WATCH | 'Quite frankly, I don’t need lessons in sharing': Johann Rupert in 20 quotes
“I was smart for 68 years. This [agreeing to be interviewed] was a dumb move.”
That is what billionaire Johann Rupert, 68, said on Tuesday evening in a televised interview with MSG Afrika Group chairperson Given Mkhari.
In the interview that has drawn widespread reaction, Rupert touched on Nelson Mandela, race, jobs, corruption, the so-called Stellenbosch mafia and much more.
Here are some key quotes from the interview that everybody is talking about:
- “They [the older generation] didn’t go and buy BMWs and hang around Taboo and The Sands [nightclubs] all the time. I hear this narrative that Madiba was a sell-out. It’s totally disrespectful. I don’t see your age group, call me ou toppie [old man], I don’t see you going to jail for two, nearly three decades. No, you’ll miss The Sands. In a sense, be respectful to your elders. Your generation, I haven’t seen leadership coming out. Remember, I met Steve Biko when he was in his 20s and he wouldn’t have carried on in Taboo.”
Later, when Rupert was told his remarks were being perceived as racist:
“I didn’t say 'black people', I said 'people'. Do you think white kids don’t do the same? Do you think a whole generation of children don’t do that same? What I’m trying to say is a previous generation of children didn’t do it. There was a totally different generation, people who grew up in the depression. Simply, there is globally a sense of 'consume now'. That is all I said to him [Mkhari]. If people want to take it personally, they should really question as to what the parents gave up, what the grandparents gave up. I’m talking in general, I’m not saying colour bias, race bias, sex bias … I’m sorry if it came across as racist. It’s not racist. It is a philosophy that people must understand that you can’t consume now and pay for it tomorrow.”
- “I have been accused of a lot of things. Luckily, my age group knows that I’m 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. And you know, it’s that old thing, when you run out of arguments, in the old days when you were against apartheid you were called a communist ... How do you defend against being called a racist? How do you defend that? You can call anybody a racist. Great! Luckily I have never been called that in public. I have never been called that in private and luckily my friends know that it doesn’t exist and I actually take a bit of exception to that.”
- “Yes, I’m white. I’m a white person according to your terminology. You know, this stuff is also so passé. Hopefully our children’s generation will get over this. Granted, then the economic disparities must be wiped out.”
- “[You create investor confidence] by not calling people ‘comrades’ on TV. Do you really think an American fund manager is gonna say, ‘Ah, I wanna go and invest with that comrade?’ No. I understand the struggle context of ‘comrades’ and people were comrades in the struggle. That I buy, but when cabinet ministers start talking to people who weren’t in the struggle, who bought their struggles uniforms at Pepkor...”
- “If everybody had to be as good as Madiba or Mother Theresa, yes, then socialism could’ve worked. But people are not that giving. People are not that nice. People act in their self-interest.”
- On tenderpreneurs: “Firstly, it was the people from the Eastern Cape [Xhosas] that must eat. Then the people from KZN [Zulus] that must eat. And now it is the Shangaan/Vendas.”
- “I have a problem that all of our politicians, for the last 10 years, have treated voters like fools. Voters are not fools. Voters are highly intelligent.”
- What Rupert would do if he was president: “Firstly, I’ll say there is no more elections like in China or in Russia. That would be the first rule: no more elections. That’s why I will never be in politics.”
- On the so-called Stellenbosch mafia: “Are you serious? Are you really serious? Do you still believe in Father Christmas as well? And that Marilyn Monroe is living in my backyard? And that Elvis [Presley] comes for Christmas? There used to be the Broederbond. My father was a member until 1948. We never really discussed that. Then he felt things were going off the rails and he felt uncomfortable being apart of a secret organisation. I’ve never been a member of a secret organisation and I get concerned about the necessity of secrecy. So there is no organisation. Are you kidding me?”
- “Given, I think you need to be educated, buddy. Afrikaners don’t want other Afrikaners to succeed … Do you really think there’s not an enormous amount of jealousy?”
- “My people who work with me are happy. They’ve all got homes. I look after their kids. I give them bursaries. I’m not Father Christmas that can look after the whole country. I’ve been luckier that I thought I would. I made more money that I thought I would and that I often think I deserve. My mother taught me to share and I really give away a lot more money than I spend on our family … Quite frankly, I don’t need lessons in sharing.”
- “I have a friend, [Eskom chairperson] Jabu Mabuza. We go back long ago … His son Lwazi, he did what I did - he messed around at university a little bit. And Jabu is tough. One day, Lwazi gets home and his father takes the car keys and he throws him out of the house … Somebody had given me a break, that’s when I went to New York, so I said, ‘Lwazi, you become my PA [personal assistant]. I’ll sort you out. You’re gonna get up early in the morning. There’s no partying - no Taboo, no Sands, no nothing. When you get up, you get up.'”
- “I don’t care whether you are righter [sic] than Genghis Khan or left of Mao Tse-tung, people must agree that we’ve got to grow the economy. We’ve got to create jobs through growing the economy.”
- “Governments can’t create jobs. If governments could create jobs, there wouldn’t be unemployment anywhere. It’s small and medium enterprises [that create jobs], but in order to do that we need to cut the red tape.”
- On land redress: “I don’t think we’ll ever have peace unless there is a proper redistribution. I wouldn’t say land; I would say property.”
- “The last time I engaged [with government] was under [former] president Mbeki … I actually feel sorry for [former] president Zuma. I don’t hate him; I hate what he allowed to happen to the country. That I hate. But I think he was used.”
- “You know what really irritates me, Given? The corruption didn’t steal from us in the room. Your children go to a private school. You don’t take the train. You don’t take the taxis. You don’t go to a government hospital. Corruption stole from the very poor … I’m not the victim of the thievery and corruption.”
- “The best entrepreneurs that I’ve met in my life all have a touch of paranoia and not a lot of hubris. They always worry that someone is gonna eat their breakfast while they’re sleeping.”
- “Our country has got very serious problems, best illustrated by the clear division tonight. There’s clear hatred. There’s clear animosity, insults. Quite frankly, if that’s the attitude, I can tell you we’re going to have serious problems in this country … I have offered it from my side, but they say if I say things [then] I’m this, [or] I’m that, [or] I’m arrogant. Quite frankly, I’m very happy not to get involved. I’m very, very happy to actually spend time with friends and children and not to help, because if you get insulted - I mean there are many countries where you don’t get treated like this.”
- “I was smart for 68 years. This [agreeing to this interview] was a dumb move.”
Audience members and Twitter users felt some of the comments were rich coming from Rupert.
According to #JohannRupert black people are lazy!?— Vusi Thembekwayo (@VusiThembekwayo) December 4, 2018
Tell that to the MILLIONS that will be at Bree taxi rank, Mamelodi station, the factory floor, the retail store & sitting like sardines in deathtrap taxis risking their lives daily.
Yes: That’s how lazy we are.#RupertONPOWER
The casualness in which racial terms are bandied about in this interview, coupled with a slight reversioning of history & the hard questions not being asked (eg. How much land he owns? What he thinks a fair social compact would be for SA? - All boggles my mind #RupertOnPOWER— Lerato Mbele-Roberts (@Mbele_Roberts) December 4, 2018