15th August 1985 – the finger of PW Botha was defiantly wagging “in the face” of those calling for change in SA! “I am not prepared to lead White South Africans and other minority groups on a road to abdication and suicide”…….. “I believe that we are today crossing the Rubicon. There can be no turning back. We now have a manifesto for the future of the country.” He infamously declared sending a shiver down the spine of many.
Who at that time could have predicted the scenario of South Africa in 1995? A South Africa that could not have been more different to the one envisaged by die Groot Krokodil a mere 10 years earlier.
This example of divergent Scenario Outcomes was brought home by Dr Frans Cronje, CEO of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), at the very informative i3 Summit, an investment conference hosted jointly by Sanlam Investments and Glacier by Sanlam, that the Harbour Team recently attended. Dr Cronje, in his extremely hard hitting presentation, pulled no punches in exposing the negatives SA faces today but he was also at pains to show that the South Africa of the future can be an extremely positive place. While it may seem hard to picture this bright future consider the massive changes from ’85 to ’95! A positive future scenario becomes increasingly possible. Yes Government will need to make a concerted shift in policy and like the Nats of ’85 may not currently be open to it – but with increasing disenchantment and discontent and the groundswell of an engaged, active and concerned population the environment for change fertile.Dr Cronje was preceded on stage by Parag Khanna (leading geo-strategic expert and best-selling author) Parag held the audience’s full attention and his message was best encapsulated by a News24 article, “Geo-strategic expert Dr Parag Khanna, reminded delegates that the old US-dominated world order has made place for the new geo-political marketplace from which no continent is excluded. Khanna called connectivity – transport, energy, water, utilities, telecoms – the asset class of the 21st century and showed how countries that have invested heavily in infrastructure are benefiting. He warned that intra-urban inequality is the threat of the future, but very few countries have strategies in place to address it.” A RED FLAG warning, most poignant to South Africa in 2015 with so many facets of State managed “connectivity” in dire need.
Current Deputy Chairman of Rothschild South Africa and former Minister, the ever dapper, Trevor Manuel shared his insight later in the morning with his normal eloquence and nimble footwork that avoided any criticism or negativity as he looked to the positives of Africa as a whole moving forward. He stressed that Africa has a lot going for it, possessing 60% of the world’s undeveloped arable land, 95% of its platinum and 40% of its gold reserves. Not that exciting when you look at the Resources Index but very significant when viewed against the “new geo-political marketplace”, as eloquently described by Parag Khanna.
Dr Cronje, Parag Khanna and Trevor Manuel presented independently from differentperspectives but all seemed to arrive at the same point. South Africa is well positioned as an economic powerhouse to play a significant role in Africa’s growth. But all shared the cautionary that without governments resolve coupled positively with private enterprise to drive “connectivity” and infrastructure development SA will be left behind –a scenario almost as difficult to envisage as the alternate Utopia. The thought provoking day ended with 3 men at the helm of companies that have seen formidable multi-decade growth; Jan Durant (CEO: Remgro), Paul Dunne (CEO: Northam Platinum) and Stephen Koseff (CEO: Investec) joining Patrice Rassou (head of Equities: Sanlam Investments) for a panel discussion on their views of the economy and the future. Each conceded that there are significant challenges today but these are not unsurmountable and reaffirmed the message of Sean’s July Newsletter that SA business leaders and entrepreneurs are a dynamic bunch seeking solutions and opportunities no matter the situation before them. South Africa in 2025 will be shaped by active citizens and a Government that learns from the past and embraces the South African resilience and appetite for positive change. The history of this country has shown that the will and desire exists to do what is necessary to create a better South
Africa for all. 30 years ago, in 1985, the positive outlook that was reached in 1995 was bold and unimaginable to all but the most positive and dynamic. The scenario we reach in 2025 will be the one we collectively strive for.
Senior Wealth Planner and MD of the Durban Office