Investing

Investors avoid places where people call each other comrades – Johann Rupert

Billionaire Johann Rupert said the country struggles to attract foreign investment because South Africa has created a hostile environment for businesses.

Rupert, who serves as Remgro chairman, made these comments at the company’s annual general meeting at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West on Monday.

He highlighted that South African businesses suffer from lawlessness and corruption that go unpunished.

He added that the country’s failing infrastructure – including a lack of electricity, failing rail and port services, and crumbling roads – makes it tough for many companies.

Smalltalkdaily Research analyst Anthony Clark, who attended the Remgro AGM, highlighted a few comments from Rupert about the local environment.

“The state cannot supply water, the railways have collapsed, and you cannot guarantee the safety of your employers,” Rupert said.

He added that capital decides where it wants to invest. “They are not Father Christmas,” Rupert said.

Rupert also took aim at South African politicians, saying some political parties’ racism makes it difficult to work together.

“Investors do not like investing in places where people call each other comrades. These are not places where Western capital wants to invest,” he said.

When Rupert was challenged about Remgro only having level 7 BEE credentials, he said they have empowered black partners for over 40 years.

“I started giving capital to black economic empowerment in 1979 – before you were born. I am committed to BEE,” he said.

However, he said BEE is not working in South Africa as too many people are only in it for a ‘free ride’. “You know who they are,” he said.

Business Day’s Katharine Child wrote that Rupert was doubtful of a social contract between business, labour, and the government to address the country’s problems.

“I’m not too hopeful that there will be a social contract, especially with the overtly racist behaviour of some of the political parties,” Rupert was quoted as saying.

He added that local politicians are steeped in outdated ideologies when discussing nationalisation and the government creating jobs. Rupert said only the private sector can create employment.

Politicians addressing each other as comrades embarrassing – Andre de Ruyter

Andre de Ruyter
Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter

Rupert is not the only high-profile business leader who has criticised the government and ANC politicians for their outdated ideologies.

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter also slated the ANC government’s communist narrative that the state should control everything.

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

“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.”

When individuals talk to foreign diplomats and investors, the bemusement and confusion with which they leave those meetings create a big problem for South Africa’s credibility.

“People say we have not heard this language since the fall of the Berlin Wall. What do these people think,” he said.

In his book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, De Ruyter said the government’s anti-business policy has consequences.

He said South Africa could do great things were it not for the ideological blinkers over the government’s eyes.

However, he said there was little value in debating with Marxists. “Debating with Marxists is like debating with members of the Flat Earth Society. You cannot win,” he said.

“Despite all evidence to the contrary, they strive for greater state intervention and greater state regulation.”

“The ANC is a party stuck in the past. Guys, it’s the twenty-first century; Why are you still addressing each other as comrades?” he asked.

“Your ideology has been completely discredited. Yet you bow before the great gods of Marx and Lenin.”

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