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During his interview with Alec Hogg at BizNews@10, ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba laid into the cosy relationship between Big Business and the ANC – accusing corporate South Africa of feathering its own nest at the cost of society. Never one to shrink from controversy, Mashaba believes this unholy alliance is based on a determination of many executives to retain the status quo and keep disadvantaging small and medium-sized companies. Mashaba says he is also driving an agenda to bring spirituality back into South African life, attacking atheist-by-conviction SACP which he says has, through its ANC partner, created a situation where a tiny fraction of non-believers (Mashaba puts it as 2%) dictates to the vast majority who profess to be Christian, Hindu, Moslem or Jewish. – Alec Hogg
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Edited transcript of the interview with Herman Mashaba by BizNews founder Alec Hogg:
Alec Hogg: Thank you, Herman. At the first Biznews conference, where you delivered the opening address, you had a dream, a little bit like Rob Hersov said earlier. What is your dream today? Looking three years into the future – how could you see things turning out?
Herman Mashaba: I don’t claim to be a prophet; I just use common sense. My dream is far from realised, but I want to see South Africans live in a democratic dispensation, using their political privilege to vote politicians in, and holding them accountable when they don’t deliver. It’s my dream to see our economy growing at eight to ten percent. While it may seem highly impossible for our country’s economy to grow at those levels, we can achieve it by removing certain obstacles, such as taking the unions out of the equation. I’m happy to engage with unions, but in a meeting with me, no union will ever have a veto over our economic policy.
Speaking of policy, please tell me about the minimum wage. What does that mean when 12 million South Africans are unemployed? I’ve been saying this for many years, even when Cyril Ramaphosa talked about minimum wage, but the reality is that if a business doesn’t have money at the end of the month, they can’t pay people. If you ask me for six rand when you’re only worth five, no government in the world can force me to employ you. This minimum wage issue punishes the poor and uneducated, and it’s a plan of the ANC to keep blacks poor by depriving them of opportunities and education.
What this does is it destroys small businesses that must employ unskilled people. That’s why big businesses and the ANC are friends. I have spent a lot of my own money challenging Section 32 of the Labour Relations Act, where big business, Cosatu, and the ANC have connived to take small businesses out. When I started a cosmetics company in 1985, I was free from government intervention in deciding wages. Now, if you want to start a business, you must pay the same salary as Unilever or Colgate-Palmolive. This stifles small businesses and deprives unskilled people of opportunities.
I truly want to live in a country where we respect the rule of law, and I’m unapologetic about my determination to bring God back into my country. It hurts to see that we’ve taken God out of our society. When I started school in 1966, we asked for God’s blessings every morning. Perhaps that’s why we’re not as corrupt as the current government. Although 2% of our country is atheist, 86% believe in God in one form or another. I urge those who don’t believe not to make their problem mine, for I am committed to my faith and my country.
As a Christian, I have many friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, but ultimately all of us believe in God. Do we expect 2% of the population to try to control us because Communists don’t believe in God? They don’t believe in God because they want to control us. You must have read the ten-point plan by this Englishwoman who died in 1946. They did everything possible, as part of the Communist bloc, to destroy the human spirit and families.
My dream is to show ordinary South Africans that they can work and provide for their families without relying solely on the government. We shouldn’t have children relying on pensions. By the time they’re in their twenties, they may have children by three different fathers, not knowing any of them. Our society has challenges; we are known as the murder and rape capital of the world. What scares me about South Africans is the silence of our business leaders, those who fought apartheid and now fear losing their jobs for speaking out. We seem to be a short-term nation, focusing on immediate success rather than planning for the future. Business leaders believing in the ANC think it will bring them success.
Alec Hogg: What do you think about the business support of the ANC at the moment, like with Neil Froneman getting involved? What would your advice to those business leaders be?
Herman Mashaba: They’re failing South Africa. They’re extending the suffering of black people by giving the support that will extend the life of the ANC. The ANC is not going to change. These business leaders working with the ANC will be judged by history for what they’re doing, as nothing good will come out of this, only more suffering for our people.
Alec Hogg: Herman, all the predictions are that the ANC is going to become largely a rural party, not representing urban areas in South Africa. The low-hanging fruit for Action SA is surely in the rural areas. What are you guys doing to take on the ANC there? I say this because even the EFF has been beating the ANC in some by-elections in rural areas where they are the only other choice.
Herman Mashaba: Recently, we went deep into rural Nongoma, an IFP stronghold. We contested and made a strong showing against ANC and EFF. Just a few months ago, we competed in areas even where we hadn’t started doing work. Our provincial chairperson saw an opportunity, and we grabbed it. We emerged as a significant political force. We believe in common sense, not just research. In my four decades in business, I have seen expensive research fail. I believe in talking to people and using common sense.
We are running this huge organization with nine provincial structures, holding meetings literally every single day. There are guys on the ground, going house to house, registering people. While others are busy with numbers and research, we are out there engaging with the public. I also have to manage salaries, stipends, and other expenses. But I believe in our approach.
Alec Hogg: If anybody’s got insight into Johannesburg, it would be you, as a former mayor. Considering the chaos that has happened subsequently with new parties taking over, how fixable is Johannesburg if you had the right governance?
Herman Mashaba: Johannesburg is fixable, but it won’t be a walk in the park. It needs a tough person like me, someone who doesn’t take nonsense. I fought corruption hard during my term as mayor, even clashing with my own party. You need someone who won’t play games and will hire people on merit. We don’t need soft approaches; we need a strong and fair rule of law. You need to declare war on corruption and make sure to put in professional people.
When I was mayor, I even had to fight corruption within my team. Once, I fired someone on the spot, not knowing that government rules made it difficult to do so. Luckily, in that case, there were legal grounds. I still managed to get rid of corrupt individuals, even though the media accused me of removing experienced people. What experience? Experience in stealing? Johannesburg needs a mayor with guts and a mandate.
We need to ensure we have an independent crime-busting unit, hire professional people, and give them the power and pay to do their work. Unfortunately, we were let down by the National Prosecuting Authority. I’ve always said that big cities like Johannesburg should have prosecutorial authority and prisons. If that were the case, many ANC members would be in jail. The prison population would be mostly ANC people.
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