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Banker, former civil servant, academic: Roger Jardine raises his hand to be president

Banker, former civil servant, academic: Roger Jardine raises his hand to be president
Outgoing FirstRand chairperson Roger Jardine. (Photo: Richard Huggard / Gallo Images)

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.

City Press editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya first broke the news of Jardine’s plans, while Sunday Times writer Sam Mkokeli has analysed his chances, but found them limited.

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.

roger jardine

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


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    I can’t imagine how another party is going to help. Wouldn’t it make sense to throw his considerable his hat in with an existing ‘good enough’ party that has the infrastructure and presence to maximise on the considerable value he could bring?

  • Paul Zille says:

    If Jardine is serious about rescuing SA he needs to get over himself and join the only party with the policies, organisational heft and national reach to do so. Going it alone, like Zibi, might be nice for his ego for a while, but will deliver nothing beyond splitting the focus and effectiveness of the opposition. He knows this. Probably just another ego trip.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    As fine a selection of platitudes as these comments may be, they hardly warrant excitement. We’ve all been saying the same thing for as many years, but not putting ourselves forward as possible presidents. Although, come to think of it, maybe we should? Few of DM readers could be worse than what we already have. Seriously? Another wannabe? Surely we have enough of those. Get over yourselves guys, we have too many parties as it is. Get your collective acts together and let’s have just one fight!

  • Eberhard Knapp says:

    Wouldn’t it be just absolutely wonderful to have a person like this running the country?

  • Michele Rivarola says:

    Too many cooks spoil the broth. A fractious and fractured opposition is all that any ruling party wants

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    Another ambitious “”wanabee”. Why not join a reputable party such as the DA or any other that takes his fancy. As a civil engineer I do not remember him doing much for Aveng when he worked for them. Were all his appointments on merit, or because of political connections?

  • Fernando Moreira says:

    Just vote DA , dont be confused , its the only hope .

    These guys can then form parties once the DA is in and contest the next election ,for now just join the DA , they are the only party that is govern ready !

  • Colin Braude says:

    There is nothing the media and commentariate love more than a “celebrity” with a messiah complex who has appointed her- or him-self as Southafrica’s next saviour. Ramphele, Hersov, Zibi, Jardine, …

    • Malcolm Mitchell says:

      I agree, he seems to have jumped around a great deal and now turns his attention to trying to save the country as a ‘messiah’. Perhaps he should get some meaningful experience under his belt first!

    • Eyes Wide Shut says:

      Don’t forget McKenzie (who Rob Hersov thinks would make a great president – God help us all) and Malema.

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    Regarding Jardine’s presidential ambitions I note that Ferial Haffajee mentions that Jardine was a DG at the age of 29 years. Anyone who has been in government at a senior level will know that throughout the world such a post requires wisdom. Wisdom comprises “knowledge plus experience”. Nobody at the age of 29 years has this so it appears that similarly to an African country where a President made his son or nephew vice president , Jardine was a cadre appointment as DG without adequate qualifications. Does not say much for his Presidential ambitions!

    • ronhurt10 says:

      Absolutely spot on Mally2. I agree with Mike Meyer’s suggestion too that this may be a deliberate ANC tactic And fellow readers, plse don’t fall into the trap of thinking because he has a M degree that he qualifies for political office. All it it does is to prove that he has technical abilities in his specialized field.

  • Mike Meyer says:

    Yet another ego tripper to split the opposition vote to the ultimate benefit of the cANCer. I’m beginning to believe that this is a deliberate cANCer tactic. Just ignore these posers

  • Eyes Wide Shut says:


  • ronhurt10 says:

    Initially I was encouraged to read about Jardine’s decision to enter politics, but what will that achieve? Even if he garners enough support to enter the race, what will his impact be? Not much more than Songezo Zibi’s I imagine. So my question is . . . . .did people such as Zibi and Jardine ever consider formulating a carefully constructed strategy with other like-minded members to force change from within the ANC? But going their own individualistic route is a further exercise in futility.

  • David Peddle says:

    So why is this person being boosted so suddenly? His claim to fame is little different to the rest of his ANC ilk, I mean a DG by 29 is like CR a Billionaire within 10 years of his leaving the unions? Surely these guys should go on to the Harvard Business School to teach those fools how to really make money!

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