BNC#6: Wiese Q&A – Markus Jooste, last days of Steinhoff, Rainbow Nation and more

During his interview and Q&A session at BNC#6, renowned South African businessman Christo Wiese addressed the nation’s pressing issues and potential pathways for progress. Wiese emphasised the need to address bureaucratic red tape hindering economic growth, advocated for privatisation of state-owned entities, and reflected on the complexities of corruption and justice in the country. Wiese also shared, for the first time, the story of when he first found out about the Steinhoff saga. Despite challenges, he remains cautiously optimistic about South Africa’s future, urging proactive citizen engagement and a nuanced approach to governance.

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Edited transcript of the question and answer session with Christo Wiese at BNC#6 in Hermanus ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg – 00:00: Come, have a seat. We’ll chat first, then take your questions. Thanks for the discussion. We’ve had ups and downs at this conference, but your point about the Khaya Lam project stood out. Yesterday, the Free Market Foundation CEO updated us. It’s now at 12,000.

Let’s discuss how to address that. Maybe start a trust or a fund. How do we fix it?

Christo Wiese – 01:34: The Free Market Foundation began by seeking donations, around 2000 rand each. I hoped individuals and big corporates, especially those with ties to the initiative, would step up. Oddly, it didn’t happen. South Africa’s mindset is peculiar. If the government can find billions to bail out South African Airways, surely they can facilitate this for less than 2000 Rand, covering surveys and deeds office fees. Interestingly, the first formal attempt happened in the Free State, with support from local authorities. My family donated the first batch of title deeds. It was incredibly moving. Elderly recipients were overwhelmed. One lady in her 90s cried tears of joy, saying she finally had something to pass on to her children. I thought it would gain traction, but alas, it’s not a priority. Maybe it will be someday.

Alec Hogg – 03:46: You made strong and hopeful points. Let’s talk about the Rainbow Nation and a potential return to it. What about a government of national unity? Back in 1996, FW de Klerk, then deputy president, hosted a lunch. He asked 30 or 40 business people if he should stay in the government of national unity. Views were lukewarm. In hindsight, I think it was a mistake. Maybe a government of national unity, but I’m not a political scientist—more a failed politician.

Alec Hogg – 05:32: You mentioned being a failed politician, somewhat successful shopkeeper, and failed lawyer. How do you see South Africa post-election?

Christo Wiese – 06:49: As I’m in my eighties, I’ve seen many “last chances” come and go. This election is crucial. Something’s shifting. I hope for positive changes. You talked about compound growth, especially in entrepreneurial opportunities. Advice for young people? Ignore doomsayers, understand the country’s rhythms, and work hard. There are ample opportunities here, but red tape hampers progress. Starting a business in Rwanda takes 36 hours. We lag behind. We must learn from successes like Rwanda’s.

Alec Hogg – 09:49: How to unlock corporate cash reserves?

Christo Wiese – 11:35: Improve the business climate. Government must be seen as business-friendly. Reduce red tape. In Italy, they’re considering a law where if your building plans aren’t approved in three months, you can proceed. We need such pragmatism. Corruption exacerbates bureaucracy. It’s a vicious cycle. More rules mean more chances for corruption. We must tackle both with nuance and positivity.

Alec Hoog – 12:45: What can we learn from Javier Milei’s actions? I haven’t followed closely, but things seem positive in Argentina. We can probably glean some lessons.

Christo Wiese – 13:38: I haven’t followed closely, but things seem positive in Argentina. We can probably glean some lessons. Practical possibilities post-election? Privatisation of state-owned entities seems logical. The private sector often does things better and cheaper than the state. It’s been proven globally.

Alec Hogg – 15:13: Is the national democratic revolution still a driving force?

Christo Wiese – 15:20: Signs point both ways. I’m optimistic, perhaps naively so. But what’s the benefit of not being positive?

BizNews community member – 17:35: Rwanda, 80% have title deeds. Why can’t we replicate that?

Christo Wiese – 17:58: Blame the government primarily. But we all can push for change.

BizNews community member – 20:58: The Steinhoff problem never seems to be sorted out, when will it be?

Christo Wiese – 21:08: Justice must prevail. It’s frustrating. We’re told arrests are imminent, but the process is complex.

Alec Hogg -23:29: Did you know about the fraud?

Christo Wiese – 23:36: No, and I’ve explained countless times why. Being chair for a short period doesn’t mean I knew. One journalist got it all wrong once, but I set the record straight.

Alec Hogg – 26:12: Tell us the story of that last day with Marcus Jooste

Christo Wiese – 32:22: A revealing story about a crucial moment before Steinhoff’s downfall. Tragic miscalculations cost dearly. It’s sobering.

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*The above transcript has been condensed and paraphrased for brevity and clarity, and may not capture the full context or nuances of the original session with Christo Wiese at the Biznews conference, BNC#6.

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