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Decoding Johann Rupert: Given Mkhari weighs in

Dec 10 2018 14:40
Compiled by Lameez Omarjee

SA multi-billionaire Johann Rupert's remarks in a discussion at a PowerFM event last week has drawn responses from South Africans which show that the country still has "deep racial and class" divisions, host Given Mkhari has said.

PowerFM founder Mkhari wrote an opinion piece published in the Sunday Times at the weekend, on the discussion with Rupert, which drew criticism from numerous South Africans.

Rupert, who was a guest of the station's annual event Chairman's Conversation, commented on various topics including the SA economy, business, investor confidence and land reform.

Mkhari, similarly, was criticised for the way he conducted the conversation and said he would consider the feedback. He noted that a discussion held with former President Thabo Mbeki the year before had similarly drawn criticism.

"If anything, the responses to the Rupert conversation illustrated our country's enduring, deep racial and class divisions and their accompanying raw emotions," said Mkhari.

"A cursory glance at social media reveals that, to many, Rupert is a symbolic representation of white SA's, and in particular Afrikaners' racial privilege, through which collective black disadvantage makes meaning."

Mkhari wrote that the political environment over the past few years also gave rise to "polarising narratives" making it difficult to have "rational discourse" or to seek solutions for the country's problems.

"Inspired by the belief that Rupert is public enemy no 1 who should not even be spoken to, some have sought to nit-pick this or that conversational remark in an attempt to define him and the conversation as unworthy of consideration."

Mkhari argued that this hampered South Africans from hearing Rupert's point that both the "African and Afrikaner nationalisms" have to come together to respond to national challenges.

He also considered the idea that Rupert could have been hinting at an economic Codesa - in which political leaders could engage with business leaders.

"The conversation with Rupert should hopefully point to the vital need to talk to each other and not at each other, to recognise that we sink or swim together," Mkhari said.

He concluded that PowerFM's event was a platform for "authentic dialogues" in an effort to contribute to the progress of the nation.

given mkhari  |  johann rupert  |  sa economy


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