The corruption of Jacob Zuma is dead and buried and South Africans must now focus on building a future for the country, Sygnia Asset Management CEO Magda Wierzycka has said.
Wierzycka was speaking at the UCT Graduate School of Business’s annual Women in Business conference held in Cape Town on Friday. Apart from sharing lessons for women to build their careers and businesses, the CEO spoke broadly about their role in the country, in a post-Zuma era.
"It is important to recognise that whatever you are doing in South Africa right now, you can’t do it ignoring the political and economic environment we live in," she said.
Over the past 18 months, since Pravin Gordhan was fired as finance minister, South Africans have become more politically aware, she explained.
"Eighteen months ago we knew about corruption, but we did not know all the details. In 18 months all that was played out to us in technicolour, in social media, the media and on our cellphones."
But Wierzycka warned that South Africans should not become complacent. Following Zuma’s rule, the problem of his legacy is that he made corruption an institutional way of doing business both in the private sector and the public sector, said Wierzycka. "It is very naïve to suppose that Cyril [Ramaphosa] can just come and sweep it away with a paintbrush … It’ll be like taking one step forward and two steps back."
Wierzycka encouraged South Africans to stay and build the economy. "People like yourselves, all this talent, are leaving South Africa.
"My message is: don’t… The reality of this is [that] the grass is not greener on the other side," she said.
"We need people to stay here, to contribute, to work, to grow the economy to create jobs."
Her words were met with a huge round of applause from delegates.
Wierzycka added that when there is a skills drain, it creates an opportunity for those who stay behind to do so much greater.
When it comes to dealing with past wrongs, Wierzycka believes it is important for South Africans to be wise about how their emotional energy is spent.
"Don’t be negative. Whatever emotion you project is not just about yourself but South Africa. We need tourists; we need foreign investment. Don’t go overseas and whinge about South Africa," she said.
"Don’t talk about the corruption of Zuma, it is done and buried."
Wierzycka said that South Africans should rather spend 20% of their energy on punishing the past and the remaining 80% on building the future.
"In South Africa, we need to look to the future, and not dwell too much on the past. The crooks must go to jail, Markus Jooste first."
She concluded by calling for a focus on being positive, because South Africans "badly need" positive PR and not the "crazy headlines" like those of the New York Times. She then affirmed her commitment to stay in South Africa.
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