Johannesburg - Remgro chairman Johann Rupert lashed out yesterday at the ANC government, saying that corruption, interference with the courts and red tape that stymied business growth were insults to the people of the country.

Before the close of Remgro’s annual general meeting (AGM), Rupert said he did not know how people started up companies in South Africa given the levels of corruption, “especially at local level”, and red tape. “I’m worried about the rule of law and interference with the courts and with the appointment of judges.

“The biggest insult is that they [the ANC government] don’t seem to care what we think… not just business people but people who live in the townships,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Rupert interrupted proceedings to tell shareholders: “We’re not interested in going into the print media.”

He was responding to recent media speculation that Remgro’s involvement in the buyout of ElementOne’s stake in Caxton was the start of a bid to move into the media industry.

“It’s amazing how the print media finds its own industry so interesting,” Rupert said about the speculation on the offer from Bidco for the Caxton stake. Bidco comprises RMB Investments, Remgro and Caxton directors Terry Moolman and Noel Coburn.

Rupert said Remgro had an effective shareholding of less than 7 percent in Caxton. “These are shares that we acquired about 20 years ago when there was a huge fight between Naspers and Perskor.”

Caxton subsequently acquired Perskor.

Rupert said part of Remgro’s holding in Caxton would be used in the new structure that would control Caxton after the ElementOne buyout. “We are not contributing any cash, we are merely helping to unlock value,” Rupert said.

He added that if Caxton’s profit increased two-fold or even four-fold it would not make a difference to Remgro.

“It would make a difference to Moolman but not to us.”

ElementOne’s only asset is a 39.38 percent direct and indirect stake in Caxton.

The stake is held directly in the listed Caxton and CTP Publishers and Printers and in unlisted Afmed, which plays a key role in the control structure.

Moolman, the chief executive of Caxton, and Coburn, a former executive director, control Caxton through their control of Afmed. ElementOne is a by-product of various restructurings at Avusa, which is now Times Media Group. ElementOne was listed on the JSE in 2006 but was forced to delist in 2008 because it had no independent operating assets.

It trades over the counter. Shareholders in ElementOne include Allan Gray with 29 percent, Coronation Fund Managers with 19 percent, Tantalum Capital with 10 percent and Caxton with 20 percent. ElementOne’s plan to unbundle all of its Caxton-related assets appears to have prompted the move by Bidco.

Rupert told the AGM that the board was not interested in expanding its investment in free-to-air television operator “The only reason we are investors in Sabido [which owns] is because we helped the ex-Communist partners Johnny Copelyn and Marcel Golding when they were given a free-to-air television licence,” Rupert said, adding: “I believed, having watched the National Party abuse its position with regard to SABC, the ANC would follow that approach.”

Rupert said that it was important for the future of the country that there were people running television that “did not kowtow to government”. - Business Report