Selling South African Headlines, Regardless Of Ethics

Selling South African Headlines, Regardless Of Ethics

I was shocked, angry and deeply disappointed to read in the 22 February 2015 edition of a South African Sunday newspaper that attempted, utterly untruthfully, and irresponsibly, to link me and the rest of my family with the on going HSBC scandal. This is journalistic malpractice; there is no other way to describe it.

It is perhaps easier to start with the elements of the story which are true.  I am indeed 84 years old and my daughter, Vicki, does have a bank account in Geneva with HSBC.  That, sadly, is where the accuracy of the article stops.

A complete absence of fact has allowed for a gratuitous attack on a family whose financial and emotional commitment to the country of their birth is, I would suggest, second to none.

It should come as no surprise that my daughter has a bank account in Geneva.  She lives in Geneva, and has done so for over fifteen years.  She and the rest of the family know Geneva well.  The headquarters of some of our businesses are in Geneva, and one of the family’s award-winning hotels, the Hotel d’Angleterre, is situated in Geneva right next door to the HSBC bank building.

The newspaper’s article alleges that other members of the family also have, or had, accounts with HSBC.  It names me, my son Brett and my nephews Gavin and Michael, presumably implying that each of us have, in some way, been HSBC account holders. On behalf of all four of us, I can say categorically that none of us has ever had an HSBC bank account.

Notwithstanding this outright lie, the article goes on to produce a rambling, incoherent and utterly misleading account of a battle that I fought some years ago against the United States.  If anyone is interested in what really happened, a very detailed account of that struggle in contained in my book “Recollections of a Lucky Man, which is available from Amazon.

Perhaps the most disappointing, and indeed disturbing, aspect of the article is the use of the unrelated HSBC matter to attack, completely without justification, a family whose investments are amongst those of which South Africa ought to be most proud.

In the 20 years since we decided to assist in the redevelopment of the New South Africa, we have made significant financial investments in tourism, conservation, education, hospitals and the arts. The article makes a one-line reference, for instance, to the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, a property which we bought and lovingly restored in the finest tradition of that great hotel.  When we re-opened following its restoration, the Oyster Box received extraordinary praise from almost every quarter, and from right across the world.

It would have been good to have been able to say that praise for the Oyster Box was universal.  Sadly, though, praise was not universal.  There was one critical voice.  The single dark cloud in an otherwise perfect sky came in the shape of this same publication, who despite availing itself in no short measure of the hotel’s hospitality, took great pleasure in providing a platform for a local with a particular axe to grind against the Oyster Box.  Instead of celebrating the re-birth of a wonderful South African asset, the paper’s contribution was a snide and worthless attack.

Twenty plus years on, is this really where we are at? An environment where journalists are willing to disrespect rights of privacy, responsibility, and journalistic integrity. Is this how South African journalists choose to exercise creative freedom?

All I say is, shame on you.