BACKSTORY: Lumkile Mondi
We question Lumkile Mondi, senior lecturer in economics at the University of the Witwatersrand
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Preparation and a 24-hour cooling-off period.
What was your first job?
A bookkeeper for the SA Labour Bulletin, Braamfontein, a stone’s throw from Wits.
How much was your first pay cheque?
What was the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Stay at university to finish a PhD. I would be a professor of economics by now, as against completing a PhD at 57, and having to publish a lot to become a professor.
How would you fix Eskom?
Maybe I’ll re-read my thesis again on the political economy of restructuring Eskom from 1985 to 2019. I’m joking. An easy job. I would not spend any additional money at Kusile and Medupi. Use the Appropriation Bill approval to maintain the existing fleet and phase out the old fleet. The mineral resources & energy minister should release a determination procuring about 18,000MW of variable renewable energy by 2022. Deregulate the generation market of households and SMEs. Nersa should pass tariff regulation to sell to the grid.
Do we need SAA?
Yes, but in a different ownership structure, to maintain the more-than-a-century capability of the SA aviation sector. Also to link it to manufacturing — using minerals such as titanium to produce parts for planes, among others.
What is your biggest regret?
Staying too long in the public sector. I am a knowledge worker.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I’m a very private person. I’m either at school, on the golf course, at home or at a B&B in a strange place in the world. I have been everywhere but the Arctics.
What has been your worst purchase?
Cheap airline tickets that cost double the price you paid when you make a change.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
I should have bought MTN shares at R9 when it ventured into Nigeria, and sold before the 2008 crash.
What is the most overrated virtue?
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career?
No. I have always enjoyed knowledge and exchange. I’m a sports, culture, politics, history, economics, business and travel books junkie.
How do you cope with load-shedding?
I have gas for cooking, water tanks, canned food and lots of books that have not been read.
If you were Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
Speaking as if I were Cyril, I’d step down to spend more time at my ranches and play lots of golf, as I have no power to change because I do not have a constituency within the ANC. Because of my wealth, I am perceived as an agent of white monopoly capital. At Eskom, any changes I make lead to accusations that I am preparing it for privatisation. Last week I told SA there would be lights for Christmas, and dropped the sabotage narrative to show that I am in charge. But in reality I am not … Maybe SA’s exceptionalism will come back and do what many African countries have not done — reincarnate itself and deal with its problems.