Ru­pert rhetoric on rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion ill-ad­vised

Sunday Times - - OPINION -

J ust like any other cit­i­zen, bil­lion­aire Jo­hann Ru­pert has every right to ex­press an opinion on any is­sue af­fect­ing our coun­try. As a busi­ness­man, his views on South Africa’s eco­nomic poli­cies carry a lot of weight. It is for this rea­son that his com­ments in Geneva this week about the ANC’s re­newed talk of “rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion” at­tracted so much at­ten­tion. How­ever, it was il­lad­vised for Ru­pert to dis­miss the need for change in own­er­ship as a mere cover for “theft” by the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Given the coun­try’s his­tory, where skin colour played a ma­jor role in whether one be­came rich or poor, he should have been more sen­si­tive to the rest­less­ness of the ma­jor­ity over the slow pace of change.

While we recog­nise the fact that Ru­pert has been on the re­ceiv­ing end of a racist pro­pa­ganda cam­paign that has sought to shift the pub­lic spot­light from state cap­ture by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s friends the Gup­tas by blam­ing the coun­try’s prob­lems on him, we do not be­lieve that deny­ing the need for a rad­i­cal shift from cur­rent own­er­ship pat­terns helps his case.

In fact, his re­ac­tion plays into the hands of the very peo­ple who seek to raid the coun­try’s cof­fers while sell­ing them­selves to the ma­jor­ity as cru­saders for “eco­nomic free­dom”.

Ru­pert, and the business com­mu­nity in gen­eral, need to ac­cept and em­brace the need for change as the sta­tus quo — where much of the econ­omy is con­cen­trated in a few hands — is un­sus­tain­able.

He should be join­ing hands with oth­ers in the pri­vate sec­tor, the state and com­mu­ni­ties in find­ing ways of mak­ing the South African econ­omy more in­clu­sive and ben­e­fi­cial to all.

This is the only way that the cor­rupt el­e­ments that thrive on ex­ploit­ing racial di­vi­sions can be stopped in their tracks. The longer apartheid-era own­er­ship pat­terns per­sist, the more sus­cep­ti­ble are sec­tions of our so­ci­ety to pop­ulist rhetoric em­a­nat­ing from cor­rupt el­e­ments.

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