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02 MARCH 2020
How to steal a country
It’s a film that will shock you to your core, a story that will make sense of a lot of the inconveniences that have now become part and parcel of South Africa’s daily lived reality.

Acclaimed South African film maker Rehad Desai’s latest work 'How to Steal A Country' is not for the faint-hearted, but it should be compulsory viewing for anyone who lives in this country, indeed any person who sees a future in South Africa, says Henley Business School Africa’s dean and director, Jon Foster-Pedley.

On Monday 10 February, 2020, the Henley Africa community of alumni, students, faculty and friends, were invited to the film’s official premiere at the Killarney Cine Centre.

“We were invited to co-host this with Avalon Group, the owners of Cine Centre,” explains Foster-Pedley and it made sense on so many different levels: the film absolutely underpins – in its compelling storytelling – the entire ethos of our #Corporate Citizenship campaign – while AB Moosa, the third generation CEO of the Avalon Group, South Africa’s third oldest film distribution company, is a Henley MBA graduate himself.”

The film, directed and produced by Desai, tracks the 10 years of state capture through the voices of the main journalists who played such a key role unpicking its various strands, culminating in the #GuptaLeaks, which in turn led to the resignation of Jacob Zuma as president and the establishment of the Zondo Commission into State Capture.

It lays bare the uncomfortable truth that state capture is neither new nor isolated, that it is a phenomenon that has its roots far deeper than the Zuma presidency and was aided and abetted, unequivocally by corporate collusion – and internationally at that.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Henley Africa’s John Vlismas and included Desai and legendary South African journalist and former newspaper editor Ferial Haffejee.

“The political class is bankrupt,” said Desai afterwards, “they don’t have new answers.”

The answer, he said, lay in South Africa’s civil society because there was no political party on the current landscape that had viable solutions.

“We have to build a counter power for serious social change in this country, otherwise the global power and institution of capital will crush you.”

Foster-Pedley agreed.

“Philosopher Yuval Noah Harari speaks of the failures of the all the great narratives of the 20th century to create prosperous, caring societies. None of them: liberal democracy, socialism or fascism have worked, we have to discover that new narrative for us to come together over to build the kind of society not just that we want to live in, but which we wish to bequeath to our children and their children.”

For Haffajee, who has a major role in the film helping sketch the narrative of state capture as well as recounting the hideous and highly personal tactics that were used to try to muzzle her, seeing the last 10 years presented in one film was a stunning experience.

“Wow,” she said, “I’m left wondering how we managed to live through all of that.”

For Vlismas, the message was even simpler: “it’s not about the president or the cabinet, it’s us. If we don’t act with ethics, it’s on us.”

Desai’s film, Foster-Pedley said, should be compulsory viewing for all South Africans, but it was especially important for Henley students in the context of #CorporateActivism.

How to steal a country doesn’t just tell the story of one politically powerful family selling the birth right of a nation to another family, it actually shows how state capture was so much more than just the Zumas and the Guptas and headline events like the wedding party landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base or the extravaganza at Sun City, but rather exposes the asphyxiating web of corruption and rent-seeking actively enabled and encouraged by international corporates chasing profit at the expense of an entire generation.

“Our only defence”, as John Vlismas says, “is to ensure that each one of us becomes corporate activists, speaking truth to power in the boardroom on the shop floor and around the braai”.

“Hosting this premiere allowed us to support Rehad and his team’s efforts, but also allowed us to create an event for the broader Henley family, giving our alumni a chance to reconnect with each other and faculty, to meet current students and inspire them, but most of all to recommit to being the best corporate activists that they can be in their daily lives”.

“None of us can ever allow this to happen again, whether in our lifetimes or beyond.”

'How to Steal a Country' will go on circuit at CineCentres across the country in March.
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