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Johann Rupert is one of South Africa’s wealthiest businessmen. He is the chairman of luxury goods multinational Richemont, listed in Switzerland and on the Johannesburg stock exchange, and JSE-listed Remgro. He owns the L’Ormarins wine estate and is the Chancellor of Stellenbosch University. Rupert has found himself in the headlines after Black First Land First accused him, along with a group of others, of stealing R26bn from the South African Reserve Bank. The police service has confirmed it has opened a dossier and has said the matter will be handed to the Hawks investigative squad, a controversial unit believed to be serving political masters rather than the interests of justice. The Hawks squad was recently set on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who has been resisting attempts to work in the interests of the Guptas – an Indian immigrant family at the centre of state capture allegations. The Black First Land First group, says Times Live, alleges that Rupert and other white capitalists “stole from the people” when money was allegedly siphoned from state coffers through various schemes towards the end of the apartheid era. President Jacob’s son, Edward Zuma has also accused Johann Rupert of state capture, while Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema has said the billionaire is to blame for Malema’s personal tax woes. Johann Rupert has fought back at the allegations – with a dash of humour and a fair bit of straight talking. He used his podium at the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Awards, where he was recognised for his “lifetime achievement” in contributing positively to the economy, to clarify the facts. Pulling no punches, Rupert spoke his mind about the current state of government and said the real question everyone should ask is: What is being hidden? Rupert reminded the audience that only the private sector, not government, can create jobs. He has never done business with the state, so he doesn’t know who he might have captured, he said, in this ‘must watch’ acceptance speech. – Jackie Cameron
Full transcript of Johann Rupert’s acceptance speech at Sunday Times Top 100 Companies, lifetime achievement award
So when he and Dan Nicholl had a competition the last time at Leopard Creek, Selwyn Nathan told me I’ve got to get this guy. He’s the funniest guy on earth. We were listening and we were thinking ‘he’s speaking English’. In any case, we welcome that. Thank you. I wasn’t expecting that.
President Mbeki, hosts from Times Media – and I’m going to stop there with all protocol observed because if I mention somebody they will be “Capture” tomorrow.
It is actually a very great honour and I want to thank the people involved. The first time I was here was in 1988. Tertius Myburgh (Sunday Times editor) was still alive – a lot of similarities in those days. A party that thought it was the government – that thought it was the State – and that had no regard for rule of law.
If you were against Apartheid, you were deemed a communist, which is kind of hilarious if you think about that. A few of us were threatened. Magnus Malan…Michael Katz is here. He remembers that in front of Gavin Relly (Anglo American CEO), Magnus told me that politics is a cut throat business and I mean that literally.
I didn’t have any idea that there were hit squads. Gavin explained it very nicely to me. I went home that night and my wife gave me the best advice. She said, “Tell everybody because if you tell everybody then they’ dare not do it.”
Now we’re 28 years later and we’re grappling with the same issues where the party unfortunately, has turned into the government of the day, they think that they will never leave, we’ve hear “until Jesus comes..”.
The next thing is that there’s confusion between the role of government and ‘what is the state’. This has been throughout South America – throughout Africa. Our problem is governance.
If you look at North and South Korea or East and West Germany…if you go back to the 1880’s, the standard of living was the same all over the world. It didn’t matter whether you lived in Cape Town, Rio, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, London, or Paris. It was basically, the same quality of life.
Then some societies made certain choices about how they would govern themselves.
The successful countries chose rule of law; separation of church and state of you wish, guaranteed freedom of speech, private property ownership, free transferable currencies. Certain countries chose some ways and others didn’t, and the divergence started.
Now, I was joking about the State Capture a little bit. I was saying to President Mbeki, “I’d love to have a monopoly. I just haven’t been able to create any monopoly in my life.”
In our group, we always say, “Don’t play cat and mouse games if you’re the mouse.”
I’ve been the mouse. Phillip Morris is 20 times, 50 times our size. In every business that we’re involved with, we’re the small guys. And when you invest back in South Africa, you’re successful. People ask you to invest. Eric Molobi asked me to come with him to Kagiso. The two twin communist trade unionists – Jonny Copelyn and Marcel (Golding) – asked us to invest in eTV because we need a ‘free from political interference’ media and I thought the trade unionists would do it. So we backed them.
I’ve never been to eTV in my life. A very close friend of ours who is not here tonight (G.T. Ferreira); his mom said to us, “You’re not only known by your friends. You’re also known by your enemies” and I’m very proud to share the same enemies with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela (who’s just left). I’ve only met her once and that was when we conferred a degree on her at Stellenbosch University. That was the only time we’d spoken to her.
Before tonight, I’d only met with Minister Gordhan twice. It’s the same with the President – only twice.
I thought about saying that the only difference is that Minister Gordhan didn’t ask for money but then I decided that I was not going to say that.
You have to ask yourself, “Why are they doing this? Why are they creating these false stories?”
We have created wealth. By the way Mr President, for all of you civil servants here – even Minister Gordhan – says, ‘we’ve got to be caring. Don’t make too much money’. I’ve got news for you. The PIC owns two-and-a-half times the number of shares in both Richemont and in Remgro, that our family owns. Now remember that’s your pension fund, you may wish to reconsider the ‘caring’ bit.
Our job is to create wealth and to pay people properly, which we’ve done all our lives. Creating wealth and creating jobs, creates further jobs. We pay tax. We brought back tens of billions of Rand in foreign exchange and every year our family companies bring back more dividends than the rest of the Stock Exchange together.
So you do not expect these ‘narratives’. Especially not from the Presidency and his close friends.
So the real question is, “Why?”
That you’ll all have to think about it ourselves? What is being hidden? Why attack people instead of debating the issues?
Our issues are unemployment and a terrible education system. It is a disaster. Unless we fix that, we have no hope.
Yes, Minister Gordhan, I started in 1979 a small business development corporation and we’ve created 700,000 jobs. This was done for black people living in cities who did not have the ways and means to build up capital. So I’ve been in small businesses.
We’ve done it since 1979. Been there done that and we’ll help again. But we really need to define the roles between business and the government and the state. Because governments cannot create jobs. The state cannot, otherwise there’d be no unemployment anywhere in the world.
It’s the private sector that has got to create the jobs and all we need is certainty, rule of law, transparency. When there are tenders, they must be public tenders. It must be transparent.
I’ve personally never done business with the state. Really, it’s because I don’t trust the State. So I don’t know who I could have captured.
I have one final thanks apart from my wife, my children, and my colleagues.
I have to thank Mr Julius Malema because if it hadn’t been for his narratives, I was in danger of becoming totally irrelevant.
You guys had forgotten about us.
Firstly, I don’t live in Stellenbosch so I can’t be part of the Stellenbosch Mafia. We live in Somerset West.
I hadn’t been given an award for so long – until Mr Malema arrived, and he pointed out to me that I was running the ANC, the DA, and SARS. They only give him trouble, especially recently by the way the kind of you want top talk against us…..
Oh, I forgot the Central Bank, they were there as well.
Now of course, people have left him and they’re now saying I’m controlling Julius. I’ve never met him.
I did send him a text message through a friend that if he doesn’t stop lying about me, I’m going to tell the world that I actually do give him money.
All I have to do is to put a little text out and then make it look like it was an accidental direct message that… and lie.
All I have to say is, “I’ve met you. I like you and I’m actually backing you” So stop lying about me and I won’t lie about our relationship. I’ve never met you, but I promise you, two can play the game.
Finally, the journalist Lionel Barber at the FT.
Nobody has spoken about the election in the United States at this function, but Lionel had you know, this Lunch with the FT and he had Jim Baker (Secretary of State in the Reagan and Bush years).
He asked them, “Are you worried about which candidate is going to win?” Mr Baker said, “No, not really”. He asked, “Really?” He said, “No. Either candidate (if they don’t already know it) will soon find out when they become President that their power is limited by the Constitution. It’s limited by Congress. It’s limited by bureaucracy. Something we forget is we have checks and balances in the system and quite frankly, I’m not particularly worried.”
How I wish we could say that in our country (South Africa) and I really hope that everybody here will continue to back those individuals that are upholding the Constitution.
Thank you very much.
Stop lying about me, Johann Rupert tells Julius Malema
By Gareth van Zyl
Johannesburg – Billionaire Johann Rupert has called on politicians to play the ball and not the man in his acceptance of the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rupert, in a speech delivered to the awards ceremony on Tuesday evening this week, moved to respond to politicians using his name.
In 2014, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema blamed his troubles with the taxman on Rupert.
At the time, Malema also accused Rupert of controlling the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and ordering it to investigate him.
Earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward Zuma opened a criminal case against Rupert, accusing the billionaire of using his financial clout to capture the state before and after 1994.
But in his speech, Rupert – who is the chair of the world’s largest jewellery maker, Swiss-based Richemont – rubbished politicians’ allegations against him.
“Why attack people instead of debating the issue? Our issues are unemployment and a terrible educational system. It is a disaster,” said Rupert.
“Unless we fix that – we have no hope,” added Rupert.
Rupert also said that the private sector generates jobs and not government.
“We really need to define the roles between business and government and the state. Because governments cannot create jobs,” said Rupert.
“The state cannot [create jobs] – otherwise there would be no unemployment anywhere in the world. It’s the private sector that’s got to create the jobs and all we need is certainty, rule of law, transparency.
“I have personally never done business with the state. Really, because I don’t trust the state. So, no matter whom I could have captured,” he said.
Rupert further called on greater transparency and said that “when there are tenders, they must be public tenders”.
‘Malema made me relevant again’
Rupert also jokingly said that Malema had made him relevant again.
“I have to thank Mr Julius Malema because if it hadn’t been for his narratives, I was in danger of becoming totally irrelevant. You guys have forgotten about us,” said Rupert.
“And I haven’t been given an award until Mr Malema arrived and he pointed out to me that I was running the ANC, the DA, Sars by the way – like hell Sars – they only give me trouble, especially recently by the way,” said Rupert.
Rupert also quipped that he doesn’t live in Stellenbosch.
Malema has previously accused Rupert of being part of the so-called Stellenbosch Mafia – a group that Malema has accused of controlling South Africa. “I don’t know how I can be part of the Stellenbosch mafia. We live in Somerset West.”
Rupert, though, joked that “two can play the game”.
“But I did send him [Malema] a text message through a friend that if he doesn’t stop lying about me, I’m going to tell the world that I actually do give him money,” said Rupert.
“All I have to say is I met you; I like you and I’m actually backing you. So, stop lying about me and I won’t lie about our relationship,” Rupert added. – Fin24
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