Alec Hogg interviews Kanthan Pillay: Getting past the sizzle for a bite into the purple steak

LONDON — With South Africa’s 2019 national and provincial elections now less than a month away, it’s not surprising that politics is dominating the country’s news flow. But while most pundits have been focusing on whether voters will punish or forgive the ANC, for us the big surprise has been the manner in which the Biznews community has embraced the Capitalist Party of SA, or ZACP. In our first pre-election poll of readers, 21% of them said they’d be putting their cross next to ZACP’s distinctive Purple Cow logo – an astonishing endorsement from such a savvy bunch for such a young project. So I invested an hour in a Google Hangout with ZACP co-founder Kanthan Pillay to ask the questions our community wanted answered, live and unrehearsed. The ZACP billed the discussion as a grilling of the Purple Cow. Catchy, but that’s not the way I practice my trade. Much more productive to be the facilitator, ask the questions our community members would were they given the opportunity. What follows is my effort to get past the undeniable sizzle of a self-funded but slick political start-up. And get the answers which will help you assess whether the purple meat justifies the confidence so many of our community appear to have in this potentially disruptive newcomer. – Alec Hogg

It’s Alec Hogg here from Biznews.com and with me today is Kanthan Pillay. Hopefully we’re not going to be doing some overdone grilling of the purple cow steak. But we do have the opportunity to find out from Kanthan the chair and founder of ZACP exactly what’s going on. Good to be connecting with you in this way. Wonderful technology, it’s come a long way since we worked together, what’s a 20 years you can

It was in fact 30 years ago on TV when at that time of course you called it Moneyweb business and of course we’re in entirely different lines of work now.

Yeah well you in politics. Did you always want to go into politics.

No never. And frankly now that I’ve actually been in this process for practically three weeks, there’s still a sense of trepidation. But anyway we in it for at least the next five years. So let’s see where it takes us.

So what’s the why. Every business, every enterprise, every political party presumably needs a why. What is the Capitalist Party of South Africa‘s Why.

The why in our case is to look at it from the point of view of any startup. When you have a startup. It’s pretty much because there’s a nation, a market that needs to be filled. And you know if you’re able to bring a product to market effectively that’s created for that nation in a way that hasn’t been addressed by other players in the market, then I think you have a business plan. So that’s kind of the startup view in terms of it but the most obvious why is that. When we got to the point of looking at the elections for markets this was last year I realized that I had no one to vote for. And I suppose it’s a question of if you don’t have a product that you want to purchase and you’re willing to actually invest in making it for yourself then why not. So I guess that’s the why.

No one to vote for. Many people think Ramaphosa opposes the one to virtual. He’s promising much. You don’t buy it.

I don’t buy it and I don’t buy it because of the structure of the ANC. Look I certainly don’t want to cast aspersions on the character of the president. I think that over the years he certainly hasn’t given us any reason to look at the way in which he has conducted his business affairs. But the structure of the ANC right now is something that he has absolutely no control over. If you look in terms of the party list that he has submitted for this upcoming election, I would say the better part of 50 percent of those are exactly the people who are implicated in the corruption of the Jacob Zuma years. And there is absolutely nothing that he can do about removing those people from the list because the way in which the African National Congress is structured doesn’t actually allow him to be able to dismantle all of that mess that Jacob Zuma has put in place. So the short answer is that in as much as he might have the personal intention of being reasonable and wanting to effect change. Right now I don’t believe that he even has the capacity to fire people than his own cabinet.

So short answer yes, it’s quite interesting. We did a survey on the election. We had 2,787 respondents which is clearly of our market. Statistically I think we can show you the market that we’re going to is upmarket, it’s not demographically or income-wise reflective of South Africa but I was astonished at how well your new party has done. And just to repeat on that, you’ve got 21% of the votes now from a significant number of people to come in. That’s well over 500 people of the 2,700 who came in and said we’re going to vote. I mean obviously great from your perspective if you could get to there but would you expect in such a short period of time that you can make this kind of impact?

Look the biggest obstacle that we’ve got right now is actually getting out there to people who don’t play in the electronic media space. So, I think right now if you have to look in terms of which audiences are the natural fit for us then probably business is way up there as the ideal target market for us to be going to look for voters, what the issue for us is, we don’t have the sheer financial clout that the major parties have. So they they have budgets that literally run into millions. We funded this exactly like a startup. So we’ve dipped into our own pockets for putting down a deposit funding the production of the videos, which has been our main source of getting our message out, things like our digital infrastructure all of those things came from ourselves.

Our out of home campaign really has been, shall we say, not that I want to say limited to but we’ve been taking a very innovative approach to it. We’ve been paying homeless people to carry billboards for us and the budget for that so far is in the low hundreds of thousands rather than massive amounts of money. So I don’t know the answer in terms of whether the very, very encouraging response that we got from business users audience can translate to actually passing on awareness to people in the street. I guess that that’s the biggest challenge that we’ve got right now. And I’d certainly appreciate some ideas in terms of how we’re doing that. But I was astonished by the recognition that we’ve achieved in such a short space of time from business, that was stunning really.

Why did you launch so late.

Well again it’s a budgetary thing. You know I tell people that when you’re bringing a product to market and understand that I learned most of this from my wife, Dr. Sarah Britton who is our primary marketing strategist because that’s what she does for a living. But essentially the idea is that your window of opportunity for making a sale, you know round about the Christmas holidays. You don’t start putting the product in Easter because you want to sustain awareness up until the moment that they have to make the purchase to put that presents under the Christmas tree. Now the purchase that one makes in terms of a vote is very different because if you buy a gift for Christmas that your child doesn’t like you can always take it back and get a refund.

A vote is a once off thing it’s voetstoots you put your cross in that box and then for the next five years that’s pretty much what you’ve got to live with. So everything in terms of our strategy had to be geared towards that moment of truth when you are alone in the ballot box and it’s just you and the ballot paper and the pencil and your conscience and whether at that point the Purple Cow is top of mind and that’s where you went to put your cross. So yes the idea was that we do, pretty much a six week campaign period really from the time that we reveal ourselves to the time that we get to the elections, whether we are right of course we’ll only know after the elections.

I guess the biggest thing you have to overcome and I’ve had a number of questions that were sent through from the business community this one was from Andrew van der Watt and he doesn’t want to waste his vote. How are you going to reach people outside of what he calls the Johannesburg northern suburbs, Twitter users..

Look it’s a fair question. I mean certainly the Johannesburg northern suburbs Twitter users are a significant chunk of our market. But it’s Twitter and South Africa generally, it’s Facebook in South Africa generally. We’ve had tremendous uptake on Facebook as well, as of this week we’ve gone quite heavily into the Instagram space.

But he is absolutely correct, it is a question of getting out of those spaces and to a large extent we’ve been relying on the volunteers who have come on board and this has been fascinating. We haven’t actually thought about what happens at the point at which people suddenly start flocking to us and saying hey I want to join up, hey I want to sign up and obviously that is something that will play a major role in the next election campaign.

But at this stage what we’ve been doing is we’ve been basically roping people in and saying what we need to do is to spread the word out there to every person who is not on social media. You need to tell them about us and you need to talk about what we are all about.

And of course, unlike the other parties you know we don’t have T-shirts to distribute. We don’t have caps to distribute. And so we’ve been telling people, look you know the templates go out print your own T-shirts, print your own caps, print your own posters, print your own decals and spread the word. So, thus far I think it’s actually been quite encouraging the response that we’ve been getting. The other thing that we’ve been doing is we’ve been trying to set up small meetings with groups of influencers who don’t necessarily play in social media. So all of us in on the party list we’ve been doing that over the past couple of weeks I myself have done about four or five of those which have generally been in people’s homes where you know we get together a group of about 20 people and I have one-on-one chat with them and try to persuade them that we’re a good bet. at that level I think so far we’ve been doing very well.

You need a tipping point. You know better than most do you, it’s fine to get into people’s homes and just start talking. But that’s the issue that goes back to what Andrew’s question was. How does he know that he’s not wasting his vote on you.

Well it won’t be a wasted vote. I think certainly the question that one should ask is that look we are essentially only contesting the national ballot. We’re not contesting the provincial ballots and there’s very good reasons for that because we want to be making our influence in terms of policy that actually goes down at the level of the National Assembly. Now at the level of the provinces it’s a question of implementation and that’s an entirely different thing. You know we’re not really in the business of the implementation.

So for my part I’ve taken this view that the DA is currently sitting on about 22% of the vote. Now even if the DA were to double its vote so they go from 22% to 44% which is an impossibility because we know that in every election thus far the DA has done extremely well in building its base. But it’s always been in single digits that they’ve been building their base. And you know if they continue on that track and they have been the party that has been growing the most steadily, then we can see a possibility where the DA becomes the ruling party in the National Assembly, probably in about three or four election cycles from now but certainly not in this election. So the question that one then needs to ask is in the absence of the DA being able to actually become the governing party in this election. is a vote for a small party a wasted vote. The answer is no because in fact the way in which the proportional representation system is structured the votes for the smaller parties actually count more than the votes for the larger parties. So for example the smallest party in the 2014 elections managed to pull one seat with only 37,000 votes. The larger parties have an average of about 45,000 votes per seat. So at that level it’s certainly not going to be a wasted vote because we certainly are going to be in Parliament simply based on the feedback that we’ve been getting thus far from the social media spaces that we feature very strongly in. And certainly the mainstream media including yourselves have been certainly giving us very fair coverage over the past while. So at that level I don’t think it’s a wasted vote. I myself am going to be voting for DA in the province, now if I lived in KZN I would probably be voting IFP in that province because the question is going to be who has the best strategic opportunity to actually take on the ANC in the province. So in Gauteng there’s a very real possibility that the DA can certainly displace the ANC. I don’t think the DA will actually get a majority but certainly there is the possibility of driving the ANC below 50%, which I think is crucial. So at national level certainly not a wasted vote. I think national level is your principal vote. It’s where you see the direction that you want the country to go. I think that the DA has actually been floundering on issues of principle at the national level, and at an administrative level, at the provincial and municipal level they’ve been excellent and I’m going to continue to support them.

You’re happy to live in a DA province, not so happy to live in a DA country.

You go back into your past, I was listening to YFM on a recent visit to South Africa. I’m coming home by the way, I’ll be I’ll be voting at home on the 8th of May. We’ve finished our spell in the UK so would be there just in time for the election. But I was listening to YFM and YFM of course is the station that is around because of you. You intervention in many ways as the CEO and building it and many of the ideas that you had back then are still implemented now but there was a very strong pro EFF on YFM certainly the part that I was listening to. Is that a market you’re going to be tapping into because again getting back to this question of where the ZACP are going to be getting its vote from.

Well I think that ZACP is getting its vote from the psychographic rather than a demographic. If you drill down into what all of the other parties have been offering up until now they have manifestos that go into many many pages about all of the things that they want to achieve. We’ve taken a view that if you recognise that our core principles are firstly our individual liberty, absolute freedom of speech, absolute property rights, absolute individual above group rights which is when one translates those things we say fundamentally no expropriation without compensation under any circumstances. We are freedom of expression fundamentalist. So we see absolutely see no issue whatsoever living in a world where people are able to have racist utterances. So we would not have censured Julius Malema for the outrageously racist things that he said, we would not have to put Penny Sparrow in jail because we have this view that free speech is the thing that we need to protect because it is the thin edge of the wedge that allows people to then impose on other freedoms. Property rights, we are absolutely digging our heels in on this one, the idea that you can have expropriation without compensation, it’s legalised theft. We need to call it what it is. And it is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, considering right now that we are paying a billion rand a day in interest on our debt on our national debt. Surely at that price point we can actually afford to fairly compensate anyone whose land needs to be taken away and land only needs to be taken away for good reasons and public interest. So, building a freeway would be a good reason in the public interest. Building a dam would good reason in the public interest. So that’s again one of our lines in the sand which the DA is not digging its heels on. The DA is very weak on the free speech thing. We saw what Mmusi Maimane did to Helen Zille. And then there is the question of affirmative action. We are absolutely rock solid in saying that affirmative action based on race is a non-starter. It drives a wedge in this country and it has been tearing us apart. Would we support something like affirmative action based on poverty. Maybe yes.

It’s an interesting point getting back to the youth because that’s where the wire frames will run. Are you tapping into that young market. There would be young people who would agree with the sentiments you’ve expressed.

I think if you look in terms of the support structures that we’ve got in place right now but more crucially look in terms of the 10 candidates that we are putting forward to contest this election, the average age of our group is 35, and I’m out of the way the oldest on our candidate list. So certainly in terms of the support base that we’ve been getting thus far in terms of the people been signing up to be volunteers they’re all what one would actually call youth but they’re not youth that are kind of constrained by race. Yeah I’m not too concerned about the fact that people who call in to talk radio stations tend to be more vociferously supporting of the EFF than anyone else right now. If you happen to be a a young person in this country who supports the principles that we subscribe to more often than not you’d be hard pressed to find a public space where you’d be willing to express those views because there is a tendency right now for those views to be shut down. We’ve seen what happens in EFF meetings people end up with chairs being thrown and just generally threats of violence that comes not only from the EFF but also from the likes of BLF. But does that mean that there is not a core group of extremely intelligent young people in this country who actually want a world that is a meritocracy where they are able to be the best people that they possibly can be because of the fact that they are. And I think the answer to that is yes they are out there but we’re not going to find those people attending meetings, they’re not going to be toy-toying, they are focused on building their careers. They are focused on building their skill sets and they also do not want handouts. You know almost none of them actually are interested in getting land. None of them are interested in wanting to be known as some sort of token representative in a corporate structure. They want to be there on merit because they are good enough to be there on merit.

What about keeping in touch because you mentioned earlier and this is the big beef that most of us had with politicians is that every five years they come along, they promise us the earth, we elect them and then we never hear from them for another five years. How are you going to be keeping in touch with those people who do vote for you this time around and make sure that, that connection remains that in fact you were there representing people, not representing your own views.

Well firstly this ties in with our overall strategy in terms of what are we going to do when we get to Parliament. Now most people think that the important work in Parliament gets done at the level of sitting in the National Assembly and making speeches. That’s not our view at all. Our view is that the real work in Parliament gets done with the portfolio committees, the portfolio committees are overseeing expenditure, is what oversees drawing up of legislation and that’s where we intend doing our strongest work on because at the point at which something comes for consideration before the portfolio committees for starters we look at the cost implications of that and whether the same goals, the same outcomes can be achieved far more cost effectively. In most cases we believe it can be. And at that point we turn around and tell the portfolio committees actually we are on completely the wrong track here. We can achieve exactly the same outcomes by going down this different path by using the following types of technology and that’s what we need to do. Every week we intend having a live town hall meeting exactly like we’re doing right now with a report back from one of the 10 candidates every single week in terms of what we’ve done in Parliament the week before and look, that’s very easy for us to do. There are 10 of us. We distribute the calendar among us and every Saturday morning say at ten thirty we get together and for a half hour we tell people here’s what went down in Parliament this week. Here are the areas that you need to be concerned about that are going to affect you. And here are things where we actually need a call to action because Parliament is being really stupid about this and we need people on the ground to actually start mobilising and pulling in every other aspect of civil society to say this is a bad idea. So in terms of the feedback I think we’ve got that part covered. It would be very personal. We are accessible. I think right now people have discovered with interest that when they post up on Twitter when they engage with us on Facebook they get response from the 10 people because it’s a space that we live in on a day to day basis. So that’s the short answer. I think we are far more accessible simply because of the fact that we are small. You know when we would speak about how decisions actually get taken in companies, I would tell people that you know the advantage of having a small team like 10 people, you can put those 10 people into an elevator and by the time you go from the ground floor to the top floor you can actually reach consensus among the 10 people in terms of a decision. Now as soon as you get to larger organizations that becomes unwieldy, how we handle this once we’re in parliament is going to be different. But we’ll we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

How many seats are you aiming for. How many are you expecting to get.

How long is a piece of string.

No come on. I mean it looks like you’re not going to get over 200 seats that we know so far.

Well we’re not feeling that many candidates so the answer to that is no. Look at the numbers on this are very clear. We need to get roughly about 450,000 votes to get all 10 of us into Parliament so that’s the goalpost for us ,if we can actually mobilise 450,000 votes. Where do those votes come from. Well the single biggest place where we expect those voters to come from is that in the last election in 2014 we had 7m people who just did not bother getting to the polls. They just didn’t get out of bed to vote.

So they had registered but they didn’t vote.

Exactly. And if we can tap into 5% of that 7 million and say hey you know we believe that we are actually an alternative that will give you a reason to get out of bed and go and put your cross next to that purple cow. And do you think you can do that. So on the one hand it’s not a big ask in terms of the number of potential voters on the other hand it is a big ask because 10 seats for example is what the IFP currently holds in Parliament. So at that level we actually competing head on with the IFP. So I think it’s a realistic space to be playing and if you consider that back in 1994 the DA. Well it wasn’t, it was the DP at that point and the DP ended up with what three or four seats in that in that election and they’ve grown their base steadily since then. So you know if we consider the path that the DA has taken you know starting from an extremely small base I think that pushing for 10 seats is something that is achievable but we will only achieve it if we get the message out to enough people. And that is the trick question. I certainly think that in all of the engagements that we have once we walk people through our principles what we hope to achieve, how we intend going about it everyone comes on board. But the trick is going to be between now and the what is it 34 days before the election to actually reach enough people and get that message across.

So proportional representation is in your favor. On the one side. So whoever votes for you they know it’s not going to be wasted if there’s 37,000 votes. If that’s all you get you at least get one person who’s going to go and cause chaos in Parliament disruption.

We have a very clear base on the support that we’re getting right now just looking in terms of the analytics that we’ve been running on social media and so forth that right now on the assumption that everyone across the various social media platforms who say they support us actually go out and vote for us then we’re probably going to get at least four or five seats.

That’s a good start.

Yes. But it actually means that when it comes to the moment of truth because we can’t read too much into these analytics at this point but I’m saying that getting the message out to enough voters to attract 10 seats is not an impossible task but we certainly don’t have the budgets that everyone else does for you know doing things like radio ads for example. You know I firmly believe that reaching out on radio is still one of the most powerful ways to reach a larger audience. But that actually requires an extra several hundred thousand rand which would actually at this stage require that we dip into our pockets.

Yeah I’d really like to get into a few specifics now but before we do that the feedback has also been coming through that you are splitting the DA vote or in other words you’re to the right of the DA. You will make them weaker in Parliament which means a weaker official opposition which means the ANC will be able to ride even more roughshod over them into the future what’s your comment on that.

I certainly don’t think that we are making a weaker DA at all. In fact I think we actually strengthened what used to be the DA’s core values because recently if we get to the stage where the populace within the DA and there’s a massive amount of them now within the DA and they’ve been you know speaking racial demographics and and all of that type of rubbish. I mean you have the DA spokesman spokesperson saying that you know more than 50% of the day’s candidate list are now constitutional blacks. And my response to that is what utter rubbish. Surely the premise of what we tried to do in South Africa is to build a non-racial society very simply when it comes to matters of legislation where our views are actually aligned with the Democratic Alliance. We’ll vote for them.

By the same token if on the matters of principle our views happen to be aligned with the ANC we would vote with them on that instance as well. Although it’s highly unlikely that we would have many instances where our views are aligned with the ANC. But these are matters of principle. One example that comes to mind is if there was a vote that was tabled by the ANC that called for complete disclosure on all party-political funding, we would absolutely support that because it ties in with our principles not because it’s ANC. So by and large I think you can expect us that on many things we will in fact strengthen the DA’s hand by voting with them. But immediately at the point at which they go down this race-based rubbish that they’ve been doing recently, then we will give them a smack-down and I think that that’s our strength and it’s a reason for people to vote for us.

Kanthan, I think that many people will have sympathy with the view that you have that politics is not really working in South Africa. Something needs to be done about it. But why choose a name like Capitalist Party of South Africa, given that capitalism has such a bad name in this country by the way that it’s been abused over decades – maybe centuries?

Alec, I think the short answer to that is that firstly, the ANC in particular has turned capitalism into a swear word and we want people to be fully aware that every single country that has extricated itself from poverty has done so on the back of capitalism. We need to recognise that and we need to embrace that. So, that is the starting point. Certainly, from a marketing point of view, what better way for us to get attention to our values. If you look at our values in fact, by and large they’re classic liberal values in terms of free speech, individual rights, freedom of association etc. but by calling ourselves the Capitalist Party, we’re pretty much guaranteed that all of the socialist parties that we have (of which the ANC is the biggest – so the ANC, the EFF, the BLF) everyone who wants to take money from middle-class people and distribute it…

Well, they say they want to distribute it to the poor but in fact, it goes into their pockets or onto their wrists in the case of Breitling watches that are espoused by some people. By calling ourselves capitalists, we were very firmly putting ourselves in their crosshairs and from a marketing point of view, that’s fantastic.

Okay. Some specifics and relatively short answers to these ones. Regulation versus common-law. In other words, when you have a look at the way that a society should develop, are you in favour or regulation or should the common-law practices prevail.

I think regulation is certainly needed in some cases. For example, we had this scenario where we’ve had sewage being dumped into the Vaal River which ends up in the Vaal Dam and clearly that’s not in the public interest and clearly, regulation is called for in that case. But there are other cases where regulation is absolutely not necessary. We’ve seen for example that recently, law has been passed that’s empowering the Film and Publications board to police the Internet and this is so outrageously stupid. How does one actually enforce something that is so absurd? Generally, by and large, we feel that people, particularly in local communities, are able to reach agreement among themselves in terms of what’s best for that community and really, one should let that happen. I think that there is a very strong case for some municipalities having very strong regulation around things i.e. ‘what is possible for one to do in public spaces’ such as ‘should one be in a position to play loud music on the beaches?’.

In Durban, I think the answer to that is actually ‘no’ because it turns away other tourists and it’s in the interests of that community. Should you be in a position to tell someone on a couple of hectares of land that they shouldn’t be cranking up the volume? Absolutely not. I think common sense by and large, needs to prevail. It’s not an ‘either/or’ scenario. Regulation is important in many cases but we are an over-regulated society, particularly in terms of business. As soon as you start imposing things like minimum wage constraints, racial barriers in terms of who you’re able to employ or preference for particular sectors over others, I think we are on a hiding to nothing. So yes, I favour less regulation but that doesn’t mean that we just turn over everything to anarchy.

Yeah, the insanity of what you’ve just mentioned now is that regulation actually protects the status quo in big business. It doesn’t allow freedom to come through, but that’s a whole other subject. Here’s another question that came in. Capital punishment: the death penalty. Where do you stand on that?

Look, at a personal level, I’ve always spoken out against the death penalty and to this day, I’m against the death penalty. The reason why I’m against the death penalty is I think that given our history in this country; we would be absurd to give the state the power to kill us because we’ve seen what happens when you trust governments to be able to execute people. It’s only recently that we commemorated the execution of Solomon Mahlangu whose crime was really to support an organisation in exile. Do we want to go back down that path where we give a government, particularly the ANC government, the power to arbitrarily execute its opponents? Although I am absolutely in favour of people being able to kill people in self-defence. I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever. If someone is attacking you and you’re able to blow that person’s brains out in order to protect yourself and your family…by all means, go for it and we will defend you in a court of law.

But after the fact, once the threat has been eliminated, executing a person is just getting into a culture of revenge. I don’t believe we need to be in that type of society.

That brings us, I guess, very appropriately, into your whole view on how to combat rape – quite a controversial suggestion you have that girl children get taught how to use firearms. What about the unintended consequences of that?

Yes, let’s take a look at the unintended consequences. I think right now, the scenario that we have is that nearly all the crimes committed by firearms in our country, are committed by illegal firearms. They’re stolen firearms, by and large, and all are illegally acquired. The biggest source right now for illegal acquisition of firearms comes from legal firearms that are owned by the state, that are then sold to criminals – mainly by police officers. The order trail of this has been very clear so I just want to separate that issue from the question of upskilling the people at a school level, which is not the same as putting a gun into a girl’s hand and saying, “Take this and use it to defend yourself”. What we are saying right now is that the path to acquiring a firearm for self-defence is not a difficult path.

Procedurally, I have absolutely no problem with it because unlike the US, where you can have any idiot walking into a Walmart, picking up an assault rifle, and then going out and doing pretty much whatever they want to. Out here, we actually have a process where you need to go through competence testing before you can acquire a firearm and I think that that’s a reasonable thing to do. A couple of changes that we want to propose is right now; our law is structured to license the firearm and not the person and so every time the person wants to acquire a new firearm, you have to go through the entire test again. This is like saying every time we buy a new car; you have to go out and take a driving test all over again. So, we want that changed. We are saying, “License the person for competence in a particular category of firearm”.

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By the way, we are not able to legally acquire automatic rifles right now and no-one is suggesting that for a second. The first thing we want is for the process of licensing to be changed so that it’s more sensible. The second thing that we are saying is, “Teach the competence at school level” so that you actually – at the school level – become familiar with the safe use of the gun. You are taught the circumstances under which you are entitled, the circumstances under which you should avoid using it, and how to ensure that your firearm doesn’t get compromised. E.g. by leaving it around for your kids and that type of thing. What this allows us to do is that by the time that young girl ends up graduating from university or starting her first job, she is then in a position to go out and acquire a firearm for self-defence, very quickly and very effectively.

So, we’re not saying, “Give guns to everyone”. We are saying, “Make it easier for women in particular, to be able to be trained to be competent in the use of firearms and once they’re competent in the use of firearms, to safely then acquire them. Our view is that even if one out of every five women ends up acquiring a firearm for self-defence, there’s a ripple effect that kicks in through the rest of the community because the perpetrator is then never going to be sure. “Is this person carrying and is she going to be able to take me out or not?” Those are the broad brushstrokes. I think people immediately get quite uptight when we talk about guns but I turn around and say, “We don’t trust our government to provide us with education. We don’t trust our government to provide us with healthcare. We don’t trust our government to look after our elderly. We don’t trust our government to keep the lights on” but yet, you want our government to be the only people who have legal firearms at their disposal. I think that’s absurd.

Traditional leaders.

Traditional leaders, yes. I have no problem with traditional leaders. I have a massive problem with traditional leaders being custodians of the land that they control. I believe that everyone who lives on traditional land – that land should actually be subdivided and people who’ve lived on a piece of land for more than (let’s say) two decades should be given title deeds to exactly that piece of land. I think there’s going to be a massive ripple effect that then translates into an economic boom because people will then be able to use that piece of land as security to then acquire bank loans which will then allow them to improve the property, start businesses etc.

Do they want to, though? Do those people living there: have you spoken to them? Do they want to?

I have, indeed. In fact, one of my graduates who finished top of the class was trying to set up a farm on his ancestral land. It’s in the Eastern Cape – the former Transkei. It ticks all of the boxes in terms of access to irrigation, quality of soil, and he now needed to get a bank loan in order to do the very basic things like acquiring tractors, acquiring seed, fertilizer and all of that kind of stuff and the bank said, “My guy, sorry. We can’t do that because you can’t use your land as security.” And he said correctly, “But look, my family has lived here for four generations” and they said, “Well, we can’t use it as security because it can be taken away from you.” So, that’s one example.

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Isn’t there another way though, to address that? Maybe just get the banks to recognise that the reality of life is somewhat different to their rules?

No, it isn’t because right now, your security or tenure on that land is entirely arbitrary. As long as whoever happens to be the tribal authority around there finds you in favour, then you have access to that land but there’s absolutely nothing that stops them from just suddenly taking it away from you overnight and that is a reality. It happens all the time.

What about the taxpayers funding the traditional leaders?

Well, we do that currently.

That’s what I mean. Would you continue it?

I think it’s one of the situations right now where by continuing to pay for it, it’s kind of insurance against social unrest. One cannot simply rip out systems that have been there for literally hundreds of years and expect that there will not be chaos. A classic example is when you look at what came about as a result of the Arab Spring. By removing strong men who happened to be ruling those countries – Saddam Hussein being one example, Muammar Gaddafi being another example – bastards by every sense of the word but ripping them out of those countries just tore apart the structures that had been put in place. So, one cannot just simply suddenly turn around and say, “We’re going to stop funding traditional leaders.” I think that in the medium term as people get more and more prosperous and become more and more capitalist, then you will have a situation where it will eventually diminish and we’ll get to the stage where we’ll have our own Magna Carta. Remember, that’s exactly what happened.

You touched on a bit of international stuff. Where do you stand on foreign policy? Who does South Africa align with? I’m sure you followed the recent developments in the DRC as an example and the craziness that’s going on in Tanzania. Is China a friend or foe? Is America a friend or a foe? How do you look at those things?

I think again, our approach to that kind of stuff should not be binary. Enlightened self-interest, I think it should always be driving our narrative as a nation. Enlightened self-interest means that although we have a very strong view in terms of human rights and we have a very strong view in terms of things that we hold dear, and in terms of our Constitution but at the same time, pragmatism needs to be foremost. Currently, for example, we buy oil from Saudi Arabia. Now, at a number of levels, it’s completely incongruous with our human rights values. Saudi Arabia’s track record in terms of rights of women and in terms of gay rights is completely at odds with the way in which we live in this country but it doesn’t prevent us from buying oil from them. My view is that if the best source to buy oil happens to be Iran, even though we know that it is quite a tyrannical regime at a number of levels, we should be buying oil from them. If the best source of buying Agri-tech or desalination plants is going to come from Israel (because they are the world leaders), then we should be buying it from them. Should this affect out stance in terms of human rights in either of those places? No. But the way in which one engages with that stuff needs to take place at a diplomatic level but the overall interests of the people of our country, which is to get the best possible solutions at any given time; that always needs to prevail. Now, something like the question of Iran e.g.: clearly, it’s not black and white because we have to balance our desire to trade with Iran with the very real consequences of upsetting the US. Now, upsetting the US has very real consequences for us because AGOA (The African Growth Opportunity Act) allows our goods to enter the US duty-free and that means that a significant chunk of our export market from this country is hugely dependent upon the goodwill of the Americans. So, if the Americans impose sanctions and the cost of going against those sanctions is going to be losing access to AGOA, it’s a constant balancing act. There can be no black and white on this stuff.

Very complex, and I think that’s the message that I’m getting from you anyway is ‘don’t be binary on those things’. Okay, a couple more things to go to before we close off: one of our correspondents has been talking about a cabinet of coalition. He’s saying, “Come the 8th of May, South Africa rejects the ANC, drops its share of the national vote below 50%. A coalition of the smaller parties or the other parties would then take power and perhaps (potentially)… It might be his dreamland but would you serve in a cabinet of coalition? Would you be part of a coalition against the ANC with the ANC?

Alec, I think if one looks at the numbers right now, it’s pretty much an impossibility that that will actually happen. I think that the possibility of the ANC dropping below 50% is real. In fact, I’m certainly very hopeful that that will be the case but if one looks at the principles of the parties that are not the ANC, the probability of drawing in the other big players is… After the DA, the EFF is currently the third-biggest party. Is the EFF and the DA likely to go into a coalition when they are so diametrically opposed on so many things? I think not. I think if one looks in terms of what has happened in the City of Johannesburg and the City of Tshwane, it has been workable simply because the EFF elected to stay out of the fray and actually voted with the DA to put those particular mayors into office. But on matters of principle, they disagree fundamentally and any attempt to put together such a coalition in the National Assembly is just going to fall apart so quickly. So, if you look in terms of the DA as the official opposition and if you look at who else they could potentially align themselves with… Well, it would mean a coalition that will involve the DA. It would involve Inkatha as the 4th biggest party and the remainder of the parties… Of them, I can really only think of the Freedom Front Plus and maybe the ACDP who are potential players in that grouping and there is no way that between them they can muster 50% plus one vote to put a president into office. I do think though what is very likely to happen is that in the event of the ANC dropping below 50%, the choice that’s then going to come up is either there’s going to be an ANC president that the EFF supports or there’s going to be an ANC president that the DA supports. And, that is going to be the test. For that, the DA really just needs enough votes to push the ANC’s candidate over 50%. I think if you have a scenario where the ANC proposes Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as cabinet and they have less than 50% then it’s very likely that the EFF is going to vote for them. On the other hand, I think that if they propose Cyril Ramaphosa and they have less than 50% then I think that the DA would probably support that. So, I think that’s the very realistic scenario that we’re going to end up with. Certainly, talking in terms of coalition politics at the national assembly…it’s not going to happen. I’m very clear about that. You know, I think it would be good to dream but we’re very clear about our input in terms of the next session of parliament is going to be in terms of shaping policy, changing thinking, and the portfolio committees.

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Three big issues that voters want to address and I’d like to get short responses from you in the last five minutes or so that we’ve got together. Racism, corruption, and incompetence. Let’s start with the first one – with racism.

Look, racism is a problem everywhere in the world but something that I’ve said before and I still stick to my guns on this: as a nation, we are significantly better off in terms of race relations than nearly every other country that I’ve visited. Trust me, I’ve travelled fairly widely. The reason for this is very clear. On a day-to-day basis…as a nation, we get on splendidly with each other. Just take a walk through our public spaces and watch how our engagement happens. Sure, you get the outsiders like a Penny Sparrow or someone with an unpronounceable surname who are blatantly racist in terms of their makeup. But they don’t define us as a nation. I think that generally in fact, we are far more sensitive to questions of racism simply because of our history – because of where we come from and we do go out of our way in our day-to-day lives to be accommodating of that.

So, racism I don’t see as an issue. Certainly, in terms of all the research that we’ve seen – all the credible research – less than 2% of our populace see racism as an issue that we need to address and in fact, less than 2% of populace see land reform as a question that we need to address. So, that’s racism.

Corruption.

Corruption. Again, this is unscrambling an omelette. I use it as a very specific example. Someone recently asked me, “Shamila Batohi has been appointed Head of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions. Why has she not moved on immediately, arresting people?” Well, if you look in terms of the structure that she has inherited, it is currently populated with Zuma’s people and right now, if she’s even drawing up a docket in terms of people, which she wants to actually bring to court; before you know it, simply by virtue of the structure of the organisation, that stuff is going to be leaked to those perpetrators who are then going to be able to build counterattacks in terms of their case. So, this weeding out process using the NDPP as an example has to take place at ever conceivable level of government.

Where does one start? It has to be done slowly. It has to be done piecemeal. So, I don’t know the answer to when one actually gets to the point where all of the corruption is rooted out but there is nothing that actually takes us closer to rooting out corruption than absolute transparency in every single deal that gets out there. In fact, one of the things that I’m very clear about is that we are going to push very strongly for lifestyle audits on every single politician once we get into parliament. I think that’s crucial.

Incompetence, particularly I suppose in the areas where taxpayers are funding it.

There are two layers of incompetence. There’s institutional incompetence and we see that very clearly in terms of particularly the state-owned enterprises. Then there is the incompetence of particular individuals who have been drafted into just about every realm of society because of the fact that they are ANC deployees. The second part of it is a Human Resources problem. It starts with appointing competent managers and empowering them to fire and more to the point, to pick up the resultant costs that go with that because they are going to go the CCMA who are going to insist that there is a pay-out but that’s a necessary process that needs to happen. The institutional incompetence: really, it’s come down to the level of ‘tear down those institutions’. In the case of SAA, I’m in favour of just shutting it down in its entirety – not even selling it out – just shut it down.

Take all of the money that we are currently spending in terms of that institution and send exactly the same money on Rapid Rail Transit in all of our Metro areas because the knock-on effect of that in terms of boosting the economy is going to be huge. If you allow a situation where someone who works in Pretoria and lives in Soweto able to fo that commute in about half-an-hour instead of the two hours/day that they currently take…Just think of the knock-on effect in terms of the rest of the economy if we can get those basics right. And it’s not as hugely expensive as keeping SAA afloat. Ditto the case of things like Transnet. Shut down Metro Rail and hand out control of Metro Rail to each of the municipalities. E.g. in Gauteng – the Gautrain; they should really take over riding Metro Rail and incorporate Metro Rail into the Gautrain network.

In Cape Town, turn that over to the My Citi network. In Durban, do exactly the same thing with their Bus Rapid transport system. These are all things that are very easy to achieve very quickly but devolving power away from the State down to the regions I think is a crucial part of actually unscrambling this omelette.

Kanthan, just to close off with. Skin in the game. Very important. Actually, I’m reading a book – Nassim Taleb’s recently published book. It came out at the end of December. What’s your skin in the game as far as what you’ve now decided to be doing into the future – going into politics?

Look, our skin in the game is that the ten of us have pretty much put our careers on hold, with the view to spending the next five years in parliament and obviously, we’ve committed our resources to this – our human capital and our financial capital – with a view to getting ourselves in parliament with the very real belief that the ten of us can make a significant difference. Obviously, in the event of that going pear-shaped: well, we’re out of pocket and you know, we’ve wasted about six to nine months of our lives. The beauty of that is that we are all eminently employable and we all actually have careers that we are able to fall back on. So, we’re in this for the long haul. We really believe that we can pull this thing off and I’m pretty sure that we’re going to do so.

So, I’m not really stressed about it. Yes, our skin in the game is that we very definitely put forth our own resources and our own time, which is the most valuable thing that we have and I don’t think it’s going to be wasted.

So, it’s five years of public service. Why should people vote for you? This is the one question. This is the one answer; that when the people listening to you now…. when they get into that secret place where they have the pencil in their hand and the voting ballot in their hand, what should they remember which is going to make them vote for the Purple Cow?

The biggest thing that they need to remember is that out of all of the parties, we are the only party that is going in on the basis of principles and not on the basis of promises. If you believe in individual liberty…if you believe in a meritocracy…if you believe that expropriation without compensation is theft…if you believe that by and large, civil society is able to take better care of itself than the government is able to do… In fact, if you believe in freedom of belief. If you believe in freedom of religion. If you believe in freedom of language. All of those things: it has to come down to your beliefs. Are these the things that you believe in? If you do, then you should be voting for us. I used to think that the DA believed in those things and now, very clearly, they support expropriation without compensation. They support affirmative action.

They’re not free-speech fundamentalists. Those are things that are dear to me. If those things are dear to you and other people as well, I sincerely hope that that’s going to be the thought that makes them put their cross next to us.

Kanthan, I’ve loved this conversation. Thanks very much for your time. It’s been an hour that’s flown by. I hope that you’ve also enjoyed it and good luck for …is it six weeks until the…?

I think it’s 34 days as of today.

Get some sleep, I guess. It’s going to be top of your priorities.

Absolutely. Thank you so much for reaching out to us on this thing, Alec. It’s been really great.

Cheers.

Cheers.