The First National Bank (FNB) has decided to end its banking relationship with Democracy in Action, a non-profit company (NPC) formed last year to raise funds for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Democracy in Action shared a letter from FNB on Twitter on Thursday which said the termination will take effect on 19 November, 2020.
No reasons provided
“You are therefore urged to please visit your nearest FNB branch accounts listed below by 14:00 on 19 November, 2020,” the bank said. It listed two accounts – a Gold Business Cheque account and eBucks Business account.
FNB asked Democracy in Action to provide alternative accounts from other banks to transfer funds in the FNB accounts. It did not provide reasons for the planned closures.
Democracy in Action started raising funds for Mkhwebane in August last year after she lost her appeal against a personal cost order against her in the South African Reserve Bank-ABSA matter.
The NPC tweeted on Thursday that it had paid R238,000 towards Mkhwebane’s cost order so far. It urged well-wishers to continue making donations to the accounts.
“The timing of this letter is very suspicious. We have since engaged our lawyers to look at this matter and advise accordingly. You can in the meantime still deposit your donations for @AdvBMkhwebane until we find other suitable avenues for receiving donations,” it wrote.
FNB declined to comment on the matter, citing bank-client confidentiality. Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segwale told IOL that she was not involved in the fundraising effort.
“Accordingly, Democracy in Action is best placed to comment on the matter as they were the ones involved in the campaign and not the Public Protector,” Segwale said.
The NPC similarly moved to shield Mkhwebane from any involvement. “Please be advised that Advocate Mkhwebane does not manage the donations. This was started by people who felt she needed justice and are supporting her,” it emphasised.
During a media briefing in October last year, Mkhwebane however defended the fundraisers, saying they were doing so because “our democracy is in danger.”
She said, “People who are raising money for the Public Protector understand that our democracy is in danger and if we allow the people who are occupying these positions, who are there for them, being threatened by personal cost orders, it will be a challenge.”