Throughout the years, US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson was a thorn in the side of the apartheid regime and a friend of its victims. He says: “My religion is to fight for those whose backs are against the wall.”
He says that Jesus Christ was born poor, and like the Son of Man, Jackson says his singular wish has been to “help everybody”.
He has been unrelenting in this desire to help everybody, especially the downtrodden.
He has changed course now, from fighting political apartheid to battling economic apartheid.
He is known to have said: “Both tears and sweat are salty, but they render a different result. Tears will get you sympathy; sweat will get you change.”
He was reminded of this piece of wisdom by Ina Cronje, the chairperson of the Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal board at a breakfast meeting in Sandton on Tuesday.
Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal had invited Jackson to be their guest of honour at the Sandton Sun hotel.
Cronje said: “This event is hosted with the aim of showcasing the latest developments within the province of KZN and to create awareness of projects for investment and trade opportunities.
“The successful marketing and promotion of KwaZulu-Natal through this event, I believe, will encourage closer linkages with the US through Reverend Jackson, for companies to take advantage of opportunities which will lead to the heightening of economic activity which will improve South Africa’s economy.
“As chairperson of the board of TIKZN, I would like to express my appreciation to you, Reverend Jackson, for making time to engage with the Province of KwaZulu-Natal and being such a good friend to not only South Africa, but to the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.”
Indeed, trade and investment is Jackson’s new language now. He places more premium on the economic than the political.
“There’s no longer separation by race, it is separation by resources,” Jackson says. He laments access to capital by the black majority in the country.
“It will be sad if the black majority does not leverage its strength. Its strength is its consumer base. It must demand its share in banking, trucking, aeronautics, shipping and motoring dealerships.”
In America, he says, “football teams were owned by whites, while the majority of players on the field were black. We demanded our share.”
He extended an invitation to the audience to a conference to be hosted by his Rainbow Push Coalition, from June 13 to 16, 2018, in Chicago, USA.
Cronje said they were open to widening their interests: “As KwaZulu-Natal, we will be placing the highest premium in forging trade relations with those countries that we regard as the future growth centres. In this regard, our investment and trade missions prioritise these countries in order to strengthen the bonds of doing business with them.”
Jackson told the attendees how they in the US were banging on doors of big corporates, demanding partnerships.
Bridging the resource gap, he says, is fundamental.
“The race gap is closed. That means [it is] time for joint ventures. Blacks must negotiate these relationships, these partnerships. We must globalise capital, globalise human rights, democratise capital.”
Jackson says the ANC as government must be mindful of what investors do: “They invest, but invest among whites.”
“Who controls the airlines,” he asks? “South Africa has too many poor people. That must change.”
There were no more economic sanctions. “The walls are down now.”
“What does the black man in South Africa have to offer business?” he asked rhetorically. “They must demand their seats on boards.”
Jackson talks less politics now: “Demand favourable wages for workers, fair access to housing. Access must be open to everybody.”
He speaks a lot about economic freedom.
Of land expropriation without compensation, Jackson says: “Make expropriation respectable.”
It does not bode well for the country that the minority whites still own the biggest percentage of the land: “It is not fair, it is not right.”
Land development in the past excluded black South Africans. They were locked out, he says.
So land redistribution “must be fair, it must be quick, people have the right to be impatient”.
He spoke highly of the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, whom he puts on the same pedestal as Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela: “By her stripes many are healed. She was an agitator. She shook the system. The martyrdom of Winnie, of Dr King, of Nelson Mandela, make us better.”