Richard Spoor. Picture: Robert Tshabalala
Richard Spoor. Picture: Robert Tshabalala

What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?

Seriously, dump the complexes that come with ego. Stop worrying about what others think of you. Be your glorious, uninhibited and eccentric self.

What was your first job?

Trainee pipe fitter on the Sasol 2 construction site at Secunda in 1979.

How much was your first (monthly) pay cheque, and how did you spend it?

R750 as an articled clerk with Priscilla Jana & Associates in Marshalltown. In a building adjacent to that where Ismail Ayob was based. (Ayob represented the Mandelas, we represented the Sisulus.) I bought what I thought was a really cool mauve jacket, turned out it was hideous. I still don’t buy my own clothes.

What’s the one book everyone should read?

I can only advise men who are 50 or older. Read Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell and learn to feel again.

How would you fix Eskom?

I would sell off the power stations and let the new owners get on with it. The only operating conditions stipulated should be environmental ones.

How would you close the gap between SA’s rich and poor?

Establish a stable policy environment for mining and agriculture to thrive. Improve the quality of basic services to the poor by employing public service managers on merit. Pass a law to the effect that a proper feasibility study is required before launching any great government scheme. The persons who approve the study recommendations should be held to account for their decisions.

Richard Spoor. Picture: Robert Tshabalala
Richard Spoor. Picture: Robert Tshabalala

What is your biggest regret?

Not being the dad I could have been. I thought benign neglect was a pretty sound approach to child rearing. Turns out, not so much.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?

Interesting? I doubt it. But before I became a revolutionary Marxist, I was a second lieutenant in the SA infantry. I commanded a platoon of 40 soldiers. I got up to shower at 3am every day to ensure none of my troops ever saw that I was still prepubescent. This story tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about the old SADF and conscription.

What has been your worst purchase?

"Buy dear, sell cheap" is how I have always done things. I am not a businessperson’s backside.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


If you were president, what would you change, tomorrow?

I would announce a legislative programme to ensure that the role of municipal councillors in local government would henceforth be limited to attending and voting at monthly council meetings. They would receive an honorarium of R1,500 per month, if they attended the meeting from start to finish.

What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress him?

In 1984, during Cyclone Domoina, some of my friends and I paddled down the Crocodile River in our Tupperware kayaks and survived.

What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?

As the child of immigrant parents I feel a certain rootlessness. If I had had the means or the foresight, I would have found a nice little place by the sea or in the bush where the family could get together year after year after year. People need to have a place where they feel they belong.