JOHANNESBURG - My Grandmother told me: “You are what you think.” My daughter says: “You are what you eat.” In the capitalist world, it seems that what you are is determined by where you live.
An address in Stellenbosch can potentially mean a lot for one's well-being. You have the opportunity to network with a selective group of business people, acquire information about certain investments (not necessarily insider trading) - and you might even be chosen to serve on your neighbour’s company board.
I know most chief executives with an address in Stellenbosch. Relationships were formed over years. I’ve interviewed some of them, done some contract work for some listed companies with head offices in town, or simply followed some captains of industry’s successes.
One industry leader I followed over the years is Dr Johan van Zyl, my professor in agricultural economics from the University of Pretoria (in the late 1980s).
I was the first to congratulate him when he was appointed chief executive of Sanlam in Cape Town many years ago. Van Zyl now also has a Stellenbosch address.
One thing about him is that he can network. While at the helm of Sanlam, he already planned the listing of another financial powerhouse on the JSE, African Rainbow Capital, with his co-board member Patrice Motsepe.
Van Zyl resigned from the board of Sanlam in 2015, but was reappointed as chairman earlier this year. He also serves on the board of Steinhoff, with some of his Stellenbosch neighbours, although some recently resigned.
Fresnaye and Clifton
Another few amazing addresses are Clifton, where Dr Christo Wiese lives, and Fresnaye, where the MacKays live. Wiese, born on a farm in Upington, kept his ties with Stellenbosch through the years. He owned the five-star Lanzerac Manor & Winery, which he sold to a foreign investment firm for an undisclosed sum in 2012.
Wiese purchased Lourensford Estate (Somerset West) in 1998, once part of neighbouring Vergelegen, which was established by Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1709. Not bad for the barefoot farm boy from Upington.
Fresnaye is not for beginners. This is for those with a long-term view, as the MacKays from EOH will tell. If you know people who know people, you end up in Fresnaye.
Media billionaires Koos Bekker (a graduate from Stellenbosch University) and Ton Vosloo chose to stay in town, Higgovale and Camps Bay, which made a lot of sense, especially in the days when the National Party ruled, as it was close to Tuynhuys, the ultimate Nkandla.
Waterkloof (Afrikaans for “Water Ravine”) in Pretoria is named after the original farm that stood there when Pretoria was founded in the 19th century. During the apartheid era, Waterkloof was associated with the Afrikaner elite. Several ambassadorial residences are located in the suburb, overlooking the Union Buildings. It is the home of soprano Mimi Coertse and the location of the upmarket Dube house in the Academy Award-winning film Tsotsi.
But Waterkloof rings another bell: it is now more famous for the airport, renamed as “Gupta International”.
Saxonwold needs no introduction. Douw Steyn’s previous homestead (now this is Nkandla on steroids!) was turned into a five-star hotel, where those with a master’s degree in lobbying work endlessly, sipping on Johnnie blues while carefully crafting the business model. Steyn's legacy was to construct his own smart city, named Steyn City, to carry his legacy past the fourth industrial revolution.
Nelson Mandela once said: “Men and women, all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go. Some leave nothing behind. Not even their names."
I’m currently reading Tuesdays with Morrie, a book about a student, Mitch Albom, who visits his dying professor, Morrie, every Tuesday.
One of the lessons Morrie tells his student is: “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. They are chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
Dear reader, we can be so busy that we easily could miss the real purpose of our creation. Let us utilise this festive season to refocus our thoughts and feelings to reflect towards an awareness of a bigger realm than ourselves. I wish BR readers a peaceful festive season.
Adri Senekal de Wet is the executive editor of Business Report.
- BUSINESS REPORT