The head of Remgro, Johann Rupert File picture: Jeffrey Abrahams/ANA
Qoheleth, in the 12th verse of the fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes, a wisdom literature book in the Holy Writ, reminds us: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

I thought of this archaic sacred text as I began to crystallise the reasons for Johann Rupert’s arrogance.

The South African political plateau confirms a shifting reality, yet the role of capital shows no real shaking - it defies all tremors. To fully appreciate the articulation of Rupert we must first appreciate the actual control apartheid and colonial beneficiaries have on the economy. The signpost of that constituency is none but Rupert, the face of apartheid accumulated wealth and the embodiment of a successful racist regime.

Rupert, out of his fundamental control of whatever defines South Africa in an economic sense, ventured to define the ANC-led government policy of radical economic transformation with a dismissive “a code word for theft”.

With this five-word conclusive definition Rupert spat on policy which represents the hope of the masses of blacks who have still to experience true empowerment.

It all makes sense when you realise that the 1994 consensus has come full circle, the famous sunset clause and the Brenthurst agreement that protected apartheid and colonial benefit, has quadrupled white wealth in democracy.

Recently, Minister Edna Molewa, despite a sea of deafening silence on the part of many black elites, became the second senior ANC politician after presidential contender Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to take Rupert’s arrogance head-on. She described Rupert as a "beneficiary of the largesse of the interventionist apartheid state". She continued to attribute the "stellar fortunes of his late father", to that which Dan O’Meara described as "volkskapitalisme".

Her application of O’ Meara’s "volkskapitalisme" reads as follows, "By means of volkskapitalisme, the racist Nationalist Party government leveraged state power and state assets such as state-owned banks to buoy up Afrikaner businesses and turn them into the corporate behemoths of today."

Molewa, therefore, makes a pertinent assessment of the contradiction and mindset of Rupert and his ilk, who we may surmise suffer from selective amnesia as to how the state under apartheid was used to advance and develop the fallacy of an Afrikaner nationality and nationhood.

Read: Rupert and co are flashing their ‘volkskapitalisme’

Teresa Oakley-Smith, managing director of Diversi-T, during May 2017 in referring to recent statistics by the SA Labour Force, asserts, “In terms of recruitment white men make up 42.10% of that 100%. African men make up 17.9%"

According to Oakley-Smith, "White men received 38.8% of promotions last year, white women 16%, African men 14%, in spite of employment equity" Oakley-Smith continues to assert, “There is a very good opportunity for white men to seek out other white men, and in the business environment, for example, if somebody comes in for an interview, the white man walks in and there is already an assumption that he can do the job.”

It is here that Molewa correctly concludes in asserting that we must ask questions on the role of the private sector in levelling the playing field from an economic perspective, and whether it has, in fact, “come to the party”.

Oakley-Smith’s conclusion equally asks of the private sector defined in a white dominant male identity to look at itself.

One must, therefore, concur with Molewa and Oakley-Smith that questions must be asked of the private sector.

While I concur, I want to spread the net wider than race and gender as the two strands that define white monopoly and ultimately Rupert’s attitude towards radical economic transformation despite the private sector’s monopolised white male identity control configuration.

Molewa and Oakley-Smith interpret the arrogance of a Rupert as based on two fundamental aspects: the discredited enterprise of race and gender respectively.

Also read: South Africa’s richest man calls President Zuma’s policy ‘theft’

We know that race is not a benign world view that somehow became twisted and led to racism. It remains the product of a racist mind.

I wish to postulate another strand of identity, namely, black elites, in varied configurations, which in this season makes up the not so easily broken third component of the cord that lends Rupert his arrogance.

We therefore, must equally ask questions as to the role of black elites.

Since a white and male identity dominates the economy in a monopolised sense, the role of silent black elites must be scrutinised as that which aids it. I will postulate that this identity of black elites is made up of intertwined and interdependent layers understood in political leadership, economic beneficiaries, academic and civil society including faith leadership.

This four-layered third strand of the cord of intertwined and interdependent configured black empowered elites share an unholy alliance with apartheid white male economic monopolised dominance.

Since 1994, and with every aspect of BEE later BBBEE, a crop of blacks essentially afforded by the proximity to political power and leadership were empowered. We must accept that it remains the intent of the ANC to continue developing a strong middle class. Beyond this aim, which the ANC to some degree has achieved, is a group of economically advantaged superior to other black groups.

Read more: Rupert’s theft claim is a kick in the teeth for black South Africans

Tokyo Sexwale is on record for having conceded that when they opted for economic deployment, they had no clue how wealthy they would become.

This group has no voice against apartheid white capital. Out of personal economic interest, it is used as a weapon to ring moral bells.

Some of the advantaged blacks, from the comfort of their new economic positions as facilitated by the beneficiaries of colonialism and apartheid, deny the existence of an apartheid white identity manifested in the monopolised control of the economy.

Another dimension of the black elite's role is understood in those who make up the modern civil society formations and faith stream leaders.

These, too, confirm an interesting chameleon morality where they daily share their opinions on the post-2007 ANC leadership, while they have no voice on the plight of mining communities directly linked to the white identity that controls the economy. They also have no desire to challenge the attitude of a Rupert.

Save SA’s leadership leads this chameleon morality when they do not campaign against the untransformed economy, with its vicious disparities, yet leads marches in narrowness of dictating to the ANC that it remove its president.

Some black academics appear captured in a vocal public opinion on state capture claims, when they have no appetite to engage the full extent of a captured state since 1994. Are we to assume their research projects and institutions are sponsored and too dependent on the benevolence of that same white and male capital?

A cardinal component of this unholy equation is and remains the role and salience of black ANC politicians, particularly males.

Thus for Rupert, nothing has fundamentally changed from the days of apartheid. Whites are still wealthy; they made even more money in a democracy than under apartheid. Blacks still do not trust themselves to lead this economy.

Rupert’s wealth has quadrupled when blacks still struggle for a living wage. Rupert appears to have captured elites in the ANC and directs their grasp of its economic well-being. The well-heeled pseudo-civil society formations are because of his benevolence. How can we expect him not to be arrogant when it is business as usual?

The words of Qoheleth ring more true now than before, a cord of three strands (white, male and black elites) is not easily broken.

* Ramalaine is a political commentator

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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