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In Defence of Leadership

South African entrepreneur and private investor, Rob Hersov

A great many ordinary folks 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 significant entrepreneur spoke truth to power, articulating what many have long sensed but felt too timid about expressing. In case you have not watched it, this is, of course, the recent address by businessman Rob Hersov. Sobering and brutally honest, it holds no punches, and its resonance has made it go viral – no mean feat for a speech meant for a narrow audience.

We have to admire Hersov’s spirit and grit. 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 apparent that our cabinet ministers are party loyalists without the skill to run even a little US town yet are cloaked in power that far exceeds their cognitive abilities. It is thus comforting to now hear a more honest appraisal of, for instance, Fikile Mbalula – currently the minister of transport and formerly of sports and police, a jack of all trades and a professional politician – as charming and pleasant 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, foreign affairs, the presidency, and home affairs, a fitting peer to Mbalula – is called out for her racism and 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’ 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 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 deals with rent-seekers, demagogues, just plain thieves and con artists, who relish sycophancy and polite reserve – but only understand straight talk. Speaking in the language of the thugs earns Hersov maximum respect.

If before that speech went viral, one could argue there was no one flying the flag for business, that sentiment is now evaporating and giving confidence to many. That cred is now translating into a rallying call around Hersov from the voiceless and the unheard. 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 coattails are missing a significant 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 insight, the aviation business being one of several. This makes him the exception, not your average heir.

One can but speculate on whether his honesty 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. One equally suspects that, after his speech, he might find himself with mounting interest in listings on his Cape Town Stock Exchange. But the truth is a bit like BDSM; it only hurts if you don’t like it. He is the hero we deserve.

Sebastian Chatov

Sebastian Chatov

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

13 Responses

  1. He has stuck his head above the parapet, so now we wait and see.
    It is a pity that he felt it necessary to apologise after his speech, when he only said what everyone was thinking

    1. His apology was to friends and business partners for the undue attention his honesty may have brought – not a retraction of statements (other than perhaps backing off on the transport minister)

      1. I thought that Mr Hersov was merely saying what I have been thinking all of this time, since 1984. Mind you, if I’ve been thinking it, so have many others. This country is a bit of a joke economically thanks in large part to the inevitability of the autocratic idiocy of our unfortunately named and so called leaders. Not one SOE, ANC run municipality, ANC run roads and water department, ANC run inner city, Harbours, Trains, water facilities including our all important sewerage facilities run effectively. It’s literally just a matter of time before the whole house of rather tatty cards collapses. EWC, NHI, BEE and the rest of their chaotic mind numbingly stupid ideas will destroy what’s left of this country,but now, to have sunk to setting up a ‘go fund me’ because the ANC is effectivelybankrupt is quite telling of where we are currently at. Sadly.

  2. Thanks Rob Hersov for saying what needs to be said. The time for soft-soap diplomacy is over; it never works on criminals. Business must throttle the ANC so that we can get rid of them, rebuild our economy, and truly ‘make a better life for all’.

  3. Thank you Rob for having the balls to say what at least 60odd% of South Africa is thinking and talking about over the braai fire and the board room. WELL DONE.

  4. Huge respect for this man. Saying what needed to be said a long time ago. Balls of steel. May he NEVER stop calling the kretins out!! Imagine if more of his ilk did the same!! #Strongertogether

  5. Massive respect Rob. That took huge courage to put the elephant in the country out in the open. That’s courageous leadership. South Africans are amazing people. You’re a testament to that. Well done sir! Go Cape Independence 👊

  6. Well done Rob for telling it like it is. It’s amazing how hard it is for some to hear truth. You have done more in trying to fix this country in the short time that you have been here than most have done in their lifetimes. We all behind you. As they say, “stand tall in the tackle!”

  7. Pity Rob Hersov found it necessary to issue an apology after his hard hitting but highly effective rant about the people he named. What part of what he said was “ wrong”?

  8. Well done Rob Hersov we need more leaders like you not afraid to stand their grounds and stand for the people of our country .

    Credit should be due when it is earned .

    Respect and having the courage to fight for what is right and fearless .🙏🙏


  10. At last! A businessman not pussyfooting around the ANC. You deserve all the praise. Well done and heaps of admiration, Rob.

  11. I think Mr Hersov’s move may be a hedge. He knows the Cape may secede. He funds/has funded both sides (the DA doesn’t support CI outright).

    There are business interests which are effectively protected through State-regulation. A break-away movement presents challenges for such entrenched business interests.

    I would expect the politically-well-connected to position themselves – including using delay tactics, if necessary – prior to a new government forming in the Cape.

    All current political and business incumbents will want at least a proportional piece of an Independent Cape pie.

    p.s. a crucial tool to transferring dominance from an existing jurisdiction into a new jurisdiction, lies in media influence.

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