I Want to Be Part of The Solution in South Africa
I am a pragmatist and a realist. I am a South African, and I am an optimist. I am nearly 50 years old, and South Africa is in my blood. I earn my living in South Africa, and everything I own is invested in South Africa. I am proud to be a South African, and so much about South Africa fills me with joy. I was born and bred in South Africa, and I am emotionally committed to this country.
Unfortunately, there is so much about South Africa about which I feel sad and angry. I am a free market capitalist, an entrepreneur, and a businessperson. Making a profit and creating value for myself and others comes naturally to me. However, the socialist, corrupt, and incompetent ANC government has made it clear that I am not welcome in their world of transformation and economic redistribution. Economic growth and profitable, sustainable business are seen as the enemy. Extortion and theft by connected elites is the stock in trade of the ANC government.
Big business chooses to toe the party line. To cross the line and criticise the ANC government has often resulted in dire consequences. I am reminded of Tony Trahar’s (then CEO of Anglo American, circa 2004) remarks about political risk in South Africa. His comments about declining political risk under Thabo Mbeki’s government was met with a metaphoric backhanded slap from Mbeki. Just the association of the ANC and political risk was enough to raise the ire of the ruling party. Trahar received a very public admonishing from Mbeki. More recently, Johann Rupert got a strong backlash for speaking openly about the monopoly behaviour of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) and their mostly bankrupt status. Since then, he has almost entirely refrained from saying anything about South Africa in public.
In a recent Biznews conference, Rob Hersov was vocal in his criticism of the ANC and the “morons” in charge. Hersov shared a list of wealthy South Africans who have all left South Africa and taken their riches with them. The prudent thing to do given the economic decline over the last decade. Big business and the wealthy have always had the benefit of global mobility. When things get difficult, they move on. Many large South African companies have moved their operations out of the country and redirected their focus to capture foreign revenues to get out from under the redistributive policies of black economic empowerment.
There are many lessons from history about what happens when governments decline into kleptocracy and incompetence and become “un-investable”, to use the words of Rob Hersov. Those with significant resources and wealth either leave or find ways of circumventing the policies that perpetuate the decline. We cannot rely on them to speak out or stand up against the state. Even Hersov, tongue in cheek, suggested that those around him must look out for the crosshairs because of his open criticism of the ANC.
If big businesses and those with wealth and influence are not going to stand up for South Africa and be part of the solution, then who is?
My mission is as an educator. I am working towards creating a world of learning and understanding so that others can achieve their greatness. I am unlikely to achieve all that is needed in my lifetime. That won’t stop me from working towards my mission every day. My speciality is in the world of business performance, value creation and finance. Whenever I find myself in front of an audience, I help them find their way to learning about and understanding more about themselves and how they engage with the world of business, finance, and money.
I don’t have the power and influence of big business, but I have a voice, and I am taking action. I will stand next to anyone who wants to stand up for a South Africa that embraces meritocracy, free-market capitalism, and the right to choose with whom we do business.