Short term thinking comes at a long term cost

The article “School building blitz kicks off in Mfuleni” Argus 20 Nov. brought back feelings of shame.

Once again, Niall Mellon the Irishman is doing charity work amongst our “poorest of the poor”.

I met the philanthropist Niall Mellon 15yrs ago when he built a school in Hout Bay. One of his associates bought gifts from my business for the school kids and required transport to Hout Bay. Since transport was costly, I decided to transport the goods for free and meet Mr. Mellon.

When I introduced myself as a City Councillor. Mr. Mellon shared his attempt to buy land at Big Bay. I listened but said nothing. I knew what he was talking about but the issue was politically sensitive.

The mayoral committee of Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo sold the land to billionaire Tokyo Sexwale’s Jonga Entabeni consortium for R115-million, below the R151-million bid of an Italian company.

However, Jonga Entabeni had 50% Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), the Italians had 30% (BEE). Earthquake Africa, of Mr. Mellon, tendered R147m, but had 25% (BEE) and was the official favourite.  

According to historic media reports, Mellon said that his experience was that a decision favouring Jonga Entabeni would discourage foreign investment.  Also “Pres Thabo Mbeki and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel had spent considerable time and effort on initiatives to attract foreign investment. In the case of Big Bay, Earthquake exceeded the criterion of council in its tender document, and offered more than the flawed Jonga Entabeni proposal”.

Why am I relating this strange tale, 15 years later?

Currently Pres. Ramaphosa and his staff search the earth at taxpayers’ expense seeking investment.

In retrospect, Mr. Mellon was correct in his foresights as Big Bay could have been a greater success story and could have enticed billions in foreign investment. Oddly, whilst Mr. Mellon continues with his charity work as cited in the Argus, those enriched comrades have moved onto greater profits.

Question. Is it the taxpayer’s duty to create black billionaires? What must be done when a charitable investor brings overseas investment into our economy but runs short of a connected BEE partner?

What did we learn from this example of BEE versus private profit? Does the increase in parity amid our rich and poor matter? How do we explain our “class struggle” as voiced by Nelson Mandela and Chris Hani when our current reality celebrates past communists and unionists as multi-billionaires?

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress