Time up for business wimps (part 2)

Transcript of Johann Rupert's spade-calling lecture urging business leaders to start taking a stand

Part two of the lecture at the University of Pretoria (part one can be accessed here.)

Land reform is another area in which policy so far has resulted mainly in confusion as the plethora of unresolved and sometimes completely unfounded land claims have resulted in new black as well as white commercial farmers being reluctant to reinvest in their farms. There has to be an effective programme of land transfer, we all agree, subject to proper compensation and support for those acquiring the land.

But the department administering this programme is notoriously incompetent. Now this is a very dangerous thing to do on a continent and in a country that's facing food self-sufficiency problems. We already have, and I see Professor Victor Hesse over there, we already have problems with some of our woods where people have not replanted. There's a shortage of wood.

Now I want to give you a very personal example of this department. I'm a shareholder in a farm in Mpumalanga. Although no claim was lodged against the farm whatsoever, not even, as often the case, after the legal date had come and passed, the Land Claims Commissioner chose to gazette us. Thus we've been forced to go to Court. The case has been postponed four times and has dragged on for over two years and we have another year to go.

Now, which farmer will invest in a farm without knowing the future? Food production will suffer. Furthermore, once the claimants get the land they aren't given the implements to farm and, more often than not, have no farming experience whatsoever.

In the Malalane Komatipoort area the total claim amounts to between 2.4 and 3 billion Rand. If all the claims succeed at the going rate, that's what the state will have to pay. This goes to a tribe, loosely defined, of some 10 000 individuals. In other words the cost will be at least R240 000 per man, woman and child.

Now I don't know if any of you have been to the Shongwe Hospital. It's in total disarray. HIV Aids orphaned kids are looking after other children. Crime is rampant.

This has to be sheer and utter madness.

Farmers are being murdered and their property rights are not secured. Who will feed the population? And, why is no one thinking about the vast areas of our country that belong to the state? And, come to think about it, what about the totally under utilised areas under control of the "traditional leaders"? And it's not only the ANC that is to blame. Shortly before the election in the early 90's the National Party saw it fit to give away major parts of Kwazulu Natal to tribal leaders. People do not farm for the chief. People do not farm for somebody else. If the state's cow gets sick in the middle of the night, it dies. If it's your cow, you get up. Agriculture has never worked in a communalist or a communist state.

The difference is that China has given these lands to the peasants, to their citizens and given them title deeds and they're farming. Now this minister has to realise that she is for all practical purposes "the minister of food security and self-sufficiency". When this realisation finally dawns upon her, she will hopefully change her attitude towards the already beleaguered agricultural sector. Farming is not for sissies! You're prone to be violently attacked and murdered. Your land tenure is under threat. Your input costs are soaring and prices for your products are volatile and out of your control. If we want the children to escape another cycle of hunger we need the farming sector to be safe, happy and profitable.

We also have to realise that we cannot improve the lives of our children, the grandchildren, the kids, with a totally open border system. We do not possess the human and physical resources to house, employ, feed and educate the whole of the sub-equatorial Africa's refugees.

A friend of mine, Fred Robertson's wife, is involved in a charity in Cape Town. They are trying to get the kids to learn to read and write before going to primary school. And they had a particular problem with this one school where 10% of the kids could not cope. They went there and found out, in Cape Town, that the reason was not that they couldn't speak English or Afrikaans but that they were speaking French and Portuguese.

It's therefore imperative that we use all the powers at our disposal to force the removal of dictatorial despots to our North. We have to get those economies going, folks. President Bush senior did not sign NAFTA only because he was in ‘love with his neighbours. He signed NAFTA because he realised that, if he didn't improve the economies of his neighbours, they'd all flood into his country.

Now if our neighbours all fall apart - and you've seen the figures - do you really think that they not all going to come into our country? We can already not feed our own children. The head of the World Bank, Bob Zoellick, said recently that the most fundamental prerequisite for sustainable development is an effective rule of law. This is exactly what the head of the ANC Youth League and some others have been challenging, thereby spooking oversees investors and undermining years of work to improve South Africa's sovereign rating, and folks, without foreign capital we will not be able to provide a better future for our children, for the children of this country.

Luckily he was were slapped down and rule of law was defended by President Motlanthe, who'll hopefully continue to do so. Also, there cannot be an effective rule of law without a truly independent prosecutor. This principle was completely undermined in the Selebi case. Completely. The new regime needs to demonstrate that they've committed to an independent prosecuting authority. We furthermore need to protect our policemen, magistrates, judges from verbal and, now, physical attacks.

And I've got a word for some of the people who want it both ways. One cannot demand protection under the law if you're not prepared to live within it. It's noticeable that some people wish protection but they themselves do not consider themselves living within it.

The new leadership seems to be genuinely concerned in stamping out violent crime. They will be judged by results and what additional resources are directed to policing and how effectively they're utilised. All the evidence from every other country is that crime can be rolled back on the basis of a more active and visible police patrolling and not by any other means.

When I lived in New York you couldn't see a policeman in the 70's. Today when you go around there's a policeman on every corner. They say that's why their crime's down. I actually think it's because it's too expensive for any criminals to live on Manhattan.

That too still requires there be an effective investigative authority not interfered with by politicians. I personally would advocate the system used in some states in the USA, any crime committed with a weapon carries a mandatory ten year prison sentence, twenty years if the victim is injured, life if the victim is killed. No judge can give clemency. Three felonies and it's life. We have to remove these criminals out of our society.

Also, in our violent society it does not help when members of the executive committee of the ANC say "we shall kill". And others keep on singing "mshiniwami". [Freely translated "bring me my machine gun]. Who exactly do they want to shoot with these machine guns?
Transformation is happening rapidly in sport as witnessed in the national cricket and rugby teams. Sport should be a unifying factor and will continue to be so if, and only if, the sport administrators avoid acting in politically motivated ways and coaches are chosen according to their ability. Now politicians have always messed up sport. Firstly it stopped non-racial sport.

No Basil D'Oliveira, no Mãoris. Then, I mean can you believe it, they called the Japanese ‘honorary whites' because of trade and because of a Japanese jockey. I mean, I hate to think what my Japanese friends would think of that!

Now, it's ironical that South African Chinese are being called ‘honorary blacks' in order to be classified as previously disadvantaged. We really are very crazy. This is Saturday night live stuff.

Politicians and disgruntled individuals seem to want to ignore the woeful performance of our athletes n Beijing and the slide in Bafana Bafana's performance. We're now rated 85 in the world. This is behind true soccer power houses such as Canada, Burkino Faso, Bahrain and Qatar. What do they want to do? They want to wreck the only sport in which we're world champions! Sport should unite, it should not divide.

The worst feature of the Mbeki regime was probably the paranoid reaction to any form of criticism. Even from people like President Mandela, Bishop Tutu and Helen Suzman, who can scarcely be regarded as enemies of the state, or of not wanting South Africa to succeed. Like their predecessors, the nationalists, the ANC seems to mix the concept of a political party, the government and the state. When some of us spoke out against apartheid we were called "kaffir boeties" (especially, by the way, here in the far North), "Communists" and were described as "enemies of the State".

I was personally threatened by a minister and told that politics is a "cut throat business" and "I mean that literally".

I was so stupid I didn't think we had hit squads. Gavin Relly was present and he told me to take it seriously because he did believe that there were hit squads. The PW Botha government then shut all of Rembrandt's import permits for essential items such as filter tow and cellophane for ten months to teach us a lesson.

Now their successors, the ANC, have become as hypersensitive.

Folks, we live in a democracy, we're guaranteed freedom of speech. If some of us disagree with some policies, it's our right to do so. I believe it's even an obligation to do so. Who speaks for the children? If we don't address some of these issues, they (the children) are not going to believe that everything was (a disaster) because of colonialism or because of apartheid.

A major test for the new regime will therefore be whether it's prepared to listen to other points of view and accept some criticism as intended to be constructive.

We live in one of the most violent societies. We're truly at war with ourselves. I often wonder why our society is so sick. Did it start with white generals telling policemen that it was fine to murder dissidents, or did it start with struggle leaders telling the youth to disobey their parents, teachers, police and all forms of authority? Did it start with the "necklacing"? I really don't know.

We have so many problems I don't want to carry on. Poverty and malnutrition... etc

If the Treasury Reserve, Revenue Service and the Reserve Bank had not been managed so well, I actually think we would have been another failed state. And a note of caution to the politicians, it's not only the position of the Minister of Finance or Governor that's important to the markets. The integrity and reputation of these individuals matter more. Tamper with that trust at your, your country's and your grandchildren's future, at your peril.

Treasury, I hear, is blamed for withholding disbursements, leading to "lack of delivery". Now this is like a farmer who has a few sons. Two of his sons diligently work to repair the dam wall, saving as much water as possible. Having finally fixed the dam that they inherited they're able to expand it to such an extent that they have enough water for all the lands.

Their brothers, however, the other sons, are lazy and generally incompetent. They're the folks who are supposed to make sure that the irrigation pipes are laid to the fields and the drinking points. They appoint incompetent and even corrupt workers. Not only do they allow these pipes to fall into disrepair but they arrange for a few pipes to go to the neighbour's farms so that they can make a bit of money on the side. They fully intend to siphon off some profits for themselves without their father's knowledge.

The father then arrives and sees that the lands are bone dry. Now who does he blame? Not the lack of delivery system! He blames the poor guys who built the dam without checking why they were so unwilling to release the water onto the lands.

You cannot blame Treasury and SARS for the lack of delivery. I wouldn't allow any of the funds to go, knowing the levels of incompetence and corruption that exist n so many of these departments. Fix the pipes, fix the delivery system!

We all share, all of us, regardless of colour and beliefs, the dream of a country where we can live safely, be well educated, have houses, jobs, water and electricity and access to proper health services. Only this will give us and our children hope. How can we solve these problems? After everything I had to say you probably think that I am a total afro-pessimist.

I used to tell the story about the little girl who went to university and she wrote to her father - but I have to change the names with the audience. She went to university and she wrote a letter to her dad, saying: "Dad, the fire in the dormitory was not that bad. Luckily my boyfriend escaped before the police could catch him. The fact that I was burnt badly and will probably lose the use of my left arm, luckily my boyfriend and our unborn child was unhurt. Your loving daughter, Amy." And then she writes "P.S. Dad, I don't have a boyfriend, there was no fire in the dormitory, I'm not pregnant, I just wanted to point out to you that there's things worse than me failing economics 1!"

There are always worse things. I called Paul Harris the other day and I said imagine being an Icelandic banker. Now you laugh, you don't know what I'm going to say. Iceland, unbeknown to me, did not have the KYC, the "knowyour-client" or FICA legislation. So guess who put all their money there? Not people who wanted to be traced, and a lot of them, should I say, are from rather rough backgrounds. These folks have just lost all their money.

They are now in the know-your-banker phase, are looking for the custodians of their wealth. So there are always things that are worse.

I believe if we work together we can solve these problems. There are decidedly new things on the horizon in Africa. Change started happening in the mid-90's. Many African economies actually appear to have turned the corner and moved into a far steadier and faster growth. Our performance between 95 and 2005 reversed the disaster of ‘75 to ‘85 and the stagnation of ‘85 to ‘95. For the first time in 30 years we're growing in line with the rest of the world. The average growth for sub-Saharan Africa was about 5.4% in 2005 and 2006.

Some of this was due to luck, but a lot of this positive outcome was due to the adoption of some of the ways of winning nations. For us to succeed we really have to study and adopt these ways. Rule of law, and by that, exactly that. Freedom of speech, protection of private property, honesty and transparency in government actions.

Is this too much to ask for when the future of the children depend upon our generation? I think not.

We need to stamp out crime. We need open and fearless debates about the issues at hand without risking or being sneered at as being racist or counterrevolutionaries.

Tonight I've kept my word to Mamphela Ramphele who made a speech in Cape Town and said that whites should start speaking out a little bit without having the fear of being branded racists. We can easily reach consensus on our goals. The methods and the priorities will need more debating.

No poverty alleviation, provision of adequate housing, etc., can ever be achieved without a healthy, growing, private sector.

Folks, without growth, it's not going to happen, it's never happened anywhere else on earth. Governments do not, and should not, create jobs. Trade Unions protect existing jobs and when too powerful and rigid, actually destroy jobs. It's the private sector that has to create the wealth and tax base that will create jobs and prosperity.

I've tried to spell out the plight of the children what got us there; using the historical habits of winning nations', tried to highlight where we've gone wrong. I sincerely believe there is enough goodwill and talent in this wonderful country to solve these problems. We've been fortunate in having three good presidents in a row President de Klerk, President Mandela and President Mbeki. I feel particularly sad for the latter, whom I like and respect.

It was, however, becoming very clear that he was not well served by those close to him. He was never told the unpalatable truth and sadly lost touch with his constituents. As Patrice (Motsepe) and Laurie (Dippenaar) will agree, even "Big Business with Government" meetings were orchestrated "powerpoint exchanges". It was not frank dialogue. And whenever any of us wanted to speak out our fellow businessmen or should I say, lobbyists, made sure that we were kept quiet. So even the business leaders were very reluctant to criticise, preferring the lobbying route.

To President Motlanthe, Mr Zuma, Mr Vavi and even Mr Malema - we all have similar goals, we want to eradicate injustice, poverty, crime and hunger whilst improving health and education services. And, by the way, we are going to have to do it on our own because the rest of the world's got its own problems. And the Chinese are not interested in hearing about "the struggle", they've had their own struggles. Read "Wild Swans", read "Mao".

The ANC does not have sufficient resources to run this country exclusively. Look at the sub-prime quality of many politicians, local councillors and executives at either government or semi-state institutions. Let us rather join hands and create the society that we all dream about. The alternative, folks, is far too ghastly to contemplate.

If you shoot the Cape Mountain zebra, black, white and brown will all die. My first forefather came to this beautiful country in 1662. We're not planning to go anywhere. We're thus in the same boat, and, if somebody shoots a hole in the boat, especially with a machine gun, we will all drown.

In his inaugural address on the 10th of May 1994, Madiba said "To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each of us is as intermittently attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the Bushveld. Each time one of us touches the soil of this land we feel a sense of personal renewal. The National mood changes as the season change. We're moved by a sense of joy and acceleration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom. We have at last achieved our political emancipation.
We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.
Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all".

To which I'd like to add, let us work together and achieve a better future for the children. We must really act today to secure a better future for tomorrow.

Thank you

This is a transcript of the address by Dr. Johann Rupert at the Anton Rupert Memorial Lecture, University of Pretoria, October 15 2008 (see

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