A Wunch Of Bankers

Let us, for argument’s sake, agree that I was having a business lunch at, say, Teazers on Tuesday.

I am speaking hypothetically, of course. I would never lower myself to indulge in something so repulsively middle class as a business lunch. Where I come from, business is best conducted late at night among rogues and reprobates and the eternally discreet Mr Jack Daniels.

Taking this conjecture one step further, imagine, if you will, that I spent the evening sampling a range of imported beverages whilst appreciating the assets of several fecund fillies fresh from the Balkans.

I expect the bill for such an evening would not be a pretty sight in the eyes of the working man. Luckily I am not one of them.

The bill is presented in a manner befitting the lickerish milieu. Perhaps it is written in curlicue on a lace panty, or rolled up and constrained by a scarlet garter.

I produce my credit card with a flourish and a doe-eyed Ukrainian virgin, envisioning the size of my overdraft limit, blushes coyly.

She takes the card away to be cloned so that her family in Sevastopol may survive another month, but then returns two minutes later with a gentleman in tow. He is three metres tall and has metal hooks for hands.

He is there to explain that my credit card has been declined.

Even though he speaks Russian, I get the message because he has me by the throat and is apparently planning to perform a rudimentary tracheotomy with the sharp edge of my card.

From my bed in the casualty ward, I use my one unbroken finger to email my bank to find out what the hell happened.

The reply is quick in coming: “I have done an investigation and noticed that the account is placed on a FICA freeze.”

A what? Have they mistaken me for a member of Robert Mugabe’s government? Am I on an Interpol list along with Nikolai Kravchenko and the boyish Lukic Dragan? Have they perhaps mistaken me for the notorious Jose Silvestre Ortega? I might have picked up a bit of a tan in Durban, but I’m nowhere near Dominican Republic brown.

The bank man explained helpfully. “FICA was passed into law as part of the South African government’s fight against money laundering and unlawful activities.
One of the requirements of FICA is that all financial institutions should IDENTIFY and VERIFY all new and existing clients.”

You want to get all uppercase with me? Fine. WHY DID YOU NOT WARN ME BEFORE FREEZING MY ACCOUNT?

Now, if I want to have access to my money – MY money – all I have to do is fight my way through traffic, battle for a parking spot, stand in a long queue of fellow thieves and money-launderers who have been fucked by the fickle finger of FICA, then get turned away because I forgot to bring one of the 17 documents needed to prove that I am not the Iranian terrorist Mohammadreza Abolghasemi in disguise.

I sloped off to the computer to find out more about this shadowy organisation that would have me join the ranks of the indigent.

Google coughed up Grande Fica Amateur Sex but that couldn’t be them. Anyone with the power to get a bank to arbitrarily and summarily freeze a long-standing customer’s account is not going to be interested in sex, amateur or otherwise. They are interested in power. Maybe some sex later. But power first. At all costs. That’s how Big Brudda rolls.

When I finally tracked down FICA’s website, I found that my money was being held to ransom by the Financial Intelligence Centre. Oh, please. You can’t be very bright if you think it’s in the interests of state security to freeze an account owned by someone who has been with the same bank for 30 years, most of which was spent in overdraft.

Then the page disappeared and up popped this message: “Your current session has expired due to an extended period of inactivity.” But it’s not true. My session couldn’t expire because I was never asked to log in.

I suspect if there are any extended periods of inactivity, they are taking place inside the FICA offices in Pretoria.

Under Careers, we are told there are no positions available. A government department with not a single vacancy? Incredible. My guess is that FICA consists of a one-eyed war veteran working on a stolen laptop in the Union Buildings parking garage.

But that still wouldn’t explain why, after freezing my account, the bank said: “In terms of the new FICA law your detail needs to be updated at the branch.”

The new law? It came into effect in 2001. Maybe he is permanently stoned. Weed has a habit of distorting time. Or so I’m told.

Yes, indeed. My bank also deserves a damn good kick in the teeth.

I was told in a subsequent email that a FICA freeze is imposed when documents are submitted to a branch but the branch fails to load them onto the system.

What documents? Which branch? All my banking business is conducted through a Nigerian transvestite based in an internet cafe in Sea Point. I haven’t been near a branch in years.

So, essentially, the blame lies with one or other irredeemably incompetent half-wit in a blue shirt slouched behind a bullet-proof window flicking through his Blackberry with one hand and my account with the other.

I could have had my face torn off were my card rejected at Teazers and not Woolworths. Instead, I died of embarrassment.

I’m changing banks and suing for loss of dignity, not to mention supper.

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