ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS
Banker, former civil servant, academic: Roger Jardine raises his hand to be president
The outgoing FirstRand chairperson wants to serve his country – but has left it too late for 2024.
As soon as he hangs up his suit as chairperson of FirstRand, Roger Jardine will enter politics. Jardine, who has an MSc in Radiological Physics, is a former activist and was once the country’s youngest director-general. He believes he can do a better job at running a complex economy and government.
His campaigners have confirmed to Daily Maverick that Jardine thinks it is time to stop talking and get stuck into politics.
“The question he is asking is whether it is possible to create a coalition that can lead, and who then leads it,” one of his aides said. He spoke anonymously as the plan will go public only once Jardine finishes his stint as FirstRand at the end of November.
Jardine is the former CEO of Kagiso, Primedia and Aveng and was the country’s youngest DG of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in 1995 at 29 years old.
Jardine is a native of Riverlea in Johannesburg, and his dad, Bill Jardine, was a well-known anti-apartheid activist and rugby fan. A city stadium bears Bill’s name.
Jardine studied in the US and graduated with an MSc in Radiological Physics.
He returned to public service, then followed Eric Molobi into business when he started Kagiso Trust Investments, the broad-based empowerment company that emerged from the ranks of anti-apartheid stalwarts.
Jardine succeeded Molobi as CEO and was influenced by him to become an activist business leader, meaning one who was actively engaged in the country’s future.
“Transformation has come to mean rent-seeking, and he wants to reclaim its true essence,” says his aide.
Jardine’s passions include ensuring an equal balance of power between Parliament and the Executive, the economic crisis and setting out the priorities for fixing the state.
Jardine is likely to start a political party and enter into talks with coalition pacts with similar values.
Jardine has used his annual Chairman’s Report to take a stand on issues. Since 2018, his positions have clarified and his impatience has become more and more palpable.
In his 2018 report, he noted some “early signs of positive change” in changes made to SOE boards. He said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election “marked a shift away from nearly a decade of a very poor local and international narrative about the country”.
In 2019, he wrote: “The list of reforms that are necessary has been debated for too long”, and he set out his confidence in business as a partner of government.
By 2020, Jardine was turning up the heat.
“Depressingly, corruption continues to be an ongoing and toxic reality for the country…,” he wrote. By 2021, he green-ticked the move to a just transition in energy, but words like “urgent” and “frustrating” turned up more regularly.
In his 2022 Chairman’s Report, hints of his decision to move into politics were contained in his letter.
“The state currently possesses neither the financial nor human resources to meet the social and economic needs of South Africa.”
So what are Jardine’s chances in politics?
He has left it late to contest the 2024 national elections but may sprint to 2029. Both Makhanya and Mkokeli have cautioned about his prospects, although many business leaders are excited by his chances.
Like Songezo Zibi of Rise Mzansi, Jardine is among the young professionals who have grown tired of talking about what is wrong in South Africa and now want to enter the arena to fix it. DM