Barclays acts over South Africa book

Bank suspends executive after he criticises Mandela's policies
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BARCLAYS Bank has suspended an executive in its Johannesburg office after he published a book last week criticising Nelson Mandela's economic policies.

Macmillan, publisher of Anthony Ginsberg's South Africa's Future: From Crisis to Prosperity, claims Barclays has discouraged the project for fear it would jeopardise its commercial interests in South Africa.

"The whole thing raises questions similar to those raised by the publication of Chris Patten's book on China," said Catherine Whitaker, the Macmillan executive releasing the book in the UK.

It begins: "This book details the dangers facing South Africa if we do not adopt policies that will bolster international and local confidence." The authors says crime is out of control and that the country needs a "viable opposition". He adds there is a need for "less political posturing" and "non-partisan policies" aimed at reducing high unemployment, inflation, and interest rates.

Speaking from Johannesburg, however, Mr Ginsberg suggested he was paying the price for "patriotically" saying the unsayable. He also said he would "love to continue working" at Barclays and defended his performance in the bank's offshore services unit.

Mr Ginsberg began his career at Arthur Andersen, the accountancy firm, then worked for Salomon Brothers, the Wall Street investment bank. He specialises in tax planning and offshore investments and began advising high net worth Barclays' clients in March. "I brought in lots of clients, lots of money," he said.

Barclays disputes the notion that it curbed the freedom of speech of an employee to protect its commercial interests. It says the bank takes no interest in its employees' personal activities. It suggests that other issues provoked the suspension but will not detail them.

Mr Ginsberg began writing his book about the time he returned to his native South Africa a year ago. Macmillan accepted the book for publication after being approached by the banker but decided on limited distribution through its academic imprint - in South Africa this month and the UK next spring.

In September, Mr Ginsberg showed the manuscript to his boss. Discouraged from going ahead with publication, Mr Ginsberg told Macmillan he wanted to proceed anyway.

After a series of inconclusive phone conversations with Barclays officials, Macmillan's chief executive, Richard Charkin, wrote to Barclays' chief executive, Martin Taylor, on 11 November. Mr Charkin referred to Barclays' "not wishing the author to publish the book" and warned Mr Taylor that "the book may result in some controversy and it is our job as publishers to maximise its sales".

Macmillan upgraded the book to a trade paperback release and advanced its publication date in the UK to 20 November. It minces few words about what it perceives as a pending PR fiasco for Barclays.

"Some of us might say it's like the time Mrs T appointed herself marketing director for Spycatcher," Mr Charkin said. He added, however, that Macmillan does not expect "to make money" on the book.

Mr Ginsberg says he is promoting his book in South Africa now and may come to London soon.

"I just read Nicola Horlick's book," he said, referring to the much-publicised dispute between the woman dubbed "Supermum" for holding down a high-pressure City fund manager's job while being the mother of five children until she fell out with her employers at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell bank. "I know how she feels."