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An open letter to the President

Honourable President,

I was very hesitant to write this letter in the first place, for I know how dearly you love to committeefy all matters. Well, most matters then, for you certainly did not call a committee together last year when you overturned the decision by the honourable Finance Minister and the esteemed Governor of the Reserve Bank to deny Barclays Bank plc a majority stake in Absa Bank. You are most able, it seems, on very special occasions, to take executive decisions.

I’m sure you will understand my hesitation. It’s been taken in the light of your decision to get a committee together to deal with the violence meted out at foreign nationals from further up north on the African continent.

(Here I wish to take a moment to remember that great display of oratory during the opening of Parliament a while ago, and the thrilling identification of millions upon millions of people of Africa. [Perhaps not so much the Arabs, for the only time they want to be Africans is during the Africa Cup of Nations – other than that, they are happy, no, they insist on simply being called Arabs, belonging to the Arab League of Nations] This was when you offered your poetic description of what throbs in the beings of almost all people from Africa. The great Roman amphitheatres of old would have been packed and that speech of yours would have been one of the great mediums of the timeless traffic of ideas — from Pompei down to our own Biblical Stephanus to yourself…”I am an African”)

Sorry for the digression, I do this sort of thing sometimes. So, instead of mailing this letter (Essop Pahad would not let it even reach you! Fox of a man, he is!), I decided that you should read it with the millions of people here. Now I’m not naive to think that millions of people and yourself are reading ThoughtLeader, but I trust in my gut that this message will reach you.

If you can secretly work with the British and American secret services to literally remove a man of Pakistani origin from a house in Durban (what is it about governments that they do this sort of thing while all of us are sleeping? If it’s right, do it in the daylight that the entire world can see it, my granny always says…), I believe, balls and bones, that something of this little note will reach you. What am I on about? A whole host of things, but today it’s about the treatment of people from countries in Africa at the hands of South Africans. Some South Africans. And the Government’s policy blackout on this.

I need not remind you, Mr President, that these people are from countries that protected layers and layers of South Arica’s finest during the times when this country of ours had no sense of itself, from top to bottom. Their taxes protected, fed and housed a great number of ministers and senior personnel right across the civil service. It is simply scandalous that this matter has not been addressed in the most public of manners by your Government.

If you can be the guest, together with the rest of this country, of an ex-President and his family, at great expense of all tax payers, if the South African economy can afford the opulence of seven families living in disturbing extravagance, it is only fair to expect from you as public protector number one, to put the policy framework in place for the lives of people who have nothing left between themselves and barbarism.

Appear on television, speak to the nation about this, condemn this senseless violence. Go from township to township, as you did during those election rallies, and work tirelessly to explain to the nation why this must stop … and while you’re at it, announce the projects that will bring work to local communities, dealing with the causes of this violence in the most practical of ways.

(I can’t say this publicly, so I’ll whisper: now is the time to speak to the Chief Executive of Barclays Bank about the super profits they take out of the country. Tell them to establish work schemes in communities where Absa clients live. For every Rand taken out of the country, tell them how great a gesture it will be to local people if they plough back 40 cents thereof…no, no! Don’t go on the moral case here, don’t tell them it will be good on humanitarian grounds. Give them the business case. Explain to them how ploughing back binds communities together around a work programme, how a true sense of belonging resonating in areas where this violence occurs, and how Absa branches can lift peole’s visions above the banalities of daily life. Tell them that dealing with the symptoms of the fundamental issues distracts you and them from going on with the real task at hand: delivering services. They know conflict resolution costs time and time is money and money is what they worship – wait, don’t tell them that one! – tell them giving a 40 cents of each Rand they make will ensure that both Absa and Government can focus on the corporate priorities of the respective organisations. They will buy this, I assure you…and you having started at 40 cents will land yourself a handsome 28 cents of every Rand Barclays takes to Britain in a scheme for job creation…the point I simply make, Mr President, is that there is a way out! You have to stop this madness!)

I will, from time to time, write to you to raise a matter of crucial concern. Sometimes it might be just a single sentence — I promise, I won’t resort to the blue tongue. Permit me this impertinence, however…would it not be a sound decision to lay off the whisky? No? Ok, just in the morning then…?

In humility,

Citizen from afar


  • Steven Lamini

    Steven Lamini is a specialist adviser in one of the key policy fields troubling modern-day Europe and works across a range of equality fields, advising on policy and strategic approaches to cohesion. His interests are wide and varied, and he writes on world politics, economic issues, current events, mediocrities and lame-duck presidents of countries. He believes that heads should be enlightened, but somehow regrets having such a stubborn principle, for some heads are rather best chopped off. He lives in York.