4 November 2011
Vryheid: 4 November 2011
It is a pleasure to join Mr Pieter Maree and
his team as we celebrate the opening of new premises for Toyota
in Vryheid. This dealership is a known quantity in the Vryheid
community and we all share your pride and enthusiasm in having
brought it to a new home. May this new premises open new doors
of success for your business.
I was honoured to be asked to officially open
this premises. I grew up in Nongoma and I remember that whenever
we talked about town, we meant Vryheid. Although much has
changed in South Africa, Vryheid remains a central point in this
area. I hope that Mr Pieter Maree and his team will see many
people coming here when they are looking to buy a car. I wish
this business every success.
I know that it is no easy feat to run a
business in South Africa, never mind a successful one. Following
the global economic downturn, many people lost their livelihoods
and businesses closed. At times, it is difficult to see a future
in our economy. The important role of investments cannot be
over-emphasized, particularly from multi-national companies like
I have walked a long road in this country, and
I have seen many people giving in to despair. During the most
difficult days of Apartheid, I heard the complaints of people
who couldn't see a future for South Africa. I challenged them to
become part of creating that future, and I created a home for
those who were willing to accept the challenge. Together we ushered in a future in which we
could all stake a claim.
The challenges of today's South Africa are
different, but no less daunting. We don't face racial
discrimination, but we face widespread poverty. We have overcome
political oppression, but we are up against corruption,
HIV/Aids, unemployment and recession. Yet despite all we face,
there is still hope.
To my mind, Toyota has been a beacon of hope
in South Africa. I am honoured to count the founder of Toyota in
South Africa, Dr Wessels, as one of my friends. He faced a
difficult trial during Apartheid when multi-national companies
came under intense pressure to disinvest from South Africa. The
ANC's mission-in-exile sounded an international call for
sanctions and disinvestment against South Africa, and countries
like Japan were urged to withdraw their business interests from
I never agreed with the call for sanctions and
disinvestment. I knew it was the poorest of the poor who would
suffer the most, while the minority-driven economy would
reconfigure itself for survival, creating monopolies and
cartels. I regret that many multi-national companies left South
Africa, with long-term consequences for the economy we would
inherit in 1994. But I remain grateful that Toyota did not
It was not an easy decision for Toyota. Anyone
who failed to support the call for sanctions and disinvestment
was branded a supporter of Apartheid. Of course, that was not
true. I myself worked to undermine Apartheid from within,
rejecting nominal independence for KwaZulu and refusing to
negotiate a bilateral settlement with the Nationalist
Government. The first dashed Apartheid's plan to balkanize our
country and rendered grand Apartheid untenable; the second
secured the release of political prisoners, including Nelson
Mandela, and the unbanning of political parties.
But I was not alone in working against
Apartheid. There were many within the business community who
worked towards liberating South Africa. Their decisions and
actions helped bring the change we are all enjoying today.
Companies like Toyota refused to bow to political pressure and
remained in our country. Toyota offered jobs to blacks and
whites and ignored legislation like the job reservation laws. Toyota operated in areas in which Apartheid
legislation barred them from operating.
I was impressed by the backbone of Dr Wessels
and the leadership of Toyota. This was always a very progressive
organisation, and today it maintains an excellent track record.
When South Africa finally achieved democracy, Toyota continued
to prove itself ahead of the game. It did not wait for
legislation to compel it to do things as far as labour practice
is concerned. It did what was ethical and right, not out of a
legal obligation, but a moral obligation to its people.
I hope that this is the ethic and spirit that
imbues Toyota in Vryheid in the years to come. Being here
tonight brings back many memories for me. I have seen businesses
open and fold in Vryheid. I have seen others prosper. I hope
that Mr Maree's Toyota Dealership will prove to be one of those
that stay the course.
It is now my pleasure to declare Toyota
Vryheid officially open.