Rupert rhetoric on radical transformation ill-advised

17 September 2017 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

Just 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 ill-advised 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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