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LETTER: Rupert’s fortune came from hard work, not theft

EFF has no business demanding information on Johann Rupert and his family who are all exemplary citizens

12 APRIL 2022 – 21:37

Johann Rupert is an unlikely and unsuitable target for the attention given him by the massed forces of the EFF, led by Julius Malema, who marched in the Stellenbosch rain last week.

The EFF demands made on Rupert include: “The party is demanding to know how much property is owned by Rupert and how it was acquired. They also want the immediate redistribution of land and private holdings without compensation, particularly that which is under the ownership of Johann Rupert and his entities. And they want an audited independent report of Rupert’s taxes and a public disclosure of all his offshore accounts.”

Rupert is entitled to his privacy under the Bill of Rights. It is unlikely that he owns immovable property in his own name and his business affairs are not matters in respect of which the EFF can make unjustifiable demands or indeed any demands.

Expropriation is the task of the government of the day, not that of a small minority party with its own an agenda. Furthermore, expropriation without compensation is a matter that is regulated by the provisions of section 25 of the constitution, read with section 36. It is possible for expropriation without compensation to take place if the factors listed in section 25 are satisfied and/or the expropriation of property is reasonable and justifiable in the view of a court of law, given the provisions of section 36. These factors do not, on the face of it, appear to apply to Johann Rupert, nor does the EFF suggest that they do.

The Rupert family has not always been rich and powerful. Anton Rupert, father of Johann, started small with a cigarette manufacturing business in his garage, and built it up to be the empire it is today by dint of hard work and entrepreneurial success. Johann Rupert has taken the business to greater heights by also working hard and taking risks. There does not seem to be any legal basis for suggesting that he be expropriated without compensation. He didn’t steal any land or break the law in any way to amass his estate and is, under the rule of law, entitled to retain it.  

The Ruperts have been exemplary citizens of the most generous and thoughtful kind. The leadership of the EFF would do well to acquaint itself with the lectures collected in “Pro Munere Grates” in which the striving for a better life for all is discussed by Dr Anton Rupert in his capacity as honorary professor in the department of business economics at the University of Pretoria. The collection of his lectures was first published in 1986 under editorship of S. Marx.

Respect for private ownership of property is an essential element of the rule of law. The type of social order the EFF advocates has no respect for private ownership. Were the EFF to become the government of the day it would seek to nationalise land, mines, banks and businesses of all kinds. To do so legally would involve the amendment of the constitution by special majorities in parliament, an unlikely event. Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs in SA will surely follow from a nationalisation programme, which is why the ANC hasn’t attempted it.

The EFF should be more careful about what it wishes to see in SA. The fates of Zimbabwe, Venezuela and North Korea come to mind.

Full disclosure: Johann Rupert and the writer were conscripted as national servicemen in January 1968 and underwent basic naval training together at SAS Saldahna.

Paul Hoffman, SC
Director, Accountability Now

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