No, Rob Hersov, you are wrong! – Marc Lubner

Billionaire Rob Hersov is under fire for lambasting business leaders and corporates whom he believes are appeasing the government. Leading the charge is Marc Lubner, the chairman of various notable corporate and humanitarian organisations. He says they are doing their “damnedest to bring about positive change while working with the powers that be”.   While Hersov has reserved “a special place in hell” for business leaders who “are not standing up and speaking truth to power”, Lubner says corporates and individuals targeted by Hersov have the option of either allowing the country to collapse beyond the point of no return or to act as positively as possible. He appeals for more positive interaction between the private sector, government and civil society, and gives examples of engagements that “should be exemplified rather than necessarily vilified”.

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Highlights from the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

On Hersov reserving a special place in Hell for “appeasing” execs:

“Well, first and foremost, I don’t think that I’m going to look forward to the journey to Hell, as Rob possibly suggests. I should probably preface my comments by saying I certainly like the man, but certainly am not in sync or supportive of a number of the comments, which I think are not just derogatory. I think that they’re unnecessarily negative and damaging to the efforts of a number of people, such as myself, who have dedicated a lifetime basically to try and see how we uplift this country. So my personal sentiment is that there are a huge number of us committed to being here who have the option to leave, certainly have the means in which to leave, but we choose to stay and we choose to stay with a sense of purpose.”

Examples of Lubner’s positive private sector – government engagements:

“…the work that I do predominantly is in the field of child and youth development, addressing issues of unemployment and finding ways and systems to work despite the fact that government has significantly dropped the ball in a lot of these areas of social services. 

“…a positive would be working with…the Department of Social Development here in Gauteng…for 12 -13 years I’ve sat in front of the panel each year reporting back on how we’ve utilised some of the grant funds that we’ve had, supplemented obviously by private sector funding as well. But the process has always been rigorous, honest, without corruption, and if anything I, as a recipient of those funds, have recognised the responsibility that I’ve got to use those funds appropriately. And I don’t just report from an accounting perspective, I have to necessarily report on impact. And they send out field officers to check that what I’m saying if each one of our sites across the Gauteng province in this instance necessarily are delivering…in a manner that I’ve reported back on. That’s a positive sign of accountability. 

“My Smile Foundation works across the country, but in particular in the Western Cape. The Department of Health there and ourselves have dovetailed and partnered now for the best part of over 20 years, where the Department of Health gives us access to surgeries, access to the surgeons, and our role is necessary to look at providing the consumables and all the other auxiliary support services. It’s been a remarkable public-private partnership. And each year, between 500 and 600 odd young individuals, young children, are able to receive surgery at very affordable rates. I believe that that’s another example that should be exemplified rather than necessarily vilified. 

“If you were to ask me, is the top layer of our leadership lacking? Are they wanting? Have we got enough instances of corruption? Absolutely. But you’ve got to work with what is and certainly you’ve got to bring about change. And we have a democracy, which means that we have a process through which change can necessarily happen. If we’ve got poorly informed voters, my suggestion to Rob is, Rob raise money to help educate those voters so that when they do go to the polls, they’ll vote with knowledge and an understanding of how the civil society sector necessarily should operate or how politicians should necessarily behave. But simply to negate the work that a number of business leaders and civil society leaders are doing, it’s just not productive.”

How private-public cooperation can revitalise the economy:

“I believe that there is a need to be a lot more true in private public private partnerships, and speaking to people like Adrian Enthoven and hearing about some of the initiatives that he’s driving, that Neal Froneman is driving, in sync with the Office of the President, I’m quite encouraged by those kinds of initiatives. I’m quite encouraged that these are not just chit-chat sessions, but they have actual tangible outcomes that they’re working towards and a due process that’s being followed that will lead us hopefully to a situation where we’re not necessarily dependent on ESKOM forever and a day for our power supply, but there’s moves towards privatisation around power generation. 

“So I do see a number of these scenarios where you’ve got intellectual brain power coming from heads of organisations, the Adrian Gores for argument’s sake of the world, starting to work a lot more comprehensively with government departments at the most senior level. 

“I’m anticipating a government that will give us access to facilities that government can provide, with a government that realises that they actually don’t have the competencies and skills.

“To do that you’ve got to think positively. You cannot just constantly berate certain individuals and keep beating them over the back with a whip. What does that accomplish? Other than just to create more and more negativity which effectively does not generate positive outcomes.

“Unless you don’t believe in this country. And my view to people who don’t truly believe in the country, don’t believe that we have sufficient assets, and I’m talking about not just monetary assets, people assets. Then my view to those people is find a life elsewhere. Don’t stay here and unnecessarily drag the rest of us down.”

The future:

“..we’re at that point, you know, government slashing budgets all over the place. Well, we’re either going to sit back and say, oh no, no, they shouldn’t be doing that. And corruption’s stolen a whole bunch of money that should be used for these social purposes. Well, the crash has happened. Let’s leave it now to the policing forces and the judicial forces to hold people to account and try and recover some of that money. I can’t do anything about what’s happened already, other than, as I say, and we should hold people to account. And that’s where Rob is absolutely, his comments are absolutely appropriate. We should be prosecuting individuals who are guilty of having stolen from the nation.

“Going forward, I have got to turn around and understand. Fiscus is bare. Treasury just simply doesn’t have the money to carry on funding social services in the manner which they’ve done necessarily in the past. So what’s the alternative? Well, let’s all go home and cry ourselves to sleep. Or do we pull up our big boy broeks…big girl panties,  and say, okay, let’s apply our minds and let’s apply what funds we necessarily are prepared to commit, that we can commit. And maybe we won’t get sort of cash returns, but my gosh, we’ll be investing into a future where we can.

“My appeal is let private sector and the intellect that exists in private sector bring civil society, that’s got the experience, gosh, to help guide some of these situations and scenarios. And most importantly, let’s hold people to account. Let’s have a system where we hold people to account. And when they’re not delivering, get rid of them. And if they’re stealing, put them in jail.”

Would he – like Hersov – tell the ANC to Voetsek:

“I would probably join a bandstand with Rob saying to our current leadership Voetsek, you guys haven’t delivered. The same way I would say to any of my top management in any of my civil society organisations or any of my businesses, if they’re not delivering as anticipated, and so long as I’ve been clear right up front about what my expectations are and I’ve provided the means and the resources for them to deliver, I would say to them Voetsek. Our government has had the means, it’s had the resources and it’s had enough time now and it hasn’t delivered. So Voetsek would be the statement I would make. Maybe I wouldn’t put it in those particular terms, I think. But I would certainly say step aside, align with and or change.”

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