Let's take a closer look at SA's banking double standards

Let's take a closer look at SA's banking double standards

CAPE TOWN – Over the last two years, South Africa has been a corporate crime scene, where at least three major conglomerates, have openly admitted to being involved in acts of corruption – accounting irregularities – and other commercial criminal acts.

Also, over the last two years, South Africa has been a cesspool of unaccountability; blame-shifting and double standards where those who have been at the forefront of pushing an anti-corruption ticket via the state capture narrative have been caught with their pants down.

The most astonishing hypocrisy in our democracy over the last two years has to be the blind-eye that the banking sector has turned towards the corruption that has been committed by the likes of technology giant EOH, Steinhoff International and sugar producer Tongaat Huletts.

A report compiled by ENSafrica on EOH found there was widespread corruption by EOH officials in some municipalities and a host of other government departments.

The report also found that the company and its subsidiaries had obtained several lucrative contracts, spanning several years, in a number of government departments through illicit means.

On the other hand, Steinhoff wiped close to R45 billion of pensioners monies off the markets when its CEO, Markus Jooste, was implicated in fraud, corruption and “accounting irregularities”, resulting in criminal charges being pursued by local and international authorities.

Not to be outdone, the 127-year-old Tongaat Huletts, in June this year, was suspended on the JSE and in London after it was established that it had overstated its financials and had also engaged in a series of “accounting irregularities”.

When it comes to big corporate in SA that have some major financial muscle, there seems to be a different set of rules as opposed to others who are on the other side of the spectrum.

How different are the likes of EOH, Steinhoff and Tongaat Huletts from the Gupta’s and their empire which was largely associated with corruption and State Capture in the South African economy?

Those who were implicated in State Capture or deemed politically exposed were dumped by the banking sector in SA, yet, the likes of EOH, who have admitted to massive fraud with government departments are still operating and the banks have not initiated any sanctions.

The Gupta’s have been central to the state capture narrative but so far have not been arrested, extradited, tried or convicted.

Is there a different set of rules for different players where racial factors are critical when deciding the type of action that is to be taken?

EOH, for instance, is reportedly criminally charging its executives yet banks have allowed them to function and their sponsors in the markets continue to operate with them.

If all the media reports over the last two years are anything to go by, one could be forgiven for believing that EOH is one of the most corrupted entities listed on the JSE.

Why are authorities turning a blind eye?

There is a situation in South Africa where black businessmen or executives are refused bank accounts, corporate bailouts and business loans purely on the grounds of being politically exposed.

A case in point is how at some point, Nedbank tried to shut down the bank accounts of Arthur Fraser.

The former State Security Agency director-general accused Nedbank of targeting him and his family earlier this year.

The bank served Fraser with a notice last week that it intended to close his accounts on May 22 for alleged reputational risk after he was mentioned in a book published towards the end of 2017.

However, the likes of former Steinhoff boss Markus Jooste continue to roam the streets freely, with their monies and bank accounts all intact.

The hypocrisy of the banking sector does not come as a surprise.

The banks have routinely also been implicated in apartheid practices of differential payments, where black people doing the same work as whites are paid far less than their white counterparts.

This obviously extends to other areas.

Their failure to be consistent with how they treat companies like EOH and Steinhoff as they do with black people's accounts should therefore not come as a surprise. They are part of the entire edifice of white supremacy.

These hypocrisies need to be exposed and publicized.

There is a greater role that is required for institutions such as the Competition Commission, Equality Courts and the Human Rights Commission to expose the racial bias of the banking sector in SA.

One also hopes that the relevant portfolio committees in parliament will start to make a lot of noise.

This is something that political parties must deal with promptly.