Proudly sponsored by

What monopoly?

Johann Rupert defends white wealth.
Billionaire Johann Rupert, founder and chairman of Cie. Financiere Richemont SA. Picture: Alberto Bernasconi/Bloomberg

Johann Rupert, South Africa’s second-richest man with a R87.86 billion fortune, spoke out to defend the stranglehold white people still have over the economy more than two decades after the end of apartheid.

In a combative interview on Johannesburg-based radio station Power FM, the 68-year-old chairman of the maker of Cartier watches dismissed the idea of “white monopoly capital” — a local term referring to the economy being dominated by white people who make up less than 10% of the population.

“What does white monopoly capital mean?” Rupert said, after interviewer Given Mkhari introduced him as the face of the concept. “Yes I’m white, or I mean a white person. Show me a monopoly we have ever had, show me one monopoly I have ever had, just one please.”

He went on to name state-owned companies such as power utility Eskom that enjoy genuine monopolies. Meanwhile, he said his own companies — such as Swiss luxury goods maker Cie Financiere Richemont and Stellenbosch, South Africa-based Remgro — pay dividends and taxes in South Africa and create jobs in the country, where more than one in four people in the labor force are unemployed.

Racial inequality has long been a sensitive issue in South Africa, and Rupert’s comments predictably went down badly on social media. The opposition, Economic Freedom Fighters, which argues for radical policies such as the nationalisation of banks and all land, called him a “selfish racist white capitalist.” In his interview, Rupert similarly dismissed the EFF, mocking the red berets worn by party members.

Of the top richest South Africans listed by Forbes, the first five are white men. Rupert, the eldest son of an industrialist who founded tobacco company Rembrandt Group, trails only diamond heir Nicky Oppenheimer. The richest black South African is Patrice Motsepe, the owner of mining investment firm African Rainbow Minerals. At the other end of the spectrum, South Africa’s income inequality is among the worst internationally and white people in the country make nearly three times the average wage of black Africans, according to a World Bank report.

Opening with a more conciliatory tone than what was to follow, Rupert said the purpose of his interview was to try and bring together South Africans of all ethnicities, urging the embrace of “common goals and common ideals.” However, his regular missteps proved more memorable, such as when he dismissed the interviewer as part of a “snowflake generation” for correcting his outdated racial terminology.

Rupert also claimed he had black American friends who would find his mixed reputation in South Africa “incredibly funny,” before listing them as basketball star Michael Jordan, British racing driver champion Lewis Hamilton and the model Naomi Campbell.

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P



Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


Johan Rupert’s companies and their subsequent investments have created goods, services and jobs for our economy. He has done more for the ordinary South African than any politician or twittertician alive today. Unbelievable how his opinions create more outrage than those who were involved in VBS looting. It’s almost as if those very same culprits are trying to deflect from that scandal

Absolutely, or how about the fact that socialism has never worked and will never work…take a look at Venezuela and Zimbabwe on what socialism had created. And lets not mention ESKOM with it’s current state of things right now, (how long will the government sign the REIPPP renewable energy project)? so that this can create an alternative means of creating more jobs?. I am an advocate of capitalism and with capitalism it too needs to be regulated as with any other market. The “snowflake generation” will not be able to understand this.

VBS was nothing! At the Life Esidemeni tragedy, 141 people died (were murdered) after they were removed from proper care and placed at other institutions. The move was carefully planned. Even when people started complaining, the MEC Qedani Mahlangu lied and said that she had personally inspected all 26 clinics and that they had adequate facilities. Then she resigned and Govt paid each family R55,000 and the whole matter was swept under the carpet, never to be spoken of again. Mrs Qedani Mahlangu is still a MEC. Apparently, they need her because she is quite good at garnering support for the ANC at grassroots level.

May I remember all that the Oppenheimers and the Ruperts worked very hard to create their fortunes.
They paid taxes and gave work to thousands.
It could be said that apartheid laws aided them, but they were not BEE beneficiaries as is in the case of Motsepe and Ramaphosa and Sexwale et al where nothing is created – no jobs or anything else but the lucky connected person gets to share in fortunes because of his skin colour only.
Huge difference, my view.
Those who complain hardest about WMC are those who cant wait to loot and plunder for their own benefit – and stuff the ‘have-nots’
SA society really sick – mind this is also true of many overseas countries.

My solution has been to block Twitter – it’s full of twits.

Take note how the unsuccessful always criticize the successful. Don’t be jealous, just be better. South Africa has an epidemic sweeping the country, and it is really, really bad. It is called the victim mentality. It renders the victim lame and totally unable to do anything, save for criticizing.

not sure which is worse – the victim mentality or the entitlement syndrome…

I can’t quite recall who was being interviewed on radio but they made an interesting observation. Being jealous is good because it drives the jealous person to want to be as good as or better than their object of jealousy. Spurs ambition. Envy on the other hand, is the evil mindset where the person who envies wants the object of their envy to be reduced to the state they are in. In other words they want a person who has worked and earned material wealth to lose it all and become poor as they are. A case of: “I don’t want what you have but I simply don’t want you to have it either. Victimhood and entitlement are good descriptions of our society’s problem I think.

The statement:”defend the stranglehold white people still have over the economy” suggests there is support for the concept that whites have a stranglehold over something. If whites do have a stranglehold, or monopoly, why do you have examples like Patrice Motsepe in the first place, or even better, Herman Mashaba who, during the height of apartheid in 1985, along with a WHITE chemist who partnered with him, launched “Black Like Me” and become super wealthy? Did the whites accidentally let one or two slip through the system? No, capitalism was working its magic – it took two people who were not even allowed to associate with one another, put them together with a third and they rose above it all to become WEALTHY. Not by taking anything from anyone, but by taking their own ideas and resources, no matter how small, getting off their backsides and making it something bigger and better. The notion that black South Africans are being prevented from doing anything is absurd, and self-flagellation for the atonement of economic sins we didn’t even commit is something I cannot understand. If people are incapable of succeeding in a free and open society, help them to understand and to do what is needed to succeed- don’t tell them it’s someone else’s fault.

Till the end of days they will be a victim mentality group. A few will rise above it – the rest, look no further than Africa 60+yrs after independence. BEE is/was the worst thing created as people get handouts and do not have the faintest idea of how to develop a business from ground level.

As a black South African I was offended by the racial undertones of some the words that Johann used. Having said that, the man is 70 so perhaps he isn’t as “woke” or “politically correct” as he should be.

However, what he said is mostly true. Go to Taboo or the Sands this weekend – what colour are the people who are buying champagne and single malt whiskeys, trying to impress on social media?

Why is it when my people get money, we over extend by purchasing luxury cars yet we fall back on credit payments and don’t save…

A friend in my MBA class once said that she couldn’t go back home in an “ordinary” car because she would embarrass her parents.

The truth is a bitter pill to sallow…Seemingly the most bitter when it comes from a super-rich, white male Afrikaaner…

See the principle rather than the example. Johann Rupert could almost as easily have been talking about a certain Afrikaner businessman who liked flaunting at the horse races while his business was going under.

“Seemingly the most bitter when it comes from a super-rich, white male Afrikaaner…” who’s father if I remember correctly went door-to-door in Stellenbosch selling shares in his tobacco company, Rembrandt.

Here’s a brief résumé from Wikipedia: “After dropping out of medical school due to a lack of funds, Rupert earned a chemistry degree at the University of Pretoria, where he also lectured for a short while. Subsequently, he started a dry-cleaning business.

Some time later, with an initial investment of GBP 10 and together with two fellow investors, he started manufacturing cigarettes in his garage, which he eventually built into the tobacco and industrial conglomerate Rembrandt Group, overseeing its transition to the industrial and luxury branded goods sectors, with Rembrandt eventually splitting into Remgro (an investment company with financial, mining and industrial interests) and Richemont (a Swiss-based luxury goods group). Currently, this business empire encompasses hundreds of companies located in 35 countries on six continents, with combined yearly net sales in the region of US$10 billion.”

Curious George. We need more of your comments at this community. It is obvious that you are the type of person we need to make this country work. Your comments are also valid for the unsuccessful “previously advantaged” part of society. This is not a race issue at all. Consumerism is a universal mental disease that afflicts those without discipline, without sound morals and those who lack healthy role-models.

Regarding “political correctness” – my mirror at home is extremely politically incorrect. I also want to benefit from BEE projects, but my mirror keeps on telling me that my complexion is inferior, therefore I do not qualify. My mirror also tells me that I am old and bald, it is extremely insensitive, but man is that thing honest!

Thanks Sensei.

The odd part was that the man was invited to the show to give his views, and when JR gave his views, he was lambasted.

I believe strongly in the transformation agenda as touted by government but we cannot deny that BEE has been used a ruse to loot, steal and rob from our citizens. The BEE that plays out today, will rob our children of a prosperous future.

I also believe that all South African, white and black, need to play their part in order to rebuild this beautiful land of ours.

My white brothers – I know you work hard to get the jobs, houses, cars and family and social structures that you maintain. But because of inter-generational factors, it was easier for you than most black people.
If things (the economy and redistribution of wealth, land etc) dont change, the rhetoric of the likes of Malema and co. will get worse, not better.
That comment may upset some, but I call it as I see it.

My black brothers – dont pull the race card at every opportunity. You trivialize genuine incidents of real racism and degradation. You will find that most white people are kind, honest, genuine, hard-working folks who want the same prosperous future for South Africa.

Thank you Curious George.

I fully agree with all your comments, even about the threat of populism if the poverty problem is not addressed. Those are universal problems, it led to the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and it brought Mao Zedong and Hitler into power. The fact that we have not had that kind of revolution here (yet), is a miracle. I am quite outspoken against the ANC, but in this regard they played a hugely positive role to guide the power of the masses in a peaceful direction.

My point is, and I believe this is the point of view of all the members of the Moneyweb community, we want this country to be successful. We want this country to be the financial hub of Africa. We want our compatriots to be successful. We do not envy honest people who attained success, we honor and respect them.

The honest path to success is equal opportunities for all. A free-market economy, property rights and a growing economy will create employment opportunities. This is the only way to empower people. Employment leads to empowerment. False ownership (BEE) leads to universal poverty.

I reluctantly tend to agree with you George. It doesn’t feel to me as if my father got rich out of the apartheid system….on the contrary he worked himself to death to keep the NP ministers and their close cadres ( such as the above mentioned super rich) in control and keep his mouth shut.He doesn’t have a farm,business,large investments etc. today. Strikes in that era for whites = taboo and be happy with a meager salary. The only benefit was the OPPORTUNITY to get his children educated. What sadden me now is the LOST opportunities squandered by the ANC government when the chance was given to them in 1994 to uplift the uneducated even so slightly. As I said a golden opportunity squandered.

My family only arrived post aparteid so hard to connect the dots but I agree with the later statement in that the ANC wasted a fantastic opportunity to become a driving force globally. If basic services worked like healthcare, education, transport etc then that would have freed up the poor to really get going and become a part of the economy (which everyone should want). Corruption and mismanagement seems to be in SAs politicians genes however regardless of what colour they are.

Certainly not limited to black people, discipline in spending was something I learnt from earning a tiny salary and paying back a student loan whilst trying to support my parents. I then learnt the value of each rand spent, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy myself from time to time but discipline, budgeting and saving is a critical lesson and the later you learn it, the worse things will be.

JR is a rough individual, some of the words he uses are offensive I’m sure. I feel the same way when many other prominent people speak in SA, the focus should be on the idea and whether it has merit. Malema for instance, in my opinion talks nonsense for the most part and can be dangerous in inciting racism but I recall in his early EFF days, he actually had some good ideas.

What I can’t understand is that Rupert has requested to be interviewed and supposedly questions were posed to him some likely to raise the tempreture. However when he gives his honest opinions, and views there is a plethora of negative reaction to his comments. If people get enraged about a persons views and opinions then either don’t listen or look yourself in the mirror and say do we want real honest opinions from people or should everything mesh with your own views and opinions. Maybe those twits on twitter need to go back and look at a few old tapes on Codesa to learn about negotiation, opinion and views and nation building – which since Mandela has gone down the drain

The simple mechanics of oppression. The one group shouts down the other

White Monopoly Capital as coined by Bell Pottinger in their campaign to destabilize South Africa so that the Gupta’s and Zuma could loot the country freely?

@John Bowker
@Loni Prinsloo

Thanks for perpetuating racially loaded terms created by people whose only aim was creating hate

If by “coined by” you mean Bell Pottinger came up with the phrase “white minority capital, you’d be wrong.

Just for the record.

The economist Dawie Roodt once stated “SA does not have an unemployment problem! SA’s problem is it has TOO FEW super-wealthy people”.

(…implying self-made billionaires, not tenderpreneurs)

Indeed, Elon Musk is creating a ton of jobs overseas.

There is no inequality

Not if you compare apples with apples. There is, however, deep poverty that needs to be addressed. Who is the peer group of SA black people – it is not the Indian, Coloured or White groups. SA Blacks have most in common with the populations of say Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

On most metrics SA Blacks are not worse off when compared to those populations, who are also in transition from rural to city life. Metrics like housing, income, literacy etc. SA even better off, that is why millions streamed into this country.

The ANC damages black self esteem and causes white disgruntlement with the ANC’s comparisons of black and white. It is the easy way out for the ANC to claim benefits instead of putting in the hard work to bring about low population growth and high economic growth.

Interesting perspective, you do have a point.

It was a television interview, not the Nuremberg Trial. Mr. Rupert was the guest, not the accused. Every statement by Mr. Rupert was informative, an instruction, a gift. It was like a talk between a caring farther and a son.

His comments were neutral, unbiased and factual, like the image we see in the mirror every day. He acted as a clearly polished mirror on the South African society. Now, those people who do not like the truth about their own image, who despise their own image, reacted by attacking the mirror.

The intelligent thing to do is to trust the mirror, and to change and improve our image. The intelligent person who do not like a certain comment has the prerogative to decline the “gift” that he received from Mr. Rupert. You do not have to accept a gift if you do not like it. Why take a comment personally when it has no bearing on you? You only take it personally when your subconscious mind admits that this is the painful reality.

It is rude to insult a person if he brings you gifts, it is crazy to disrespect someone else because you do not like your own reflection in the mirror.

The replies to the opinions of Mr. Rupert says more about our society than what Mr. Rupert actually said. The replies from commentators on the floor gave us the true reflection of their attitude. They are immature, unintelligent, naive, jealous, lazy, and incompetent. In short, they suffer from the slave mentality.

The remarks of Ms Rappetti were unnecessary, baseless and rude.

Despite BEE, AA, EE, quotas and every possible advantage known to man people still carry on about WMC! Many Whites have been doing wealth creating activities for generations – so why don’t people stop complaining and start doing the same? It seems like it is too easy to sit back and complain about WMC rather than role up your sleeves and do the hard work that wealth requires. I genuinely think our esteemed politicians want their voters to remain slaves to the past so that they can obsess about nonsense like WMV. South Africans are turning into a sad bunch.

Yes it is true that many of the wealthy people in SA are white. Due to emigration this is a shrinking group. The majority of white people in SA are not wealthy.

Every country has a top 10% that own most of the wealth, it will always be like this. The fake news brigade should stop turning prosperity into some kind of racial sin.

Would they prefer to work for a wealthy employer or a poor one?

if his remarks are regarded as racialist what then about malema et al

It seems certain race groups applaud and embrace their own racism! Part of Malema’s appeal is his penchant for insulting other races at every opportunity. His supporters love it – which is obviously a tragedy given this country’s history.

Watched the whole thing on YouTube – very entertaining!

In his defense, the comment about the night clubs and cars was about the current generation, not black persons. But, in fairness it would be hard to try and argue that their empire did not benefit from Afrikaner Nationalism – much as many wealthy black persons would have to admit they benefited from BEE.

Loved the comment about what we should do different : stop calling politicians “comrade” because foreign investors are not crazy about that label.

For the rest, it’s easy to see why he has probably been kept off platforms. He dished it out both sides – eg listen to his Stellenbosch Mafia comment carefully. That must have caused a few people in Stellenbosch to choke on their Chardonnay. Also obvious that he is not a fan of Naspers or the Shoprite Steinhoff Capitec PSG crowd – maybe I read it wrong.

We actually need more of this kind of public discussion! Not always Politically Correct, but certainly honest

The discussions you don’t want, are often the discussions you most need!

Rupert is actually an example for SA. First, get your money out; follow him, Anglo, BHP, Mark Shuttleworth etc (Investec and OM don’t really count as there are lucrative pickings in SA still for them). When you are effectively out, you can be blunt and open, even if it hurts some of the easily triggered. The more people who wail about what he says, the more you know SA is screwed.

On BEE. My nephew works for a Spanish company run by 3 brothers who wanted to open a branch in Cape Town. On being advised of BEE requirements ( donation to a black partner) they declined the opportunity. So investment lost, jobs lost and another “victory” for BEE. Give me Johan’s “racialism” any day

Rupert is not a racist. He is a billionaire businessman who I admire. He spoke directly and honestly with no racial undertones.
The reason why mostly blacks were offended is because he did not patronize them or offer populist innuendos. And finally he stated that he is no father Christmas who is going to dish out hand outs.

Johann Rupert^s companies did a lot to advance blacks even during apartheid era..he defied job reservation act by providing bursaries and apprenticeships to blacks,I know of black engineers,technicians, farmers and artisans who are products of his vision..there was no law which forced him to do that.. I am a proud black pensioner who went thru his training programs. I fail to understand how one can call him a racist

“white people in the country make nearly three times the average wage of black Africans, according to a World Bank report.”

Jeez I really hate this sort of twisted statistical statements with no explanation, I find this bell potingeresque to reference by any journalist.

The way the world bank or stats SA gather the backing for this is they go sample maybe 20,000 people and then compare on average their income. Ridiculous when a third of the population is unemployed, also ridiculous when you are comparing 50m people to 5m people in each demographic, with wildly different growth rates as well. How do indians, asians or coloured people do in that comparison, interesting that is is simply white vs black income.

Moneyweb, how about doing an article where you dive into these stats with a statistician on hand to evaluate the basis and explain the shortfalls of sampling or other biases inherent in these studies.

End of comments.





Follow us:

Search Articles:
Click a Company: