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01 Sep 2015 09:44
To accuse UCT councillors Ian Farlam and Max Price of having “blood on their hands” is nonsensical, says Allan Greenblo.
As it started, by targeting the legacy of one dead white male, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign claimed morality. As it progresses, by targeting the activity of two living white males, the rump of campaigners cannot claim credibility.
Members of a university as distinguished as UCT might have been expected to prefer substance over sloganeering.
Read: ‘A riot is the language of the unheard’
Clearly, however, the campaigners either ignore or are ignorant of how pension funds operate.
That said, the pension-fund system as it functions has glaring defects. Among them:
The residue of campaigners for Rhodes Must Fall are preening themselves on hindsight being a perfect science, notably when they focus on one shareholding in one fund at one time. If trustees of the UCT fund have “blood on their hands” because of the investment in Lonmin, then so too must all trustees of all pension funds similarly invested.
And so also must the fund members who, having neither stood for election as trustees nor voted in trustee elections, now shout from the sidelines at those with lesser inertia. To be a trustee requires sacrifices in time and dedication in effort, with minimal or no financial recompense, but facing personal liability nonetheless.
At present, there are over 3 500 active funds with each having a minimum of four trustees representing a total of more than eight million members. Pension funds are the largest single category of investors in JSE-listed companies. The scope for fund members to instigate programmes of shareholder activism is therefore formidable.
If only the remaining Rhodes Must Fall campaigners realised it, they wouldn’t be barking up the wrong tree. Presuming that they are indeed members of the UCT fund, not exclusively students purportedly concerned for the reputation of UCT but whose publicity quest damages it, they should rather be looking to themselves at rights they’ve neglected to exercise.
Let them explain why.
Allan Greenblo is editorial director of Today’s Trustee, a quarterly magazine mainly for trustees of retirement funds. Views expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.
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