THERE is no evidence that the Ruperts were during the 1980s, for all intents and purposes, in favour of anything more than apartheid euphemism and cant — the shallow transformation which characterised PW Botha’s much-vaunted tricameral Parliament and which for a short time, allowed for separate houses of parliament for citizens classified as Indian and Coloured. This while maintaining a bantustan system which disenfranchised, de-emancipated and dispossessed black South Africans.
The families’s own submission to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission demonstrates a willful obfuscation of the truth, and despite elegant pleading, contains a number of half-truths and a strange anomaly. On the one hand, it is claimed that they were opposed to apartheid which they considered ‘an immoral, oppressive attempt at social engineering’ and consequently had chosen the path of ‘loyal resistance’ to ‘fight the system from within’, writing letters to NP officials stating that apartheid in its then form, was unsustainable since the Afrikaner was being crucified: “it is destroying our language, it is degrading a once heroic nation to be the lepers of the world.”
On the other, the submission, fails to explain what they were doing inside the system, in the first place, and thus why Rupert maintained a loyal membership of the National Party to the very end, refusing to break ranks by siding for instance, with the then all-white opposition Progressive Federal Party? A party which as its name suggested promoted a federal solution and held seats until 1989 when it became the DA?
Johann Rupert (JR) went so far as to claim at the TRC, that he was unaware of any financial contributions to the National Party, despite there being extensive evidence of his corporate involvement with the system. His assertions have not been tested in a court of law. This despite Remgro (former Rembrandt Group) being fingered in an apartheid bail-out scandal.
The letters between Anton Rupert and various National Party leaders such as PW Botha, all point to the fact that the Ruperts business partners included apartheid finance minister Owen Horward and titular head of the country, Nico Diedrichs. Far from advocating a ‘one-person, one vote’ democracy and majority rule, as Johann Rupert would like us to believe — which would have made him a champion of the cause and policies of the ANC and PAC — the truth is rather different.
The Rupert’s though critical of the policy of separate development, instead advocated a form of “Volkstaat” in the form of a Swiss Canton System, which would have kept large swathes of the country under white rule. The logical extension some might say to the policy of apartheid bantustans, and which would, in the Rupert’s view, have been maintained in comparison to the federalist position, a position which resulted in the system we have today.
In essence they had argued for a more refined version of the plans laid out by the infamous Rubicon speech of PW Botha, a proposal which would have maintained the boer republics of old, had it not been for the guarantees on property rights issued by the ANC.
This telling fact can be seen at pages 288 and 289 of Anton Rupert, a Biography by Ebbe Dommisse.
Johann has gone so far as to claim at the TRC and without any evidence, that he had the confidence of the BC leader Steve Biko, whilst he was head of student organisation SASO, but has shied away from quoting his own father on the subject of what was to be done about the situation. Significantly, JR dropped out of university to pursue a career in business and did not figure in university politics.
The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on Monday said “Biko never even met Rupert and they have records of the Struggle icon, which will back this up.” Medialternatives has covered previous Rupert gaffes, such as his specious claims about being on the receiving end of Magnus Malan’s death squads.
To say the Ruperts were “openly critical of the apartheid system, both at home and abroad” as a current article on Wikipedia does, and that they have been lauded by President Thabo Mbeki for calling upon the Apartheid leadership to “do something brave” by creating a partnership with the black majority in the ’80s,” ignores the fact they were the financiers behind apartheid, and consequently demonstrated an absence of any tangible and practical support for democratic forces within and outside the country. Witness the sad fact of their proposed ‘canton model’, the self-same politics which produced the white enclave of Oranje.
One does not therefore, hear Johann Rupert taking any credit for this small and somewhat discredited achievement, and his submissions to the TRC as a cherry-picker of facts, surely need to be revisited, if only to set the matter straight. If anything JR, like his father, favoured a gradualist approach to the problem of loss of white minority power, preferring a plan which would have maintained the status quo indefinitely had it not been for the momentum of history which resulted in the CODESA negotiations.
Bear in mind that it was Verwoerd, the architect of grand apartheid who explained apartheid as simply ‘good neighbourliness’, and who like Rupert snr, was more than prepared to accept that all human beings are equal, so long as race segregation and partition of power could remain in place. The ‘separate but equal’ madness of the multiracialist school of thought, which epitomized the regime’s many racist adherents.
Neither completely ‘verlig’ nor totally ‘verkrampt’, as the Afrikaans terms of the day for liberal and conservative suggest, Rupert is better cast as himself, in an obscene privileged position, pulling the National Party purse strings as it were, whilst maintaining his own ill-gotten advantage — all-important brokers behind the apartheid system. An unmatched aegis without which nothing would have happened at the negotiating table.
Far from being allies of opposition politics as some would have it, nor positioned like myself and many of my fellow South Africans, within the internal and external freedom struggle, the Ruperts, were in reality part and parcel of the apartheid state apparatus to the very end, negotiating a deal, which resulted in an interim constitution and various ‘sunset clauses’.
In this respect they benefited immensely as kingpins, financiers and powerbrokers from the super-exploitation of labour which continued past 1994, so too the sanctions busting era, which occurred alongside the dirty tricks campaigns against opposition leaders and the likes of Winnie Mandela. After their successes in global financial circles, to their own benefit and the benefit of the NP, the Ruperts bailed out apartheid’s banks to form Amalgamated Banks of SA, giving the lie to claims made about the lack of money available for such an endeavor.
The Rupert hagiography, refers to humble beginnings in the Tobacco industry. JR, is current chair of several JSE listed companies, including Richemont, Reinert, Remgro and Mediclinic. The truth behind the apparent success — the family succeeded in extracting capital garnered from the Rupert’s cosy relationship with the state, (State Capture 1.0) and with the help of Horward and Diederichs, achieving the truly remarkable — sequestering apartheid slush money in Switzerland, while granting an unfair advantage when it came to the post-democratic period.
This is quite the opposite of the strange claim that there were ‘no sweetheart deals’ with the regime.The Ruperts are named in the CIEX report commissioned in 1997 to investigate the theft of R26 billion of state money during apartheid.
In 2017 Medialternatives exposed a cartel active within South Africa’s media, the result of a cross-networked entity with Rupert at the helm, and with assets comprising investments in Remgro, Kagiso, Caxton and Naspers. The resulting corruption and influence peddling, included the rigging of a 2010 labour case involving Media24 — a company which had previously attempted to gag me from speaking out about racism, race profiling and de facto newsroom segregation at its community newspapers division.
The case remains unresolved.
TWO YEARS ago we reported on Johann Rupert’s Magnus Gaffe in which he claimed variously to have been a key figure within the anti-apartheid movement whilst under the whip of Magnus Malan. This week, we can only watch aghast as the CEO of Remgro, Richement and Reinet (R as in Rands figure large in Johann’s inherited wealth and the media cartel his family owns routinely redact his directorships), went from berating millenials for being materialistic compared to his own generation (and denying any involvement in apartheid or the apartheid regime) to claiming intimate ties with the late Steve Biko.
Johann Rupert, also an heriditary academic at Stellenbosh University, appears to not have read his father’s biography, detailing the man’s illustrious business dealings with Nico Diederichs and Owen Horward, the titular State President and apartheid finance minister respectively.
Anton Rupert (Rupert snr), a kingpin in the financial system backing successive Nat governments, went from making cigarettes in his garage to a global financial market player and international tycoon in three easy steps.
First he setup Rembrandt and aquired a loan from Sanlam, Santam and Saambou to purchase Rothmans International in 1953. Then he bailed out the local banks when they came under pressure due to international sanctions during the 1980s. Next he turned these apartheid-era banks into Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) with Rembrandt as major partner and set up a variety of special purpose vehicles for the luxury goods market, all this while sequestering apartheid billions in Switzerland.
Thus Federale Volksbellegings became Rupert Bellegings, as the family acquired much of the asset wealth of the National Party.
Far from being a ‘pragmatic critic of apartheid’, Rupert Snr was not only a sanctions buster, but a collaborator with the military junta under Magnus Malan and PW Botha. Correspondence between the politicians all demonstrate that the man had intimate though tempestuous ties with the National Party. Although somewhat of a dark horse, with Rupert Snr betting on both sides, he finally broke from the broederbond, later becaming involved in the settlement strategy under FW de Klerk.
All whilst promoting himself as a deal broker between the warring parties and effectively rewriting history. The latest round of apartheid revisionism, in which Rupert Jnr, seeks to associate himself with the late Steve Biko whilst casting aside his family’s obvious involvement with the apartheid regime is beneath contempt.
It is consistant with the public relations campaign to recast the entire Rupert family as instrumental in the collapse of apartheid, which undoubtedly they were, not as political activists, but rather as monied insiders orchestrating a shift in power via a well-executed palace coup that retained their grip on the economy in an end-game strategy that lead to the sunset clauses signed-off by the ANC.
The post-historical revision of this period, is similar to the story told by propoganda chief Cliff Saunders who maintains he was out of the country all along and played no major role in Botha’s ‘total onslaught’ strategy. Evidence given by Rupert jnr during the TRC is notable for the lack of corroborating evidence from Die Groot Krokodil, who avoided the commission, in no small part due to the actions of Naspers, a company in business with Remgro.
Think of Rudolf Hess, a nazi who flew solo to Scotland, apparently to negotiate peace, but more likely to escape Hitler’s death squads. Again, Mandela’s jailer James Gregory, who also ‘knew’ South Africa’s elder statesman, the founder of modern South Africa initimately, but was most obviously on a very different side of the fence and prison doors.
Whether being a late arrival at the conclusion to the tragic saga, the son of a major role player and beneficiary, qualifies one as a ‘pragmatic critic of apartheid’ is anyone’s guess.
IN AN INTERVIEW published by Business Day/Financial Mail and written up by Carlos Amato, aptly entitled:’Johann Rupert on being cast as the poster boy of ‘white monopoly capital‘ the financier and inheritor of apartheid billions, appears anxious to recast himself as a key member of the anti-apartheid struggle.
Unfortunately the facts do not support the Rupert version of history.
The CEO of Remgro and a holding company active in SA media, already implicated in extensive apartheid denial — alongside the creation of alternative facts — is recorded as saying: “Remember that the National Party shut down Remgro’s import permits for 10 months in 1988. And I was threatened by Magnus Malan with his hit squads. He said I was costing them votes because a number of us were speaking out against the NP. So what’s happening now is nothing new. Then it was because I was against apartheid, now it’s because I’m against state capture or cronyism”
Wrong, Mr Rupert, that would make you, a businessman, a central member of the anti-apartheid movement. There is no record that the Ruperts were ever vocal in their alleged opposition to the inhumanity of apartheid. None of the explanations regarding Johann’s father, Anton leaving the Broederbond for instance, tackle the central problem of what he was doing there in the first place.
There is no mention in Anton Rupert’s 2005 biography of an alleged landmark event in his life, involving PW Botha’s rubicon speech. If Botha had “reaffirmed his rejection of apartheid” as his speech writers would have it, it certainly never figured loudly in the writing of historians.
Maano Ramutsindela writing in a book on transfrontier conservation parks, examining the legacy of the Rupert family and the areas thus administered by the apartheid regime, states: “Given that enemies of the apartheid state of all backgrounds were harassed, hunted down, maimed and killed, the media was at pains to explain why the agencies of the apartheid state did not harm Rupert as it did others, including anti-apartheid activists from the Afrikaner community. The explanation offered is that Rupert did not oppose apartheid loudly, because he wanted to protect his business interests (Die Burger 2006)”
It may well be that the Ruperts and their company were pressured by the cabinet of the late PW Botha, in the inevitable powerplay between verligte (liberal) and verkrampte (conservative) Afrikaners during the closing stages of the transition and at the end of the successive states of emergency, but to say:
“I was threatened by Magnus Malan with his hit squads” and because “I was against apartheid” is a blatant fabrication and outright lie, one which strips the victims and survivors of the apartheid system of human agency.
The issue of whether or not there was ever a problem with Remgro’s import permits is risible considering the firm was itself, a sanctions buster, one which enabled the government of the day to withstand the considerable boycott and disinvestments campaign being waged by those on the other side of the fence.
Denying or revising the instrumentality of apartheid should be a punishable offense.
At best it is a variation of the tired theme: “I was merely following orders”. A defense resoundingly rejected under the Nuremberg principles and international statutes.
The chicanery by the heir to the Rupert fortune, ignores the reality that indeed many activists, including myself, suffered under the threats issued on a daily basis by Malan, Viljoen, Coetzee et al, and thus the de facto military junta.
Rupert’s latest claim ignores the pivotal role played by his father Anton, in the creation of the apartheid state, the industrialisation of South Africa under the auspice of the National Party and the significant enrichment of the Afrikaner people, at the expense of fellow black South Africans.
It was the Catholic Bishop’s Conference which funded struggle titles, such as South Press and New Nation, not Remgro.
Whilst at South Press, an exposé of Malan’s trophy-hunting operations in Angola brought the ire of the authorities. I was subject to a campaign of dirty tricks which eventually lead to the demise of the title. Unlike Rupert junior who hid his private views behind the officialdom of apartheid’s boardrooms, I had no such insider junket.
Rupert’s assertions must therefore be rejected.
SEE: 1950-1990 Signs of Apartheid What South Africans had to look at every day for four decades. by Amanda Uren on Mashable’s Retronaut