Who is Chris Hart?

Economist Chris Hart. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Economist Chris Hart. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Published Jan 5, 2016


Johannesburg - Economist Chris Hart - known for being a straight talker with sometimes unpopular opinions - has fallen from grace on Twitter.

His plummet - which has seen him suspended by Standard Bank just months after moving to the big four banking group - came after he posted a tweet that was deemed to be racist.

On Sunday, Hart tweeted: “More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities…”

While the exact meaning of this apparent outburst is not clear, Hart later apologised, saying: “This tweet has caused offense - never intended for which I apologise wholeheartedly. Meant to be read in context of slow growth.”

This tweet has caused offense - never intended for which I apologize wholeheartedly. Meant to be read in context of slow growth

— Chris Hart (@chrishartZA) January 3, 2016

Hart’s tweet has been linked with that an outburst by little-known estate agent Penny Sparrow, who took to Facebook to call black people “monkeys” .

Standard Bank will institute disciplinary processes, anticipated to happen next week. It has also distanced itself from Hart’s comments:

“Standard Bank Group distances itself from comments made by Chris Hart on Twitter on 3 January 2016. The comments made by him are factually incorrect, make inappropriate assumptions about South Africa and have racist undertones,” the bank said in a statement.

“Accordingly, Standard Bank Group will be initiating the appropriate internal disciplinary processes to ensure that these types of personal comments are not associated with Standard Bank Group in the future. We expect our colleagues in every country to at all time reflect the values of Standard Bank Group.”

Now the ruling ANC has said it will today lay charges of crimen injuria against a number of South Africans who have made racist remarks on a number of social media platforms. The party did not name the people it will lay changes against, but notes that social media has a huge reach.

“The ANC notes that given the reach of social media; (Facebook has approximately 1.55 billion and Twitter has 307 million monthly active users respectively) the circulation of such bigoted comments have the potential for causing irreparable harm to the dignity and reputations of individuals and social groups.

“The ANC further notes that the posting of such comments on influential public platforms are not only in clear violation of the user policies of the respective social media platforms – but violate the human rights of those at whom they were directed – namely black South Africans.,” it says in a media statement.

A private person

Very little is known about Hart, despite his prominence within financial and economic circles. Despite his sudden rise to become a household name on Sunday, his Internet presence is mostly limited to his remarks in the press about the state of SA’s economy.

What is known is that Hart studied at the University of the Witwatersrand and had been a volunteer with St John Ambulance, which he reportedly served as its South African commander.

Hart was also, at some stage, a teacher at Jeppe Boys High. Here he is believed to have been a contemporary of former Springbok Captain Jake White and taught physics. Later, he moved to Glenvista High as head of department and started studying towards his BCom in Economics at Wits during this time.

Hart joined Absa in 1998 after 13 years teaching and left that post, leaving as senior economist, in July 2007 to join Investment Solutions, Bloomberg reported at the time.

In 2005, he started an MBA, but was not able to complete this because of the sudden death of his twin brother, Donovan, in February 2007. His brother apparently was killed during a hijacking attempt.

Towards the end of last year he joined Standard Bank as global investment strategist. He left Investment Solutions as its chief strategist around September..

Christopher Gilmour, investment marketer and analyst at Barclays Africa, notes Hart is a very straight talker when it comes to the economy and is well respected.

Free Market Foundation Leon Louw adds Hart is a liberal purist: “He’s a hardcore liberal.”

Hart seems to never have married and is understood to be close to his sister. In 2014, he and Glenn Silverman wrote a book entitled Half Way There, which studies the members of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and their relationships with one another and the rest of the world.

Hart was not able to comment pending his disciplinary hearing.


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