Roberto CoelhoBy Roberto Coelho|July 15, 2021|5 Minutes|In Opinion


Stay calm South Africa – the smoke will clear.

When walking on the streets or looking out the window grey depressing smoke hangs like a pall of gloom; the stench of disappointment pervades.

South Africa has faced mass looting and violence in which scores of people died. Some claim the cause of the violence is the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court. Others claim the cause is mass unemployment; youth unemployment is at 70%, leaving young people angry, penniless and frustrated.

Horrific economic statistics could fill any column and then some. But here we are not focused on these, nor disappointing leadership. Statistics will be there in the morning, so our focus is on the frightening future.

First, remember the words of Harry S Truman -the 33rd US President: “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”

As such, the fortune of the future is found in the pain of the past.

South Africa’s pain stung to the core on June 16 1976 when school children became adults taking to the Soweto streets against an unfair education system -armed police wrote their name into the history books in blood.

Death, instability, a devaluing rand, and a government in crisis followed.

Fear may have crippled a nation, but not future billionaire, Christo Wiese, who saw light through the bloom and in 1979 founded South Africa’s biggest retailer, Shoprite.

Less than ten years later, P.W. Botha produced the Rubicon Speech to a worldwide audience of 200 million people. Stuck in his wrong ways, PW Botha put the South Africa economy into a tailspin.

A tanking rand, internal violence, a state of emergency, massive international pressure, and double-digit interest rates followed.

PW Botha said: “there can be no turning back” across the Rubicon as South Africa defaulted on its Sovereign Debt for the only time in it is history.

The nation was set for a difficult period. However, the determined Brian Joffe founded Bidvest. A proudly South African multinational conglomerate which operates in 110 countries with 130 000 employees.

On February 11 1990 the smoke cleared as Nelson Mandela walked from prison. However, before the momentous 1994 elections violence returned.

Millions emigrated, others stayed in fear of civil war. Thankfully, war pulled back from the brink and freedom rang out across our beloved country.

These worrisome years did not deter billionaire entrepreneur Adrian Gore; founder of Discovery. A health insurance brand known for the first of its kind- fitness and health linked health insurance – built by a South African global disruptor.

The billionaire stories are the ones we all remember. But the contributions of the mom-and-pop stores, medium-sized businesses, and individuals operating as corporate or other kind of professionals are not remembered, yet never forgotten.

Neither should the lessons of the past be forgotten as history is made.

As a fan of history, I have often wished to travel back in time to witness and experience the moments everyone speaks about. Over these weeks I am experiencing one of these moments. The panic, the pain, and the sadness are all around.

Twenty- seven years after the first election, South Africa’s great democracy sent ex-president Jacob Zuma to prison; still a rarity in Africa. This led to protests across the country resulting in mass looting death and destruction.

Many have lost business; most have lost hope; the rand dipped, and the world watched with concern the fire and the fury.

Yet, I believe the stories of success are still to come, as in past moments of crisis. The globally renowned inventions and world-defying acts are born in these moments. The power and courage of the entrepreneur should never be underestimated.

The smoke will clear; we will, once again, breathe in the fresh air of South African resilience and hope.