Royal Re­unert deal for ANC princesses

The al­ready rich walk away with mil­lions

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - BY STEPHEN MUL­HOL­LAND stephenm@fin­

WHAT A PLEA­SURE it is to en­counter so re­fresh­ingly frank and straight­for­ward a chief ex­ec­u­tive as Re­unert’s Boel Pre­to­rius.

When tack­led on the bizarre sit­u­a­tion in which four lucky women, all al­ready rich and suc­cess­ful, who have been, es­sen­tially, gifted well over half a bil­lion rand’s worth of Re­unert shares, Pre­to­rius has a ready an­swer: “It is ab­nor­mal by na­ture. It’s not some­thing we would do if it were not forced on us by Gov­ern­ment.”

That makes sense to me. What CEO in his or her right mind would rec­om­mend dol­ing out R135m to Ch­eryl Caro­lus, for­mer deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral of the African Na­tional Congress, for­mer head of Sa­tour and once our High Com­mis­sioner at the Court of St James?

She has never worked at Re­unert. In fact, had she done so, she would not have had a snow­ball’s hope in hell of re­ceiv­ing a gift of R135m from her em­ploy­ers. There would have been screams of an­guish from other staff and from those in­sti­tu­tional share­hold­ers who all voted in favour of the added and in­stant en­rich­ment of Caro­lus and her three co­horts.

She’s never done any­thing for Re­unert. Now, of course, she (and her part­ners) will surely have to do some­thing for this gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor. That’s what Pre­to­rius grasps and what oth­ers who have also made cer­tain for­tu­nate blacks in­stant multi-mil­lion­aires also grasp.

They need friends at court, and I do not mean the Court of St James. I mean the Court of His Om­nipo­tence, as Sun­day Times ed­i­tor, Mondli Makhanya, has elo­quently dubbed Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki. And then there’s the Court at Megawatt Park, and those at Transnet, Telkom, the SA Po­lice Ser­vice, the Defence Force, the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice and on and on.

That’s where Re­unert needs to have friends and that, pre­sum­ably, is where Caro­lus and her bud­dies – at least the black ones – come into the pic­ture.

Pre­to­rius agreed with the sug­ges­tion that he needs “am­bas­sadors” in the right places. Thus, along with Caro­lus, Dolly Mok­ga­tle, for­mer head of Spoor­net where she can no doubt call on old friends, and Thandi Or­leyn, well plugged into the power net­work through her for­mer role as na­tional di­rec­tor of the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion and, of course, her cur­rent di­rec­tor­ship of the SA Re­serve Bank. Most use­ful, in­deed.

Mes­dames Mok­ga­tle and Or­leyn are in for R130m each of Re­unert’s loot. Lag­ging a lit­tle at a handy R70m, is the for­mi­da­ble Wendy Lu­cas Bull who, when last I spot­ted her, was white. That’s sort of like hav­ing a black sit­ting on the board of the old Volk­skas Bank and be­ing made in­stantly and vastly rich. Quite, quite bizarre.

I asked Pre­to­rius about this racial con­tra­dic­tion – a rich white wo­man be­com­ing even richer through a BEE deal. Can you be­lieve it? Any­way, Pre­to­rius was ready (I sus­pect he al­ways is) with a re­sponse: “We needed her for her out­stand­ing busi­ness skills,” he replied, im­me­di­ately adding that this in no way re­flected on the “proven” busi­ness skills of the black ladies.

Of course, this quar­tet of three ANC princesses and a lily-white North­ern Sub­urbs ca­reer wo­man, has other BEE irons in the fire, not least through their in­ter­est via Peotona (in which each has 25%) in the mighty De Beers Con­sol­i­dated Mines.

There are prob­a­bly fewer than 120 mem­bers of BEE roy­alty in SA. The pie is cut and served each time to the same favoured few. To mix metaphors, they keep their noses fixed firmly in the trough.

Surely this can­not be what Nelson Man­dela would have wanted. He would have wanted th­ese ap­petis­ing slices of per­ceived “white” cap­i­tal dis­trib­uted among the masses rather than used to cre­ate a greedy elite who are brought on board by white man­age­ment to en­hance the prospects of ob­tain­ing and keep­ing Gov­ern­ment and quasiGov­ern­ment busi­ness and to sat­isfy cus­tomers and sup­pli­ers that they are BEE com­pli­ant.

And, not­with­stand­ing his old-world cour­tesy, one imag­ines that Madiba would have had great dif­fi­culty in ac­cept­ing the spec­ta­cle of a rich white wo­man rid­ing on the backs of black part­ners to be­come fur­ther en­riched through BEE.

BEE is sup­posed to re­dress the wrongs of the past vis­ited upon peo­ple of colour. How, then, does a Wendy Lu­cas Bull qual­ify as a BEE ben­e­fi­ciary?

The elas­tic morals of our in­sti­tu­tions en­able them to vote in favour of this enor­mous hand­out to which they would have ob­jected heat­edly had it gone to se­nior staff.

No doubt they share with Pre­to­rius (I do like this chap) his take on re­al­ity. “We do busi­ness with Gov­ern­ment and quasi-Gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties ev­ery day.”

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