This was a great week for South Africa. It might not have felt like it at the Zondo Commission into State Capture in Johannesburg where some of Juju’s Teletubbies swapped their overalls for ersatz camo, ADT flak jackets and handguns, while the rent-a-mob in red did their best to drown out Pravin Gordhan’s testimony.
But for a very brief moment I actually agreed with the self-styled “commander-in-chief” when he promised to do an H&M on Momentum; the story that was broken last Saturday by former colleague Tanya Waterworth about an insurer welshing on a R2.4million life insurance policy.
Nathan Ganas was shot dead in an abortive hijacking two years ago. Momentum wouldn’t pay because Ganas never disclosed he had high blood sugar levels - in fact they wanted his widow to repay the R50 000 instant cash payment they disbursed on his tragic death and which his family used for his funeral. As crusty former news editor Ray Joseph was wont to say: “you can’t make this shit up”.
Waterworth covered the original tragedy and then kept in touch with the family, fighting for them in the finest traditions of good old-fashioned journalism when they had no one else. What happened next was that everyone, including the EFT C-I-C, jumped on the bandwagon and literally created a momentum of public outrage that swamped Momentum.
To their credit, Momentum saw the error of their ways, recanted, and did the right thing not just for Denise Ganas and her family, but for all their other clients who might fall victim to violent crime (provided of course that they aren’t insured for more than R3million).
It was a victory for common sense and for all South Africans screwed over by faceless corporates, call centres and clerks specifically chosen for their bovine indifference and studied incompetence.
This was a particularly egregious example of callousness and profiteering, but there are so many others that we all live through every day. I sat at ORT last Saturday for almost four hours after BA delayed a flight to Livingstone.
Afterwards I was asked to fill in a questionnaire to “share my experience” with them, on the proviso that they wouldn’t be able to respond to me, but would share my feedback with their “relevant internal teams”. Truly.
That’s about as useful as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest, but you can see how that attitude would ultimately translate to welshing on paying out a life insurance policy where you died in a hail of bullets, because you had high blood pressure - because that’s what the legal fine print allows. Not for nothing is the law an ass and high-level executives totally out of touch with the lived reality of their ostensible customers.
Talking of asses, by Wednesday we were back to the faux revolutionaries in Parktown squealing against those lifting the lid on the suppurating mess of state capture, before getting into their luxury German people carriers.
Maybe it’s time their ordinary members read the fine print on what they signed up for too.
* Ritchie is a media consultant.
** He is a former journalist and newspaper editor.
The Saturday Star