South African politics has long been captured by leftists, resulting in a disconnect between the right-of-centre cravings of the masses and the doctrinaire political class. It seems that the silent majority now has a flag to rally around.

A great many ordinary folk in business and on the street are taking quiet comfort from an address at a recent investment conference that is rumoured to have caused disquiet in the Union Buildings, with the president himself expressing disbelief. 

Finally, a major entrepreneur has spoken truth to power, articulating what many have long sensed but felt too timid to express. Sobering and brutally honest, it pulls no punches, and its resonance has made it go viral – no mean feat for a speech meant for a narrow audience. 

In case you have not watched it, this is, of course, the recent address by businessman Rob Hersov.

We have to admire Hersov’s spirit and gumption. For too long, others have been spineless, and our discourse has only suffered for it. 

What is even more striking, and it comes as a gust of fresh air, is that not only does Hersov not mince his words, but he also names and shames. It has long been glaringly obvious that our cabinet ministers are party loyalists without the skill to run even a minor US town, yet are cloaked in power that far exceeds their cognitive abilities. 

Truthful appraisal

It is thus comforting to now hear a more truthful appraisal of, for instance, Fikile Mbalula – currently the minister of transport and formerly of sports and of police, a jack of all trades and a professional politician – as charming and affable but hardly an intellectual giant; a ‘stupid person’ that ‘no one would hire in the business they own.’ 

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – formerly minister of health, of foreign affairs, of the presidency, and of home affairs, a fitting peer to Mbalula – is called out for her racism in addition to being a ‘nasty person’. Deputy President Mabuza is the ‘devil’ the President did a deal with. Former President Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is ‘a scion of a scumbag family’ with a ‘horrific last name.’ 

This deplorable bunch are the ones who are making SA ‘absolutely uninvestable’, along with their neo-Leninist policies of ‘over-regulation’ and black empowerment, which is another word for ‘theft.’ 

Luckily, we have ‘insane’ people like Hersov, who are not only ‘crazy’ to come back and invest but also have the testicular fortitude to speak up against everything that is wrong in our body politic. 

More than that, it takes insight in addition to the courage to resist the notion that one is dealing with enlightened parliamentarians in a rarefied atmosphere. One is dealing with rent-seekers, demagogues, and just plain thieves and conmen, who relish sycophancy and polite reserve – but only understand straight talk. Speaking in the language of the thugs earns Hersov maximum respect.

That cred is now translating into a rallying call around him from the voiceless and the unheard. If, before that speech went viral, one could argue there was no one flying the flag for business, that sentiment is now evaporating, giving confidence to many. 

Business leadership

Dollar billionaires like Patrice Motsepe, the President’s brother-in-law, who ‘should be saying something but don’t’ – the rest have left the country – have refused the mantle of business leadership that is so sorely lacking. Hersov has boldly assumed it. 

The commentators giving him flak for being a third-generation rich kid riding on his father’s coat tails are missing a major mark; 70% of family wealth dissipates in the second generation and 90% in the third. For a descendant to found an aviation business and then sell it to Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most astute investors, speaks volumes for the man’s acumen, the aviation business being one of several. This makes him the exception, not your average heir. 

One can but speculate on whether his candour will come at a personal cost. No doubt when you own a private airport, speaking your mind about Minister Mbalula or the airports company CEO (and EFF lawyer Dali Mpofu’s wife), Mpumi Mpofu, might draw their ire. But the truth is, a bit like BDSM, it only hurts if you don’t like it. 

One equally suspects that, after his speech, he might find himself with mounting interest in listings on his Cape Town Stock Exchange. He is the hero we deserve.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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Sebastian Chatov is the founder and chief executive of Appanagium Capital, a corporate finance boutique. He is a member of the IRR Council.