The third and final section of global entrepreneur and Harvard MBA Rob Hersov’s keynote address at the conference to mark the BizNews 10th anniversary. Hersov answers questions from assembled members of the BizNews tribe, including pointed issues raised by famous podcaster Penuel ‘The Black Pen’ Mlotshwa. This section covers issues from socialism and Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership through to BRICS, Russia’s involvement in SA and how the ANC is likely to react after losing its majority in the South African Parliament next year. – Alec Hogg
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Edited transcript of Rob Hersov’s interaction with the audience at the BizNews@10 conference in Hermanus:
BN Community member: Rob, thank you very much for your talk. Much appreciated and thanks for being spoken out. My question is: Is one of the reasons why the ANC is bowing to Russia, firstly because of finance and secondly because of electioneering and involvement in the election process next year so that we won’t have free and fair elections?
Rob Hersov: Most likely, I think it’s not just that. The national democratic revolution, radical economic transformation, and the imposition of socialist ideology align with the Russian state of mind and their origins. So, the Russians support that. But it’s not really about socialism. It’s about kleptocracy. I’ve read excerpts from Anthea Jeffery’s new book, “Countdown to Socialism.” For those who think there’s a difference between Cyril Ramaphosa as a reformer and the RET as a more extremist faction, there is no difference. Both have the same objective; the only distinction is who controls the finances and who can steal more in the process. Russia supports this, allowing them to steal. The nuclear project with Zuma wasn’t about addressing the electricity issue in South Africa, but rather an opportunity for corruption. They likely saw an opportunity to embezzle a significant portion of the budget. The project would have been effective if managed by Korea, America, or France, where corruption would be less viable. But with Russia, the project probably would never have been completed, and a substantial sum would have been stolen. The overarching theme is theft and destruction, not growth and development.
Read more: BN@10: Rob Hersov ‘reserves a special place in Hell’ for appeasing SA business execs
Alec Hogg: Anthea Jeffery will be at BNC#6 in March along with Velenkosini Hlabisa, president of the IFP, who is considered a potential presidential candidate. Given the history which we read in Anthea’s book, it’s unlikely that the ANC and the IFP will reconcile. The “People’s War,” a prelude to National Democratic Revolution, was where the IFP was targeted, resulting in the loss of life for thousands of IFP members. The aftermath of this conflict will be challenging to overcome. Let’s move on to the questions.
BN Community member: My primary question: Do we genuinely desire a solution?
Rob Hersov: Absolutely. For the average South African, there’s a continuous decline in terms of economic growth in relation to population growth. Globally, nations are progressing, alleviating poverty, and enhancing lives, while we’re regressing. We need a solution. I understand your question’s undertone. I could isolate myself from the issues, but I choose to engage despite facing criticism, especially from the left-wing media. The ANC mostly wants to be left alone. However, there are vocal critics who consistently attack me. Regardless, we need a solution.
Penuel Mlotshwa: Good morning to everyone. I’d like to congratulate BizNews and Alec for ten successful years. I have much to say, but I’ll keep it brief. This might be a question for all, but I want to urge everyone here: We’ve spoken about the older generation in parliament and business, and I implore you to emulate Rob by stepping out of your comfort zones. Engage with young and particularly non-white individuals who will challenge your perspectives. If we truly care about our nation’s future, it demands our collective effort. Rob, you’ve voiced your concerns, and I echo them. A small spark can ignite massive change, often in areas we’re not monitoring. Rob, I’ve discussed on platforms like Gareth Cliff’s show the disruptive nature of the ANC, even calling them a ‘terrorist organisation’. Do we have a contingency plan for if or when the ANC loses power? I doubt they will merely step down without resistance. What’s our strategy if they react destructively?
Rob Hersov: That’s an important question, and I confess I might not be the best person to provide a comprehensive answer. I share your concerns, and perhaps Herman Mashaba and Ian Cameron might touch on this in their speeches. Accepting defeat gracefully is not always a given. Take the recent taxi unrest as an example. A lot of the middle class are armed and prepared, which could be a potential spark. Penuel, you wrote a compelling opinion piece yesterday, emphasising the need for more black leaders to voice their opinions on national affairs. We hardly hear from established figures like Moss Ngoasheng, who seem more occupied with personal gains. Their silence, especially during crucial moments, is palpable.
Read more: BN@10: The Hersov interview – Coalitions, Gayton and SA post ’24
BN Business Community: I’m a patriot and a capitalist. You mentioned your vision of South Africans, like yourself, who’ve been successful abroad returning home. Could you elaborate on your plans for facilitating their return? Also, I’m curious about your stance on BRICS.
Rob Hersov: Concerning South Africans returning home, countless individuals, young and old, are eager to come back. Many left in the 1980s and maintain strong connections with South Africa. It’s hard to forget home. Often, those who criticise South Africa after leaving are doing so out of frustration and sadness over their departure. I believe they’ll return once they see positive developments here. Regarding BRICS, I’ve never been its staunch supporter. South Africa’s inclusion was questionable. While I don’t see BRICS as a true competitor to Western powers, its existence does shed light on countries outside the typical Western purview. Having democratic nations like Brazil and India within BRICS is beneficial. The more of such countries, the better.
BN Community member: Rob, what are your thoughts on South Africa potentially fragmenting into multiple countries within the next decade? For instance, the idea of an independent Western Cape?
Rob Hersov: I’ve always maintained that while the DA might not be advocating for Cape Independence, it’s because they have a vision to uplift all of South Africa. Similarly, I yearn for the entire nation’s prosperity. Consider our friends in KZN and other regions; if Cape were to become independent, they might suffer under the ANC’s mismanagement. However, I do acknowledge the idea of Cape Independence as a means to remind the ANC that the DA excels in governing cities, municipalities, and provinces, in contrast to the ANC’s track record. On another note, I’d like to express my gratitude to the country’s whistleblowers. Their bravery, despite facing significant risks and having much to lose, is commendable. They fearlessly expose wrongdoing, often at great personal cost. I salute them for their efforts and also extend my appreciation to BizNews for their ten years of contributions.
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