Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has come to the defence of billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe over the latter’s comments to US President Donald Trump.
Motsepe sparked social media debate on Thursday when he told Trump that “Africa loves you” during a dinner at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
He said, “All we wanted to say is that Africa loves America; Africa loves you. We want Americans to do well. We want you to do well. The success of America is the success of the world.”
‘Well within his rights’
Many South Africans on social media wondered why the businessman was seemingly speaking on behalf of the entire continent.
At a media briefing in Davos on Friday, a journalist asked Mboweni what he thought of Motsepe’s comments and whether they were representative of the South African government.
Mboweni said Motsepe was within his rights to express his views to Trump, adding, “As South Africans, we are a democratic society. We don’t determine for people to say whatever they want to say.
“He was very clear he was not speaking on behalf of the South African government. He doesn’t have that kind of arrogance to speak on behalf of the South African government.”
‘People must just leave him alone’
The Minister added, “[Motsepe] was in a private meeting and they were having private conversations. I think it’s perfectly within his own rights and people must just leave him alone, you know.”
Other South Africans on social media similarly came to Motsepe’s defence, arguing that he was simply looking out for his interests as an entrepreneur.
Ndzavi Derrick tweeted, “Listening to Motsepe introduce himself and tell Trump he is one of Forbes 100 greatest business minds and is doing business in 50 countries, what came to mind is that as [an] entrepreneur there is no end to introducing yourself and pitching to those with influence no matter how rich.”
“Patrice Motsepe is very intelligent and knows why he said what he said as a businessman, so liberals and commi bandits must just sit down,” added @CiroDavid.
According to Forbes’ latest ranking of billionaires in January 2020, Motsepe is the third richest South African with a net worth of $2.6 billion (about R37 billion).
He became a billionaire in 2008 and besides mining, he has interests in financial services, technology, and sports (owns Mamelodi Sundowns football club and a substantial stake in the Blue Bulls rugby team).