Johann Rupert and the interview that went so wrong

05 December 2018 - 12:38 By Odwa Mjo
MSG Afrika chairman Given Mkhari and Johann Rupert.
MSG Afrika chairman Given Mkhari and Johann Rupert.

Richemont chairman Johann Rupert sat down with MSG Afrika chairman Given Mkhari in a conversation on Tuesday night - but things quickly went wrong. Here's what happened.

"Don't you think it's high time that we as South Africans start talking to each other, instead of at each other? Ordinary South Africans need to engage more. We've got common goals and common ideals," Rupert said on why he agreed to do the interview.

The annual Chairman's Conversation guest kicked off the interview with tribal jabs that continued during the conversation.

"Is that the Shangaan in you?" Rupert said to Mkhari. This was at first considered banter  and drew laughter from the audience. 

Tribal jokes were on the menu for the night, with Rupert dishing up several comments aimed at Shangaan people and referring to the EFF as "red-beret Venda boys".

"Unless the wife is there looking after the books, we are very concerned about the Shangaans, Zulus, Tswanas - because you tend to buy cars immediately, a BMW or something. The women understand cash flow," said Rupert, correcting Mkhari about the difference between cash flow and market capitalisation.

Rupert continued to refer to Mkhari being Shangaan, attaching it to certain stereotypes.

Many were not happy with the way Mkhari handled the interview, with some claiming he allowed Rupert to be "condescending".

Rupert dismissed the notion of white monopoly capital, insisting that state-owned enterprises were the real monopolies, using South African Airways' routes as an example. 

"Yes, I am white. Hopefully our children's generation will get over this. Granted, then the economic disparities must be wiped out.

"White, yes - but a monopoly? Show me a monopoly we've ever had, just one." 

Rupert said today's generation lacked leadership and criticised young black people for spending their money on luxury cars and at upmarket nightclubs instead of investing in generational wealth. 

"I don't see your age group going to jail for two - nearly three - decades. You'll miss The Sands," he quipped in response to claims that Nelson Mandela was a sell-out. 

He said the older generation "didn't go buy BMWs and hang around Taboo and The Sands all the time". 

"I met Steve Biko in his 20s. He wouldn't have been at Taboo," he said.

When a person in the audience accused Rupert of being racist, the billionaire replied that he had never been called a racist, either publicly or privately. 

"My age group knows that I am not a racist. I've been accused of a lot of things, but the people who are now in their 60s know that I'm not a racist," he said.