🔒 Chris Steyn – Hersov and Lubner: A tale of two passionate men

By Chris Steyn

When you have known a man for 40 years, and you actually like him, it takes a lot to go on a public platform and tell him off.

But it was clear when I interviewed Marc Lubner this week that his frustration with Rob Hersov had been building up for a long time. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

These are two very passionate men. However, the way in which they articulate those passions could not be more different. One might say they use entirely different vocabularies.

One of Rob’s favourite adjectives for those whose opinions he dislikes is “stupid”. 

But Marc does not entertain “derogatory” speech.

And he feels a number of Rob’s comments had been “unnecessarily negative and damaging to the efforts of a number of people”, such as himself, who had dedicated “a lifetime basically to try and see how we can lift this country”.

By the time I spoke to him, Marc had become utterly fed-up with Rob’s “tirades lambasting those of us who are doing our damnedest to bring about positive change while working with the powers that be”. 

He strongly disagrees with Rob’s stance on private-public partnerships – and does not believe corruption is an excuse for corporate South Africa to abandon a failing government.

Marc argues that the corporates and individuals Rob targets “have the option of either allowing the country to collapse beyond the point of no return or to act as positively as possible”. 

He suggests Rob should raise money to help educate those voters on how the civil society sector should operate or how politicians should behave instead of simply negating the work that a number of business leaders and civil society leaders are doing.

Rob, on the other hand, feels “utmost disdain” for “silent” business leaders who “don’t challenge the status quo” and “appease” the ruling African National Congress (ANC). 

He has questioned the “true intentions” of business magnates teaming up with the government.

When businesses came out to try and solve problems created by the current administration, he labelled it “a puzzling initiative” thst seemed to be “propping up the ANC for the upcoming election”. 

He has even “reserved a special place in Hell” for these “cowards” and “colluders” of the business community.

Until he dramatically quit “politics” with an announcement at the BizNews annual conference last week, Rob had been fighting the ANC and its acolytes with unfiltered verbal attacks.

Marc has been working for decades in the humanitarian field, predominantly in child and youth development to try to address unemployment – despite the government’s poor delivery of social services.

Rob, born into a family with a long legacy in mining and industry, remains resolutely capitalist.

Marc, whose family has a long history of philanthropy, laments the fact that the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer, saying: “You’ve got to have a level of maturity that necessarily implements a democratic process that appoints leaders that genuinely are going to care about the poorest of the poor in much the same way they’re going to care about the richest of the rich.” 

Still, there are two things they do agree on: a change of government – because the current one doesn’t deliver; and holding the corrupt accountable.

In fact, Marc says: “I would probably join a bandwagon with Rob saying to our current leadership, voetsek, you guys haven’t delivered…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’. Not that I believe certain individuals are capable of change because I think that absolute power has corrupted absolutely.”

As for the consequence of their corruption, Marc says: “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.”

There is no doubt that both these men want what is best for a country they could easily afford to leave, but choose to stay in: one working from within the system, the other fighting from outside it. 

These different approaches have a long history in South African politics, with each side pointing fingers at the other. 

Maybe if they put their fingers back in their pockets, and actually give each other a hand, they might get something done together.

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