Follow-up open letter Ms Gil Marcus, Chairperson of Absa Board regarding Absa's democracy support programme from Bantu Holomisa, MP - UDM President (11 March 2009)

Your email correspondence, dated 7 March 2009, regarding the above matter refers.

I believe that you are failing to acknowledge the central concern that I raised, namely that delaying funding to after the elections may well skew the results of the elections.

A related point is that the election is the primary occasion for voters to participate in democracy, you cannot claim that a refusal to fund that process leading up to voting day will strengthen democracy. This is the only opportunity that all of us will have to empower the voters with the information to make a choice that will affect how they are governed for the next five years. Funding political parties after the election cannot have the same benefit.

I am disappointed that we weren't even properly informed about this change in policy; it was a vague implication in ABSA's initial correspondence, which was purposefully dressed up like an announcement of funding.

Fortunately we noticed the implication and raised our concerns. You failed to say up front that you had significantly amended your policy, but now you respond with indignation when your attempt at a stealthy change in policy is made public.

You state: "we are supportive of South Africa's democracy, and our policy in this regard is public and transparent." But that is not true; you changed that policy in a stealthy manner and then complain that it is made public knowledge.

What is of even bigger concern to me is that you state in your latest correspondence that "Upon my appointment as Chairperson of Absa, I have had occasion to review a number of policies, including the one related to our support for democracy in South Africa."

You reviewed the policy? Not the Board of ABSA?

Your decision has profound political implications. You have not demonstrated, or even attempted to demonstrate why a policy that was acceptable in 2004 is not acceptable in 2009. None of the issues that ABSA have raised as supposed concerns in response to media queries are issues that didn't exist in 2004. Nor did you communicate these concerns to the political parties when you 'announced' the policy change; thus it looks like excuses generated purely to fob off the media.

Your shareholders, clients and the public at large deserve to know why a policy that was hailed by all in 2004 as the best way of supporting multi-party democracy has been changed. All of us deserve to know why the Chairperson of ABSA has seen fit to meddle with a policy that all stakeholders found acceptable and unilaterally made a decision with profound political implications.

Bantu Holomisa, MP

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