CNN News Anchor and Business Editor Richard Quest didn’t hold back in sharing his views on the current state of South Africa with Radio 702’s Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show.
With South Africa sending a ‘lite’ team to the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davis, Switzerland, this year; Quest theorised that the reasons for SA’s decreased profile could be economic or that they didn’t see the need.
But – he stressed – “there’s no point in coming here to say ‘invest invest invest in me’… if you haven’t got the policies worthy of it”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa cancelled his trip to Davos at the last minute, saying he was staying home to tend to “domestic priorities” (with rumoured tensions in the ANC, as some members allegedly want to oust Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan).
It was just a couple of years ago that Ramaphosa was welcomed to Davos as if he were a new Mandela. But that was two years ago, says Quest.
“Since then we’ve discovered just how awful the state-owned capture was of enterprises. This is one of those few subjects where Pravin Gordhan says: ‘If you think it was bad, I’m telling you it was worse.'”
Quest said after Team SA came to Davos for five or 10 years, saying South Africa was doing really well and had everything under control, it’s now “actually, the entire economy was hijacked… and we’re terribly sorry to tell you that the losses are in the billions… and we’re not even sure if we’ve dealt with it…”
He then asked the question most South Africans have been asking: “How many people have gone to prison so far?”
Quest was also critical of the government’s insistence on interfering in SAA rather than letting an airline expert run the airline. “Don’t try say you’re restructuring when you’re just moving the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.
When asked how this all looked for the credibility of the SA government at Davos, Quest said: “What credibility?” And then he took another swipe at President Ramaphosa for sweeping things under the carpet:
“The President – Cyril Ramaphosa – he came in knowing that South Africa’s government had minuscule credibility following the Zuma years and the captures of SOEs. You can’t suddenly white wash it away like you’re cleaning a wall,” said Quest, acknowledging: “The opportunities in South Africa are huge, the potential is enormous and the labour force is fantastic… but you cannot turn around to people and say ‘oh btw, don’t worry about that nasty little business where trillions were siphoned off in a very corrupt environment of which – by the way – I was a member of the government at the time. I was a member – I see nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing’.”
Watch the interview yourself below…