Who are the Ruperts – and their apartheid built wealth

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Carl Niehaus

Anton Rupert was born in 1916, he is the father of Johan Rupert. The Rupert family started off in the business of making cheap illegal cigarettes at the back of a garage. Anton Rupert later added cheap brandy, which was made from the left-over throw-away grapes and reject wine.

The brandy was resold to wine farmers to resell to their coloured farm workers. This was the notorious dop-system, and the Ruperts were at the heart of this evil system that deliberately created alcoholics and destroyed the family structures of the coloured community.

One of Anton Rupert’s most notable quotes about the recession of the 1930’s was: “The more there is a recession, the more money I make – because people drink and smoke when they are stressed out.”

The Rise of Remgro and Rembrandt

Anton Rupert was one of the key members of the Broederbond, then, serving with the likes of D.F Malan, Dr. H.F Verwoerd, Pik Botha, and Piet Meyer (who was the chair). He was always at the heart of the deep inner circle of the National Party apartheid system, as seen in 1966 when Hendrick Verwoerd was killed.

With Verwoerd’s death, the Broederbond National Executive met to discuss the issue of succession. There were two front-runners for the top position to take over from Verwoed, it was Anton Rupert from the National Party in the Western Cape Province, and John Vorster, who was from the Transvaal.

Because of the need to avoid a bitter battle that could divide the Nats, a deal was struck behind the scenes with Anton Rupert. The deal was that their community was going to be run by two big boys – John Vorster, who will lead the government, and Anton Rupert, who will lead the business.

Remgro grew in leaps and bounds, raking one government contract after the other, following the ’66 deal. In fact, Rupert, then, in his negotiations with the Nats, complained that they were not giving him enough government business. Which is how the 1966 settlement deal was reached.

The Afrikaans companies, especially those of the Ruperts, were the major suppliers of goods and services to the government-owned entities such as Iskor, Eskom the South African Railways (later to be named Transnet). As the business with the National Party government was growing, so was the consumer business – especially luxury goods which also traded internationally.

As a Broederbond member, it was Rupert’s funds that were used to sustain and maintain the National Party system.

Rupert’s staged “renouncement” of the National Party

On realising how the international sanctions against the apartheid government were hurting his international business, Anton went back to the Nats to cut another deal that would assist him to circumvent economic sanctions.

Rupert met with the national executive of the Broederbond and indicated that economic sanctions were hurting his chances for international expansion, therefore, in order to continue trading without these limitations, he needed to resign from the Broederbond, and to publicly “renounce” the National Party and its policies. The Broederbond executive gave him the go-ahead.

In a private letter to President P.W. Botha in 1986, Rupert advocated for “partnership between blacks and whites” as part of a publicity stunt to protect his business from sanctions. He further went on to prod South Africa’s rulers to bury what he called “the stinking corpse of apartheid,” because it was bad for business.

Anton is credited with having formed 35 companies in six different continents, with a yearly profit of 10 – billion US dollars. This is a business that Johann Rupert, the first-born of the Rupert family, later inherited when his father retired.

Johann, on the other hand, using his father’s money and political influence – also “formed” some companies of his own. But looking at how Rupert senior was wheeling and dealing, and staging things – it would not be far fetched to assume that Johann Rupert “forming his own businesses” was also part of the plot to try and distance him from the apartheid system, and it’s notorious past.

This is who Johann Rupert really is.

MKMVA spokesman Carl Niehaus