Last week a letter from FNB's Paul Harris to his ex pat mate "Jeff" appeared on the Homecoming Revolution website. It then appeared as a filler piece in the Sunday Times Business Times section and the following morning was used to bulk out Business Day. It's now said to have "gone viral" which is just another way of saying that a lot of people with nothing better to do have e.mailed it to their entire address book.
Thanks to the services of a shadowy group of anarchists known as WikiLies we have managed to get our hands on a leaked response from Jeff to Paul Harris. Read on...
Jeez mate....If I'd known my e.mails to you were going to go public I would never have attached that jpeg of those two obliging dusky maidens who joined us both on my boat on Pittwater. One of the lads down at the yacht club told me that your e.mail to me appeared in some fish-wrap newspaper last Sunday and that I ought to respond because it paints me as a bit of a wowser.
I can take a hint and obviously it was stupid of me to send you copies of articles by the likes of Clem Sunter and Mbeki Jnr when it was perfectly obvious that you would have already read them. So I won't do it again. But what's all this stuff about often getting e-mails from "concerned friends" and telling us that it's sweet of us to care. I hope I haven't grown thin skinned after all these years in Aussie but I did find that a touch patronising old buddy. Those quote marks suggest that you doubt my sincerity which is definitely not the case.
I know you're hooked up to that Homecoming Revolution outfit which tries to persuade South Africans to bring their skills back home after they've qualified for foreign citizenship. Purely out of interest, what is the ratio of black to white South Africans that you're tempting back? It would be interesting to know because some cynical bastard once suggested that Homecoming Revolution's main job was to bring people back to fix up the mess caused by the new elite. In which case I hope it's working for you.
Now I know you've survived many things before like Ge Korsten (a joke...right?) and that your land is beautiful, you are all cool people and even manage to win the odd sporting event once you've persuaded your politicians that the team should be selected on talent rather than demographics. I also know that you have some top business brains there and that there are many hard working people in SA (I used to be one of them, remember?) but please don't accuse those of us who criticise SA's politics of whingeing from a position of comfort. And I'm afraid I had to reach for the sick bag when you started beating the drum about all the good works you do for underprivileged communities. So did Jimmy Savile.
You ask if I've heard of a chap called Julius Malema as if I've been going walkabout in the outback these last few years. We do have telly in Oz you know and broadband that is rather faster than yours so of course I've heard of this thieving layabout. And he worries me more than he seems to worry you.
You've come a long way since those days at Rand Consolidated Investments in the early eighties Paul. I see in the Sunday Times rich list that you are among the top 20 richest men in SA with a fortune estimated at around R2bln. Wow.....who would have thought? I know you live in a very secure complex with 24/7 guards and I am damn sure that your financial affairs have been cleverly structured to legally avoid paying any more tax than you really have to.
That's the privilege of the super rich and I don't have any problem with that. My problem is that I am not sure you are really qualified to speak for the average Saffer when you tell them to buck up and put on a happy face because they're all rainbow children. You're in the very fortunate position of having a lot more choice than the majority of your countrymen and I have no doubt that you have hedge strategies in place should your sunny optimism turn out to be misplaced.
Back in 2007 I recall that you spent R20 million on a campaign to get little Thabo to take crime seriously. I searched the internet and found this piece to refresh your memory. You were forced to withdraw that campaign after government threatened to pull accounts from FNB. It was a PR cock-up of note and to make things worse the rest of the business community put the boot in as well. You were accused of setting up in opposition to the democratically elected government. So it's hardly surprising that your backbone has taken a pummelling and that you are keen to make amends now. But writing complete claptrap and burying your head in the sand is no way to do it.
You claim in your e.mail that you have passionate debates in SA but you know that isn't the case. You know that all the leading newspapers depend on government advertising to survive and that they silence voices they find too strident. You also know that the SABC is a shambles and that Primedia are now seen by many in Gauteng as the national broadcaster. Their saccharine recipe for broadcasting ensures that those too critical of government are labelled un-South African or racist and are, from then on, excluded from the right to debate.
You ask how you can help me from stressing about South Africa Paul. Let me tell you. We ex-pats may sometimes give the impression that we think your politicians are a bunch of incompetent knuckleheads who couldn't pull a greasy stick out of a dead dingo's arse (to coin a local phrase). I assure you that we do this because that's how brand SA comes across after 18 years of freedom. There will be those who demonstrate schadenfreude but many of us still have family there and are genuinely concerned about Clem's 25% failed nation status probability.
What worries me most is that you are a leading business figure and yet you don't seem to be seeing the big picture. On the contrary you seem decidedly laid back and are simply hoping things will work out. I guess if you're worth R2bln and in your sixties then that's a luxury you can afford. What I cannot understand though is how pretending things are OK when they are so obviously far from OK is a good business strategy. Remember that ghastly Dealstream episode, not to mention SPJi and the vast losses in equity trading during your watch? How could you forget? The analysts suggested after the event that the losses could have been much lower if the problems had been recognised and acted upon earlier.
And that's all I'm asking Paul. Your country is being run into the ground by a bunch of commies who don't even support capitalism. How can you expect them to perform? And the amount that is disappearing out of the back door ought to worry you as much as it worries the rest of your less, fortunate countrymen. Kids don't get text books, pregnant women sleep on the floors of ill equipped public hospitals, tenderpreneurs keep the luxury car market buoyant but fail to build the roads they were contracted to.....it's a farce mate. And I won't even mention the succession of dodgy police chiefs you've suffered.
So please Paul, take off those expensive rose tinted specs of yours, smell the raw sewage and stop pretending you have a functioning government. Then I'll be only too happy to put in a good word for you when I get the chance.
See you later
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