Best of 2021: Rob Hersov – ‘If Madiba was alive today, he would vote DA.’

The article was first published on 21 September 2021

Very few people ascend to that point in life where their independence affords them unqualified freedom to speak their minds without fear of retribution or ramification. Billionaire Rob Hersov, by all accounts, is one such individual. After three decades abroad – during which he worked under the direct tutelage of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and luxury goods baron Johann Rupert – Hersov made the decision to move back to South Africa. While Hersov admits that this decision was ‘insane’, he maintains that those who leave South Africa, cut the link and then proceed to badmouth the country do so because ‘that’s the only way they can justify leaving this incredible country, they miss it.’ Rob Hersov was one of the speakers at the second BizNews Investment Conference which was held in the Drakensberg earlier this month. In his presentation to the delegates, he outlined the reasons for his return to South Africa, painted a picture of the political landscape to which he returned, and explained why he believes that South Africa is ‘absolutely uninvestable’. With the degree of candor only available to very few, Hersov stated; ‘Black empowerment is theft. Expropriation without compensation is theft. Why would anyone invest in this country with those things hanging over our heads? I mean, it’s uninvestable.’ BNIC#3 will be held 1-4 March 2022, click here for more information. – Nadya Swart

Rob Hersov on why he chose to return to South Africa:

So let’s start with why the hell did I come back to South Africa? There are a number of reasons. One, my incredible parents; dad, 95, mum, late 80s – are alive. They’re still ticking. They’re in Johannesburg. They will not leave Johannesburg. They will not go to the Cape. They love it up there and they believe in this country. But every day that I speak to them, they are increasingly frustrated. You read the newspaper, you go crazy. 

This morning I read that Duduzane Zuma – that horrific last name that, you know, just brings anger into me – is trying to raise money for a presidential bid. That moron, that scion of that scumbag family – and I’m being rude to real scumbags – wants to run for president. Horrific. 

The second reason is because I really wanted my wife and kids to at least see, you know, the last few years of this beautiful country and I’ll explain what I mean by that. All my businesses in London or overseas that I hadn’t written off, the ones that had survived, were being well run. I was chairman, majority shareholder. And the CEOs were saying, ‘Rob, please don’t come into the office every day with a new idea because, um, just let us hit budget.’ 

I also wanted to get out of the UK inheritance tax net, which happens after about 17 years in the UK. I lived six years in America and twenty five years in Europe and the UK. And I missed South Africa. And that really is something, and I know when people leave this country forever and they cut the link and then they badmouth South Africa because that’s the only way they can justify leaving this incredible country, they miss it. You come back, you go to Plett, you go to Hermanus, you go up the Natal Coast, you go to the bush. There’s nothing like it. 

You cannot live as well as I live in Cape Town anywhere else in the world. And I know that. And that’s the torture. That’s the torture of it all. But I gave my wife a commitment. She’s a New Zealander. She’s a doctor that’s founded her own business in New York, which is built, growing rapidly. And I said to her, you know, ‘We’ll come back, we’re going to live extremely well. That, you know.’ Because she’d been here on holiday before. ‘The kids are going to love it. The younger kids, they’re at school at Wetpups and Herschel. It’s going to be fantastic. I won’t get involved in politics. I’ll keep my head down. I’m not going to invest in any business in South Africa that doesn’t have at least 90% of its revenue or revenue potential offshore.’ 

Well, I didn’t do very well on that one from an airport point of view, and another announcement that Warren [Wheatley] and I have today. And I said that I would leave this country in a second if certain things took place; if the tax situation became too onerous, if they take our guns away. I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment and there’s a wonderful sentence in the American Second Amendment that says, ‘To protect the individual against the tyranny of the state.’ 

That’s the justification for having a gun and a gun license in America – to protect the individual against the tyranny of the state. Now, just think about that and the amazing presentation that Jason [McCormick] gave yesterday where people took to their arms to protect their property because the state did nothing. 

And the final reason was that if civil unrest [is coming] – and this was four and a half years ago. I said [that] civil unrest is coming and I said, ‘We will leave if civil unrest is at a point where the police and the army are not incentivised to protect us.’ And that came very close in KZN a month ago. 

On the political landscape in South Africa upon his return to the country:

So remember, we returned in 2017 when Zuma and his gangsters were running the country. And I said to my wife [that] we’re going to be in South Africa for about four years. Why four years? Because all the elements of state had been captured by Zuma and his mobsters – all of them except finance, Treasury, media and the Judiciary. 

When we got back two months later, basically, finance and Treasury were under the Zuma nest. All that was left protecting us against the state and against state capture were the media and Judiciary. Now, the media can be turned off overnight. The government can just say you’re out of business. Boom, close you down. 

But the Judiciary is a lot harder, so you either do what Erdogan did in Turkey; you change the Constitution and within a week he had replaced 7000 judges within one week so that all the judicial decisions would go his way. Or you do it judge by judge, which I reckon takes six years. 

And I reckon they were two years into that process. I reckon about 30% of the judges in this country are compromised. You know, decisions will go against the rule of law and in favour of the bad guys. But that’s been halted for the time being, so I reckon we had four years of this country and then we’d be gone because there’d be civil unrest, there would be all sorts of trouble. The game would be over. And then Cyril got elected. 

On President Cyril Ramaphosa being elected as President of South Africa:

But he [Cyril] didn’t actually win. Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini ‘I hate white people’ Zuma, and I say that because I know her – she said some really nasty things in private to me, and she’s a nasty person – should have won. But she didn’t because Cyril crossed the floor and did a deal with the devil, David Mabuza, and who knows what he promised him. 

But Cyril won and my wife said, ‘What does that mean for us?’ And I said, ‘We’ve kicked the can down the road. Economic collapse will happen. Civil unrest is coming. We’ve probably bought two or so years.’ So I was right, but for the wrong reasons. We’ve had civil unrest. The police and the army were not prepared and not incentivised in many cases, as Jason [McCormick] pointed out, to protect us. 

Much of the army and the police has been compromised. And the country is heading towards economic collapse. It cannot, cannot be fixed under the ANC. 

Rob Hersov on investing in South Africa:

So South Africa is not investible, in my view. Yesterday, Martin [Freeman] was talking about emigration, and he said, ‘You know, if you were an alien sitting on a planet with a pile of money and you wanted to allocate it across the world, how much would you allocate to Africa and how much would you allocate to South Africa?’ The answer to South Africa would be zero. Zero. 

There’s no way any foreigner or any foreign direct investment in their right mind would allocate a single cent to South Africa. There’s black empowerment, there’s over-regulated laws everywhere, the leftists are forcing CRT on us. And there’s diversity, there’s ESG, there are all sorts of regulations that make it absolutely uninvestable. 

Now, I know there’s a pool of capital that would love to come into this country, a wall of capital that would come into here, that would come into Zimbabwe because people love this country and would like to invest here. But the money is not going to come in on the basis of where we are today. 

Black empowerment is theft. Expropriation without compensation is theft. Why would anyone invest in this country with those things hanging over our heads? I mean, it’s un-investable. 

On whether South Africa can be fixed:

Now, it can be fixed. South Africa can be fixed very, very easily. But when was the last time you heard anyone in the ANC talk about the two most important words – economic growth? Economic growth. When do they ever say those words? They never use them. They talk about redistribution, they talk about radical economic transformation. They’re basically talking about taking away from us and giving to themselves, not the people of South Africa, giving to themselves what they cannot build, grow or invest themselves. They’re incapable of doing it.

On South African politicians:

When you see ministers, Cabinet ministers speaking on the television – deep down, you’re saying, ‘This is not an intelligent person. This is a stupid person.’ I’ll give you an example, and this goes against my investment in an airport in South Africa, okay? Fikile Mbalula, I name names here. Have you heard him speak on television? The guy is not very smart. He’s charming, he’s polite. You wouldn’t hire him for a single position in any business any of you own, and he’s our Minister of Transport and I think he’s been in the cabinet since 1994. 

And beneath him – and again, this goes against my investment in an airport – you have the Mpofu family; husband and wife, who I happened to meet at a friend of mine’s 60th birthday in Durban. He is the lawyer for the EFF – Dali Mpofu. The lawyer for the EFF. She is head of Airports Company South Africa. She is the ANC member, he is the EFF member.

They hold positions of power. She believes in nationalisation of land, mines and banks. I mean… Have you looked up the definition of the word moron? Moron is an adult with the average age of eight to 12 years old, okay? These are the people running this country, why the hell would anyone invest in this country with people like that running this country? It’s an embarrassment. It’s an embarrassment. 

And how many millions of people vote for the ANC, that’s an embarrassment. Now, our dear friend, Mmusi Maimane, yesterday said [that] there are 16 million people that don’t vote – that don’t vote. If you don’t vote, it’s a vote for the ANC. We need those people to get up and vote for anyone but the EFF and ANC or this country is doomed.

Rob Hersov on the ANC:

If Nelson Mandela – if Madiba – was alive today, he would vote DA. He would not be voting for the ANC. The ANC in 27 years has achieved almost nothing for the people of South Africa and only achieved for themselves by breaking and stealing. They have broken every state-owned enterprise in this country and they have stolen this country blind. If any of you believe there is a bad ANC and a good ANC, you are being stupid. There is no good ANC. Cyril is not our saviour. There are no good people in that organisation. And anyone still voting for the ANC is a moron, and does not have this country’s interests at heart.

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