SA always policing black wealth

22 March 2020

Conscience of a Centrist

It was in the summer of 2015 when the “unthinkable” happened – for­mer, and perhaps disgraced Public Investment Corporation (PIC) CEO Dan Matjila had bought himself a R2-million Maserati – and this made news.

He was reduced to being just a “pub­lic servant” who ought not to afford such a grand toy. The PIC staff were said to have been “puzzled” how their boss could afford the Italian machine. Of course, we know that is bull dust, as Matjila, like other bosses of state-owned companies, is not your every­day Joe the plumber.

Five years later, his opponents would argue they were justified in question­ing how he funded his lifestyle follow­ing the report of the Mpati Commis­sion. Sadly, this is a permanent feature of our daily discourse: a rich black man is guilty of ill-gotten wealth until prov­en otherwise.

The inquiry, chaired by Judge Lex Mpati, has come and gone. And pre­dictably, corruption has once more been given a black face.

Without defending those black busi­nesses and executives found wanting by the commission – the blackification of corruption in this country cannot go unchallenged.

A limited number of deals were scrutinised by the commission, with black business people paraded before Mpati to explain how they got invest­ments from the PIC. What this exercise achieved is to further sow doubt in the acumen of black business.

Do those who framed the terms of reference for the commission and Mpati and his team truly believe that white companies that the PIC has in­vested billions of rand of pensioners’ money in over the years are clean as a whistle? And if not, why have we as a country decided to police black wealth and ridicule our own as corrupt and in­capable of running a clean business?

For aspiring black business entre­preneurs who took their time to read the 900-odd page report, the message is clear: steer clear of the mainstream economy, or the establishment will come after you.

A black government cannot spend millions of rand on a commission whose sole purpose is to investigate black business interests in an econ­omy in the hands of white men who have decided to call Stellenbosch home.

That sends a wrong message to soci­ety and reinforces the white suprem­acy of the white captains of industry. The PIC is the biggest investor on the JSE with R2-trillion assets under man­agement.

The fact that black people own less than a quarter of banks is a disgrace. How, then, should we close this owner­ship gap when the PIC ought to think twice before investing in black people to acquire a significant share of banks and the broader financial sector? The work of the Mpati Commission is not done until we get the full picture of cor­ruption at the PIC and its beneficiaries.


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