President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: REUTERS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: REUTERS

I am astounded that RW Johnson does not know that America’s leading bankers and industrialists plotted a coup d’etat against president Franklin Roosevelt, and intended to install a fascist dictatorship modelled on Italy’s Benito Mussolini (Fake FDR story, January 23).  That conspiracy is well documented.

I concede the inadvertent typo stating that FDR came to office in 1934 instead of 1933, but the narrative itself is correct. FDR’s example is pertinent to the crisis facing SA, including opposition within ANC ranks to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to remedy former president Jacob Zuma’s disastrous legacies.

Two thousand American banks collapsed during the final days of president Herbert Hoover’s inept administration. Unemployment was 25% and the economy had contracted from $100bn to $55bn. Revolution in Washington was feared when FDR was inaugurated in March 1933.

Roosevelt’s first official action closed every bank in the US for five days, which restored calm. FDR’s further actions in his first 100 days in office antagonised Wall Street financiers, who accused him of being a socialist.

Bankers and industrialists in 1934 planned to muster an army of half a million former soldiers and to hold Roosevelt hostage or, alternatively, replace him with Gen Smedley Butler. Instead, Butler exposed the plot.

FDR reportedly told JPMorgan and his co-conspirators he would refrain from prosecuting them for treason if they dropped their opposition to the New Deal. Bankers then, as now, believed they were too big to fail, and too rich to jail.

It was evident 20 years ago that Eskom, SA Airways and Denel are unfixable. Unlike FDR, Ramaphosa dithered during his first 100 days when SA expected decisive leadership. Two years later, he is fast losing the credibility he needs to sort out the mess he inherited.

Terry Crawford-Browne

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