BN@10: The Hersov interview – Coalitions, Gayton and SA post ’24

During the interview section of his BizNews@10 keynote, Rob Hersov applied his mind to the likely political coalitions after the 2024 National Election. His preference – and that of the international investing community – is clearly for a Moonshot Pact victory, but with other permutations are possible, Hersov offers his best ideas on their consequences. – Alec Hogg

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Edited transcript of the section of Rob Hersov’s keynote where he is interviewed by BizNews editor Alec Hogg:

Alec Hogg: Rob, you were spot on with your timing, setting the standard for other speakers. Just as a reminder for our format, keynote speakers will have roughly 20 minutes for their views, like Rob just did. Then, I’ll conduct a brief interview, followed by an audience Q&A. Rob, you didn’t mention Gayton McKenzie or his party, the Patriotic Alliance. I recall you mentioning in a BizNews previous conference that he should be the president of South Africa. Can you expand on that?

Rob Hersov: Well, to clarify, I didn’t explicitly pick him for president. I said he has the potential and explained why. We have numerous good candidates for president in this country. Personally, I think the president’s chosen cabinet, their expertise, is of utmost importance. Reflecting on a speech I gave in Hermanus months ago, it feels like we’re in the third age: the age of experience, skills, and influence. Gayton McKenzie, from the Patriotic Alliance, is someone I’ve gotten to know over the past three years. Our backgrounds couldn’t be more different. I’ve had privilege, while he’s faced numerous challenges. Yet, now we agree on almost everything. He’s pro-democracy, believes in the rule of law, and recently even aligned himself with Israel. However, the DA doesn’t trust him, but when I ask for proof of their claims, no one provides any. Despite this, I support the DA.

Read more: BN@10: Rob Hersov ‘reserves a special place in Hell’ for appeasing SA business execs

Alec Hogg: I’m currently engrossed in a book titled “Team of Rivals,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Abraham Lincoln and the book that Barack Obama says inspired his political journey. Lincoln had a cabinet made up of rivals. It would be enlightening for our coalition members to read. Interestingly, despite Lincoln being hailed as the greatest American statesman, he only had one year of formal education.

Lincoln was on a continuous journey of learning. Even though he became a lawyer after just one year of formal education, it demonstrates that it can be done. This brings to mind Gayton and others you’ve mentioned.

Rob Hersov: Absolutely.

Alec Hogg: Speaking of influential figures, I interviewed Dr Snuki Zikalala recently. As the head of the Veterans League and a former managing director of news at the SABC, he’s made quite a name for himself. In our interview, he indicated the ANC might consider a coalition with the DA, praising the governance of the Western Cape. How do you feel about an ANC and DA or “pact” coalition post-2024?

Rob Hersov: The idea of ANC still being in power, even in a coalition, is disheartening. It’s tough to eradicate corruption and inefficiency in such arrangements. For instance, while the pact might control key positions, if HR remains under ANC, their history of cadre deployment could undermine the system. The ANC’s track record shows a lack of competent leadership. Still, having the ANC in a coalition is better than them having total control or teaming up with the EFF, which I believe won’t happen. The ideal scenario is for the coalition to lead, with someone like Herman Mashaba as president. The second-best would be a partnership between the ANC and the coalition. Research indicates a public preference for the governance style of 1994-2004. While an ANC coalition could garner significant support, its execution remains a concern. The ANC would benefit from promoting younger, progressive leaders.

Alec Hogg: Considering potential scenarios for 2024, it appears the EFF cannot be a coalition partner for the ANC based on the ANC’s rules. They’d have to adjust their entire constitution for that. And as Snooki mentioned, the EFF doesn’t respect the rule of law. But if we imagine a scenario with the pact securing 46% and the ANC 38%, leading to a robust coalition, how do you think the international community would respond? Would they be inclined to invest more in South Africa?

Rob Hersov: So it would make me sick to still have the ANC in power. I think it was James Lorimer last night who said even in a coalition, you’re not going to get rid of corruption and inefficiency. Even if positions like the mayoral role or Finance and Treasury are controlled by the pact, if human resources are still controlled by the ANC, there will be out-of-control hiring and the wrong people being hired due to cadre deployment. The ANC does not have a deep bench of intelligent people. So even in a coalition, there will be inefficiency, kleptocracy, and autocracy. But it’s better than having the ANC in total control or the ANC teaming up with the EFF. People worry about the EFF, but we should ignore him, he’s looking for attention. The first prize is for the coalition to win and someone like Herman to be president of our country. The second prize would be an ANC coalition. Research shows that a majority hark back to the rainbow coalition of ’94 to 2004. They would vote for that again. An ANC and Moonshot Coalition partnership would gain a lot of support. But we need to get rid of the old meddlers in the ANC and bring up a new, younger crowd.

Alec Hogg: If the ANC was to change its constitution to allow for a coalition, given the potential vote percentages, what would the international community’s reaction be? Would they bring money back to South Africa?

Rob Hersov: If the new government deregulated and pivoted to the West, it’s simple to fix the country. Implement changes quickly with competent people in charge and the country will turn around swiftly. But if the Moonshot achieved over 50%, it would depend on who has the greater shareholding in the coalition. Let’s assume the ANC has the greater shareholding. The ANC would keep key positions, including the president. There might still be foreign direct investment if the right things were done. But we may see economic problems and civil unrest. I’m not sure the ANC will be transparent in the election.

Alec Hogg: What impact do you see Russia having in the 2024 election?

Rob Hersov: The Russians have an interest in keeping South Africa onside. We’re not as much a priority in Russia’s eyes as we think. The Americans don’t want this country to fall into the abyss or into the hands of Russia. There will be counterbalancing forces over the next ten months. The State Department is active here now.

Alec Hogg: I’m looking at the subterfuge level, like troll farms. It’s not hard to see where a lot of this stuff originates.

Rob Hersov: No question.

Alec Hogg: But the big question, which we discussed at one of the past BizNews conferences, is whether the next election is going to be free and fair?

Rob Hersov: I can’t comment.

Alec Hogg: Maybe it’s negativity. How do we make it benign?

Rob Hersov: Frans Cronje said if the election was today, the ANC would get 50.1% as of a week ago. But with 8 to 10 months to go and the Moonshot Pact coming together, a lot can change. They seem to be uniting now, and good things are expected. Michael Louis, Schalk Kearney and others are putting in the effort. The momentum is with us, and I believe we can influence the result in the coming months.

Alec Hogg: If the Patriotic Alliance were to switch sides permanently, many municipalities, including Johannesburg, could go to the Moonshot Pact. Given your relationships, can you broker that?

Rob Hersov: I’ve almost given up. Herman has tried to include McKenzie in the Moonshot Pact, but the DA has refused. They see him as opportunistic and don’t trust him. Gayton explained on your show why he allied with the ANC: to show the DA his influence. But he’s ready to join the Moonshot Pact if the DA allows him. I think he should disconnect from the ANC completely. This would cause the ANC’s control over many municipalities to weaken, and the DA and the Moonshot Pact could then take over. However, I sense the DA might not want to control Johannesburg because of its challenges. Even if they win that municipality, there are too many competing interests. You’d need a strong hand to fix it.

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