One of the largest short-term insurers in South Africa, Auto & General, this week sought to distance itself from its right-wing partners.
Auto & General, which - along with Dial Direct and 1st for Women - is part of the Telesure group, owns 100% of the Afrikaans-focused insurer Virseker.
Auto & General has an agreement with the trade union Solidarity, which markets VirSeker products to its members, as well as to those of its lobby group AfriForum.
Since 2011, Virseker has paid out R32 million in premium income to the Virseker Trust, which funds mainly Solidarity projects, including an Afrikaans technical college and bursaries for Afrikaans speakers. In the past year alone, R12 million in premium income was paid towards the trust.
Earlier this month, Solidarity and AfriForum announced their plan to take a stake in Virseker. They undertook to secure 20,000 new policies for Virseker. They say this will enable the short-term insurer to register as an independent company, with Solidarity as one of its shareholders.
At the time, AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel urged “everyone who speaks Afrikaans to get a quote from Virseker”.
A couple of days later, AfriForum and Solidarity launched scathing attacks on Virseker competitor MiWay, whose CEO, René Otto, tweeted his thoughts about “The Lost Boys of Bird Island” – a book that chronicled alleged paedophilia among apartheid figures.
“The Lost Boys of Bird Island” is a must-read for white Saffas - especially Afrikaners who believe they are God’s chosen people - who are still in denial about the destruction of the Apartheid-era. It left me gutted. What do we learn from this and can we ever make amends?— Rene Otto (@reneotto5901) August 9, 2018
In a lenghty open letter to Otto, Solidarity executive (and Virseker Trust chair) Dirk Hermann said that “Afrikaners are tired of being bullied and criminalised” and that Otto underestimates their “gigantic buying power” – which according to him represents 30% of the buying power in financial services.
He said that the many Afrikaner clients of MiWay must be furious that Otto thought it was okay to “hit” them in this way.
In his letter and in later tweets, Hermann reminds Otto that MiWay was part of Santam, a company “born from the heart of Afrikaners”, without declaring his obvious conflict of interest in this matter. Virseker – a competitor of MiWay and Santam – is a key income stream for Solidarity.
Hermann and Solidarity regularly post about their links to and support of Virseker. In the comments section of Maroela Media, AfriForum’s media platform, readers are encouraged to cancel their MiWay policies and move to Virseker.
In his response, Afriforum's Kriel called for Otto’s resignation, and endorsed a YouTube video calling MiWay’s Afrikaans clients to action.
“This has nothing to do with us,” Auto & General CEO Ricardo Coetzee told Business Insider South Africa in response to Kriel's reaction.
When asked whether Auto & General reviewed its association with its partners after Kriel earlier this year denied that apartheid was a crime against humanity, Coetzee said: “Our entities are totally separate and we categorically would never support a statement like this.”
“It is our view that discrimination of any kind is deplorable.
“We have a purely commercial arrangement with Solidarity Financial Services.”
Coetzee says that Auto & General still owns 100% of Virseker and that the Solidariteit and AfriForum announcement does not change the Auto & General equity ownership in any way.
“In the future, should sufficient scale be met commercially, and should Virseker decide to apply for its own licence, the agreement states that we would discuss at that point whether Solidarity Financial Services could be a potential equity partner, along with any others that are interested at that time.”
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