5 months ago
Businessman Johan Rupert
Businessman Johan Rupert  ~ 

One of South Africa's richest businessmen, Johann Rupert, was accused of being arrogant, racist and suffering from cognitive dissonance on Tuesday evening during an event hosted by PowerFM.

The multi-billionaire was a guest on the Chairman's Conversation, an annual event hosted by the radio station's founder Given Mkhari.

Rupert, who is chair of the Swiss-based luxury-goods company Richemont as well as of South African-based company Remgro, faced tough questions from the Johannesburg crowd following a two-hour one-on-one conversation with Mkhari in which he touched on various topics including corruption, land expropriation, investor confidence, building a sustainable business and the Afrikaner Broederbond.

Speaking about the business his father Anton founded 70 years ago, Rembrandt - which was later split into Remgro and Richemont, he reminded Mkhari and the crowd that the business only started making profits 30 years later, emphasising the fact that there was no such thing as overnight success.

He also touched on the fact that unlike in other countries, the SA Revenue Service (SARS) did not treat big business leaders like himself with the appreciation that they received from their counterparts overseas, which didn't sit well with him as a loyal South African.

"For very many years our so-called family companies brought back more dividends than the rest of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange put together. These are facts.

"So what do you get? You stay loyal to the country, you create jobs, you pay tax, and you know I give my salary away. I thought the job is, if you're a good South African that's what you do. In the rest of the world, people like people like that. They say: 'Please come to our country to create jobs, please come to our country to pay proper salaries, please come to our country to pay tax, and then give donations.'"

He was asked whether any of the dividends from his business abroad made their way back into South Africa.

"Do you know the difference?" he said pointing out that the Swiss ambassador was in the attendance.

"In Switzerland I got a letter of 'Thank You' from the taxman… but here they harassed me for eight years. So unlike what your friend with the red beret thinks [seemingly referring to EFF leader Julius Malema]… who said five years ago that I am 'influential' in SARS, no, no - the opposite."

When asked whether he thought the fact that his father had grown up during the great depression in South Africa had something to do with his drive and ultimate success in business, Rupert said yes.

"That's the reason… In a sense, the Afrikaner was downtrodden. The poor white question… but they were driven. They studied like crazy, they saved like crazy.

"They didn't go and buy BMWs and hang around at Taboo or The Sands [upmarket clubs] all the time."

He then said the current narrative around former president Nelson Mandela being a sell-out was "totally disrespectful".

"I don't see your generation going to jail for decades, no, you'll miss The Sands," he said to Mkhari.

He suggested that the current generation of youths should be respectful to their elders and added that he hadn't seen any leadership among them yet.

"Remember I met Steve Biko when he was in his 20s and he wouldn't have carried on in Taboo."


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