From businessman to activist – Rob Hersov: Why I joined the march on Luthuli House and what’s next

Although he has no interest in becoming a politician, SA-born global entrepreneur Rob Hersov continues to tap into the zeitgeist and attract massive public attention through outspoken statements on South African politics. His latest contribution, complete with fist pumps and provocative words, was delivered yesterday from the podium outside the ANC headquarters. After being handed the microphone, Hersov launched into the ANC, calling it a criminal organisation and demanding that SA’s president and national cabinet members immediately resign. In this interview with Alec Hogg of BizNews, Hersov explains why he joined the march organised by the Democratic Alliance which attracted 4,500 people – and shares what he believes will happen next as the country heads for a watershed election in May 2024.

Rob Hersov on what led to his joining the DA’s march to Luthuli House

So three months ago, my wife, (she came up in my presentations), Katie from New Zealand asked why South Africans are so complacent? You know, why aren’t they out on the streets complaining, this country’s falling apart by the second and loadshedding is the leading manifestation of that. And she said, you should be out on the streets. And I said, you’re right, South Africans are complacent. They’re complacent because the ANC is just grinding us down. Tons of people are leaving or planning to leave. And, you know, the Silence of the Lambs at the corporate level,  no one’s saying a word. The big corporate leaders are either scared or colluding. And then, sure enough, within a matter of weeks, you know, the DA announced that they’re going to march on Luthuli House. And I said to myself, I’m going to go and do it, because effectively, I’ve got permission from Katie. She wouldn’t normally allow me to do that sort of thing. I said, it’s her idea, so I’ve got permission. Let’s go and do it. And I rallied about 100 friends to join me. That’s really how it happened.  

On why he thinks he was the only business leader at the march

This is the big question. Tony Leon wrote a very, very, very good article. And it was basically about The Silence of the Lambs, the cowardice of the business community in South Africa. And mainly big business. You know, the small business people are getting destroyed by loadshedding and they’re trying their best and  can get really hurt. But the big business leaders are either cowards, colluding with the government, hiding behind the view that business and politics don’t mix, and they’re not giving any money to the opposition parties. I mean, it’s pretty disgusting. And in Tony Leon’s excellent article, he basically said it took business a long time, you know, during apartheid to stand up. Only Harry Oppenheimer really stood up in a meaningful way. And, you know, towards the end of apartheid, business people started to stand up when they realised, quickly, to get on the right side of history. The same thing will happen here. You know, they’re all scaredy cats right now or doing deals with the government or like Discovery, trying to promote the NHI, which will destroy us. You know, it’s disgusting, really. I put in a call this morning to a friend of mine who is the CEO of a big company in South Africa and said, look, part of the deal, if you talk to me, is I won’t ever use your name and I did this for the leader of a financial institution too. And he said, I’m happy to meet you. Happy to talk face to face. He’s too scared to even do a Zoom call with me and a buddy of mine said, you know, take Standard Bank. I used this example before, Sim Shabalala is a great guy, he’s one of us. He knows we’re the right side of history and he stands up when it’s a financial institution issue versus the ANC. But he doesn’t go wider than that and that’s because the Chinese own a quarter of Standard Bank. He is an employee, he’s paid a salary. A corporate CEO is an employee. And on his board, he’s got and I use this example before a Communist Party member who helped institute cadre deployment from the ANC in the government called Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi. She’s sitting on the board of Standard Bank. So if you replicate that horrendous woman, that horrendous human sitting on the board of a big company and look at all the other big companies, there are these agency monsters just sitting there saying you can’t step out of line. Now, I know it’s still an excuse for these CEOs not to say anything, but some of them like Neil Froneman, he’s my main hero in big business. They’ve got to stand up at some point. I mean, you know, Adrian swanning around Davos. He should be here fighting for the country. 

On how things are developing for May 2024

So I asked Franz yesterday and he said the ANC is at 47%. He’s pretty sure 46%-47 today. If they remain 45 to 47, they’ll do a deal with the little parties and get to 51 and the little parties will wag the dog. But it’ll be the ANC stealing and breaking for another five years. But if they’re at 40%, they have no option but to do a deal with the DA. No option. That’s the only course of action. ANC/DA. And that is a better option than we have today by far. You know, the DA in key Treasury finance, you know, those key positions. The ANC can have sport and culture and stuff like that, but the big portfolios the DA runs. Who will be president? I don’t know. But that is a better option than what we have today and a much better option than the ANC with these little parties pulling their tail. We can get the ANC under 40%. Then we can have a coalition with no ANC and we’re not going to get my coffee in the morning from, you know, Vida or Huntsman -I love my coffees. I got an emergency cappuccino, please, with no ANC, everybody in the room laughs, you know, and that’s what we want. We want a government with no ANC in it. That’s ideal.  

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