The inspirational – sometimes controversial – billionaire businesswoman, Magda Wierzycka recently released her book “ My Journey”, detailing the life lessons and business principles she learned on her voyage from growing up in a Polish refugee camp in Austria, to founding Sygnia Asset Management – currently one of the largest multi-management companies in the country. In an extract from her book published on by News 24, Wierzycka, describes what she sees as the ‘high road and low road' scenarios for South Africa looking ahead.
Crediting Clem Sunter's scenario approach as inspiration, she says, “My high road scenario looks something like this: Businesses, civil society organisations, trade unions and opposition parties unite to take a stronger stand against the corruption within the current government and press for more and faster change. This strong, unified stand acts as a catalyst, forcing the ANC's MPs and National Executive Committee to reconsider their choices and decisions and to vote the current corrupt structures out of power ahead of the 2024 national elections”.
She goes on to sketch a scenario where new leaders rise within the ANC, doing away with the policy of cadre deployment but still losing the outright majority at the elections. This leads to political diversity in government which, in turn, ensures “middle of the road, pragmatic decisions” instead of government adopting far-left or far-right wing views.
“Clawing our way out of junk status takes time, but with sufficient effort we eventually prove to the international community that South Africa is a worthy long-term investment destination, leading to faster growth and job creation. South Africa flourishes”, she adds rather optimistically.
In her low road-scenario for South Africa, Magda states that this is nothing dramatic, but rather concerns a “slow erosion of the economy, the Constitution, the judiciary and the free press.” This then leads to foreign investments being withdrawn from the country, denying South Africa much needed stimulation of a floundering economy.
Sketching a rather grim picture, she continues; “Crime rates increase, and skilled people continue to emigrate, taking their talents and expertise with them. Everyone feels, and is, poorer. The ANC loses its majority but is replaced by an equally corrupt or ineffectual coalition government, founded on unstable alliances and mixed policies, and likely including a limping ANC. Compromises are made about the future direction of the country, the steady decline continues and South Africa withers.”
Even though stating that in her opinion, South Africa is currently continuing down the low road, Magda then compares the country's political and economic trajectories with Cambodia and Vietnam – countries that, although they have continued down a similar path to where SA is now, have managed to turn things around regardless.
“At some stage, if we are to thrive, we need to follow the examples of Cambodia and Vietnam. We need to stop looking to the past and rather forge a better future, together. We cannot afford to be mere passengers any longer. We must actively choose the high road”.
In a time where the focus is very much on equal opportunities for women in business, Wierzycka not only demonstrates that it is indeed still possible to become hugely successful in South Africa, but she also offers an astounding insight into what will be needed from all South Africa's citizens if we are going to turn this country around. We should all take careful note.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.