Editorial

Dear Reader


INVESTEC'S IMMORAL EARNINGS

South African banks, we have said in the past, are equally venal and self-serving – and much of a muchness when it comes to run-of-the-mill banking. It makes little difference which one you choose to run your cheque account.

True – but there is one that, despite its ads' pretensions to aesthetic and intellectual superiority, is so morally reprehensible – a bank that has so ruthlessly targeted the most vulnerable in society to secretly extort indecently huge returns for itself, that we would suggest that no right-minded person should do business with it.

The ruthless pursuit of profit has always been the hallmark of the famous Investec triumvirate: Stephen Koseff, Hugh Herman and David Nurek. It's always had an ugly edge to it. Koseff's longstanding business relationship with Brett Kebble, and the skill with which he exploited his insider knowledge of Kebble's criminal dealings in effect (secretly) to extort an extraordinary and hugely profitable deal out of JCI and Randgold's patently criminal directors, at the expense of their other creditors, leaves him tainted, by association, with the smell of criminality. (See nose90: "Thieves and bankers".)

Read our lead story "Investec's multi-billion rand rip-off" and you will know why any trustee that invests trust or pension funds with Investec is irresponsible; why anyone who buys into an Investec pension scheme is a fool. What of investing in Investec shares? You will likely make a profit – but you will knowingly and willingly be sharing in the proceeds of an immoral enterprise.

You will be known by the friends you keep.

The Editor

FRENCH KISSES AND CORRUPTION

South Africa is a founder member of the African Union (AU) and a signatory to the NEPAD conventions against corruption. Both oblige our government to ban deals with companies convicted of, or incriminated by, corruption.

The huge arms deal controversies implicate two companies, BAe and Thint, which had many such prior allegations reported against them in the European media. The British parliament’s Hansard officially documents how Tony Blair stepped in to protect BAe’s corrupt dealings from public exposure. Thint has battled all the way to our own Constitutional Court to keep the (now widely known) evidence of its corrupt dealings in South Africa out of court, because, it says, the evidence was “unfairly” obtained. (How fair, one asks, is corruption?) Yet the arms deal rolls on.

Of even greater concern to all South Africans right now is the announcement that Eskom has shortlisted French nuclear giant Areva for contracts worth anywhere between R120bn and R700bn – up to ten times the amount involved in the arms deal.

On 13 January, City Press reported as follows:
“The director of a weekly publication was arrested on Friday in Bangui, Central African Republic, because of an article identifying government officials who allegedly received money from the French company Areva.

“Journalist Faustin Bambou .... was arrested following a 21 Dec article published in the Hills of Oubangui, which alleged that two government officials had received large sums of money from nuclear energy company Areva.”

Another source claims that bribes to the two bureaucrats totalled ten million euros, equivalent to over R100m. With France’s hideous colonial history in Africa, are we surprised that President Sarkozy arrives in South Africa with Areva’s salesmen in his personal entourage, and then piously declares: “African civil society and public opinion wants us to be directly involved, by, for example, denouncing corruption.”?

Even more unacceptable, Eskom has also shortlisted Laymeyer to design new power stations. In 2003 Laymeyer was convicted in Lesotho of paying bribes of R2,5 million to the chief executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority. Consequently, in 2006, the World Bank banned Laymeyer from any new contracts for seven years (Business Report, 18 February).

Unless these reports are convincingly refuted, every South African needs to demand that Eskom removes forthwith those two companies from its tender short-lists, and bans deals with them. If it does not, what is the value of South Africa’s signature on the AU and NEPAD conventions against corruption? Indeed what will the conventions themselves be worth?

Keith Gottschalk
University of the Western Cape

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