I bank with FNB and I am proud to be a customer of theirs.
South Africans should know this story by now but overseas readers may not:
First National Bank is involved in a number of non-banking initiatives to give back to the community etc.
One of these was a petition to the Office of the President asking for more action to be taken on crime. They made thousands of little booklets that were addressed to the above Office. The plan was to send these out to the general public who would then fill in an incident of crime that had touched them. The petitions were (at the bank's expense) already stamped and addressed.
The Government got wind of the idea and (it is alleged) put pressure on the bank (who does the banking for some big government departments) and the whole plan was dropped.
FNB is a business and I understand them needing to reassess the situation and watching the bottom line first but I am very upset with the Government and the position they have taken.
It is obvious that crime is a huge deal in South Africa - even the conservative, edited, diminutive statistics that get released each year show how bad South Africa's crime levels are.
Even wikipedia has an article on crime in South Africa which begins "Crime is a major problem in South Africa. According to a survey for the period 1998-2000 compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, South Africa was ranked second for assault and murder (by all means) per capita, in addition to being ranked second for rape and first for rapes per capita."
(I feel that) It got to the point where normal people were sick of crime but were numb to it. The papers stopped printing stories about crime unless they were strange or terrible.
Then South Africa got interested in crime again:
- The Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula caused outrage among South Africans in June 2006 when he responded to opposition MPs in parliament, who were not satisfied that enough was being done to counter crime, saying that MPs who complain about the country's crime rate, should stop whining and leave the country (Also from the wikipedia)
- The 19th FIFA World Cup is scheduled to take place in South Africa. This event will bring tons of foreign capital into South Africa and promote to the entire world the idea of South Africa as a holiday destination. On the other hand - the infastructure and initial outlay is huge too. It is do-or-die. This competition has to be handled perfectly for the country to benefit. Crime is a risk to this. Possibly the most important one.
First National bank seem to be a very patriotic bank. They have loads of adverts promoting how great the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be. They are also (the main?) sponsor of http://www.homecomingrevolution.co.za/ which aims to promote South Africa to ex-patriots who may be interested in returning.
Reading a few messages on the forum there, the message is quite clear - "we would love to return home for a million reasons. and we will not for one reason - crime!"
It seems to me that FNB as a place has just, like the rest of us, had enough of the moaning about crime and wants to do something about it. They are not allowed to start their own police force and justice system so they are trying to get the attention of the people who can deal with crime.
Unfortunately instead of taking action against crime the Government have taken action against FNB.
And that...is a crime.