Pretoria - In delivering the 13th Percy Qoboza Memorial Lecture at Unisa last Thursday, veteran scribe and public servant Sandile Memela referred to the relationship between media houses and their backers as a classical case of “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.
Simply put, the person who provides the money for something decides what will be done, or has a right to decide what will be done. The same scenario best defines how the banks operate in South Africa.
Spare a moment for the consumer whose car finance application was turned down simply because, despite having a payslip and bank statements showing that s/he had a stable job, the company s/he worked for was “unstable” during Covid-19 era, and thus continued employment was not guaranteed.
The fact is that most employers battled during that time, and others have yet to recover.
Take for instance the matter involving Sekunjalo Group and the banks, which seem hellbent on closing the company’s accounts, ignoring the fact no commercial transaction of substance and scale is possible without banking services.
The banks have justified their conduct on the basis of the reputational risk of dealing with Sekunjalo due to malfeasance and impropriety comments made by the Commission of Inquiry into Ayo’s (a Sekunjalo affiliate) dealings with the Public Investment Corporation.
The notion that the clients of the banks should go to the banks, cap in hand, and beg to do business with these institutions is best described as gobbledygook.
The banks’ right to operate should be tied to the right of the client to bank.
If reputation was the yardstick for a good and reliable client, then far too many South Africans and businesses linked to them would not qualify to bank and would hide their money in sofas and under mattresses.
Sekunjalo must keep up the struggle until “he who pays the piper
runs out of tunes to call”, for the sake of the citizen whose car and housing finance applications were turned down, or to prevent the banks from treating other clients in the same way in future.