Economist Chris Hart – is this the track record of a racist?

By Alec Hogg

On the strength of 140 characters and the reaction by his employer Standard Bank, economist Chris Hart is being widely condemned as a racist (which he isn’t) and a fraud who lied about his qualifications (which is outrageous).

Chris and I have engaged frequently over the years through radio and television interviews and in public forums. At times I felt he was overly opinionated, but given his knowledge and achievements had earned that right. An outspoken critic of the ANC Government’s economic policies, Hart was always going to be a target for his legion of enemies.

The introduction to a recent book Hart co-authored with Glenn Silverman, Half Way There, gives us a good insight into the man.

Following his matriculation at King Edwards VII in Johannesburg, Hart earned a science degree at Wits and applied it to teach the subject at Glenvista High. While other teachers were grabbing packages or emigrating, Hart regarded the dawn of democracy in 1994 as “exciting times as the education system was shifting from segregation to being integrated.” After studying part time and earning an economics degree “where the original intention was to help underpin my career in education…” Hart received an offer he couldn’t refuse from Absa. His progress since has been stellar.

Outside of working hours, he is a senior leader at the volunteer organization St John Ambulance and invests lots of time engaging with and mentoring young people. Chris Hart is a decent human being who posted a comment some of his almost 21 000 followers found inappropriate, interpreting it as racist. His employer also judged it to have a “racist undertone”. Hart has apologized unreservedly. We should all accept it. As a wise friend reminded me this week, it helps everyone if we relax more by taking ourselves less seriously.