POLL | Is the word ‘comrade’ blocking economic growth? Johann Rupert believes it is

06 December 2023 - 13:27 By Rethabile Radebe
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Remgro chair Johann Rupert is against nationalising companies. File photo.
Remgro chair Johann Rupert is against nationalising companies. File photo.
Image: Luke Walker/Getty Images

The word “comrade” is popular among politicians, especially within the ruling ANC ranks, but over the years the word seems to have gained negative connotations as it has become associated with corruption.

Controversial Remgro chair Johann Rupert said: “Investors do not invest where people call each other comrades.”

The businessman was speaking at Remgro’s AGM. According to Business Day, he said the country was struggling to attract foreign investment because of the contentious word.

He spoke about having doubts the country would be able to agree on a social contract between business, labour and government to address socioeconomic challenges, blaming politicians.

“I’m not too hopeful there will be a social contract, especially with the overtly racist behaviour of some political parties,” he said.

The country has been plagued by rampant corruption with very little accountability from people who were alleged to be centre of carrying out the financial crimes.

Many have laid the blame at the doorstep of former president Jacob Zuma, and have labelled his tenure as “nine wasted years”. 

Oxford Dictionary defines the word “comrade” as a group of soldiers or members of armed forces who are in camps and refer to each other as comrades. It is also defined as a person who advocates for left-wing, socialist or communist views and opposes capitalism and right-wing politics.

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter shared similar sentiments about the use of the word, saying it was “embarrassing” that contemporary politicians still referred to each other as “comrades” and continue to call for the nationalisation of companies.

“There is a narrative that the state should control everything,” De Ruyter said.

“The ghosts of Marx and Lenin still haunt the halls of Luthuli House. People are firmly committed to a 1980s style ideology.

“They still address one another as comrades, which is, frankly, embarrassing. They use words like Lumpenproletariat [the underclass devoid of class consciousness], which is ridiculous,” he said at the time

Rupert is also against nationalising companies. 

Local politicians are “decades behind the curve” he said when talking about nationalisation and job creation. He said only the private sector can create employment.

“You cannot nationalise a person’s brain. And it is instantly movable.”

The businessman spoke about how challenging it was for investors to consider South Africa when choosing where to put their money.

Economist Dawie Roodt is also not fond of the word comrade. According to business news publication Daily Investor, the reason for right-leaning economic events is that government fails to effectively implement its left-leaning plans.

“The ANC government is left-leaning. It is a socialist government where people call each other comrades and refer to the state as a ‘developmental state’,” Roodt said.

He said the ruling party is too incompetent to implement its left-leaning policies and properly manage the institutions it is in charge of.


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