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Upper Echelon: Kevin Wakeford – former Sacob chief executive

The tough ‘missing’ years after his alarm about what was happening to the rand.

ALEC HOGG: One of the forgotten men of South African business is featured in our Upper Echelon this week. Kevin Wakeford lost his job as the chief executive of the South African Chamber of Business after he raised an alarm about what was happening to the rand. That was back in the early naughties. Today Ryk van Niekerk spoke with him and from this cut he answers what’s been going on in his life since that Rand Commission.

KEVIN WAKEFORD: I had a number of very, very tough years. I think there were a lot of people who sympathised with me, a lot of people who identified with what had happened, but the character and nature of the business realm is that you stay away from anything that’s perceived as controversial.
   So I went through about two or three years of where I literally sold properties that I owned and traded in a vehicle on a cheaper one. I got back to some really earthly living. But that was good, it was very good for me at the time. The last 10 years I can see that I’ve gone through a number of processes, I’ve advised a Premier on economic matters in Eastern Cape, I’ve tried to set right an institution in the Eastern Cape called the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, which was going through very trying times at the time. And that in itself was an exploration for me of ups and downs. I’ve advised a national minister, the National Minister of Home Affairs, on the national turnaround of that department as project adviser.

RYK VAN NIEKERK: Which was very successful.

KEVIN WAKEFORD: I think for me it was a huge learning curve. We met teams that had worked on Homeland Security in the US, on the Netherlands department of internal affairs, the Belgian department of home affairs. They had also gone through their own challenges and turnarounds.

ALEC HOGG: That’s Kevin Wakeford. The full interview with Ryk van Niekerk – really fascinating insight, is on Moneyweb right now. He’s a great guy, David but unfortunately a whistleblower in our country doesn’t seem to get support.

DAVID SHAPIRO: it was at the wrong time, sadly. I dint realise – I think no-one realised how it actually affect his life – that he actually had to go and take a back seat, hide away, sell your properties and live. I suppose he became unemployable. But he was a very talented man and a very clever person.

ALEC HOGG: He remains so. I hope we see more of Kevin Wakeford.

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