Mutual Bank (VBS) into curatorship by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
“While the details of the circumstances leading to this unfortunate act are unknown at this stage to the BBC, we remain deeply concerned due to the fact that the SARB and National Treasury did not take the BBC into confidence on the matter affecting a black bank,” it protested.
“The BBC is currently engaging with all affected parties; National Treasury, VBS and the SARB in order to find possible amicable solutions for VBS.”
One understands the concern, but would we have expected any business lobby group to have been consulted about the demise of a mainly-white-owned bank?
Why the red-carpet, sprcial treatment, call for a black bank?
This is race politics, not sound economics.
By all means promote BEE, through government procurement, legislation to transform the economy, support for competent education to provide a pipeline of skilled black workers, including bankers.
But don’t say a bank in today’s South Africa has been battered because it is a black bank.
That is dishonest, self-serving, and will do nothing to usher in a truly fair and equal South Africa.