1. Job title and more about yourself.
Johan spent the first 15 years of his career as a turnaround CEO and then transitioned to private equity investments when he founded SAAD in 2006. SAAD is owned 100% by the Tree of Life Foundation, a registered Public Benefit Organisation, which means that the profits they generate from their investment activities are available for charitable work.
2. Can you briefly name a few of the opportunities you had while growing up that made you the person you are today?
Johan reflects and describes that he was incredibly fortunate to grow up in a family where he experienced “unconditional love.”Johan continues by saying that his parents were role models in terms of their marriage, day to day living, and their walk with the Lord. While experiencing the benefits of being raised in a rural area, with a fairly simple and uncomplicated lifestyle, Johan’s dad was running a sizable business which had a few international clients, which piqued Johan’s commercial interest.
3. Can you briefly describe your experience at in Harmonie?
Johan describes his experience at in Harmonie as “exceptional.” He continues by saying that the experience at retreat centres ranges all the way from bare bone survivor camps, to top luxury retreats, with a definite concentration on both ends of the continuum. “in Harmonie strikes a wonderful balance by offering a graceful andaesthetically splendid facility coupled with a very warm and personal hospitality and spiritual rhythm,” Johan emphasised.
4. What do you think some of the challenges are in building a more harmonious South Africa?
Johan talks about how ignorance and suspicion are big issues in building a more harmonious South Africa. “Short-termism compounds the challenges, as it prevents us from making daily investments in a change process that may only provide dividends in decades,” says Johan.
5. How do you think a person moves from a state of disharmony to harmony?
Johan believes that harmony starts at a personal level. Johan continues by saying that personal harmony requires an understanding of one’s identity. “For me, it means to know who I am in Christ,” says Johan. Johan continues by describing that many voices are offering to populate the space of our identity, and if we are not careful, we can easily adopt an imposed identity, rather than living from our inherent God-given one.
6. How do you and your organisation engage in this process of change?
“Culture is a fantastic enabler of this change,” says Johan. Johan continues by saying that when harmony is an expected outcome of your personal, family or organisational culture, it facilitates the process of moving from disharmony to harmony. Johan describes this process by using his organisation as an example. “When we appoint a new person, we deliver a wooden box to their home containing what they need for the first day at work: laptop, keys to the front door, parking and other information. Also included, is a book to be read: ‘Leadership and Self-Deception’ (Arbinger Institute). It deals with how we lead and interact with others is a way that fosters strong relationships (harmony), and immediately facilitates a common understanding and principles on engagement,” says Johan.
7. How do you see the way forward for yourself and South Africa?
“Your calling doesn’t change with circumstances,” says Johan. Therefore, Johan believes that, at a personal level, you should focus on your callingrather than circumstances. “My calling relates to capital. I believe capital always has an agenda, and I want to play the biggest role that I can play in order to ensure that that agenda is Christ,” says Johan. Johan continued by saying that as a country, South Africa has a unique opportunity to show that there is indeed enormous strength in diversity. “We have experienced the miracle of 1994, and if we can convert on that in such a way that it changes the lives of all our citizens, we will indeed achieve something that is a first in the world,” says Johan.Johan continued by saying that job creation, rallying around a common vision and closing the gap between rich and poor, are all examples of things we should strive for, but of which we can also easily become cynical about if we choose the low road.
8. Any words of advice or encouragement you would like to share with those who feel like they have lost hope.
Johan emphasised that national change is brought about by the compounding effect of millions of individuals. “The recent drought in the Western Cape is a good example of how a community can achieve a collective positive outcome by embracing change at an individual level,” says Johan.Johan concluded by saying that “We have to remain principle-centred.”
People need to discuss and agree on the values we embrace. “Change (of behaviour/thinking/actions) becomes easier when we agree on that which we should never change. This includes values like integrity, respect and accountability.”
Johan concludes by saying “We have made massive progress on this topic over the last few years when we were forced to debate what behaviour by senior politicians are acceptable and what not. These debates led to people across political party lines agreeing on value-based principles, and in the process, our democracy matured incredibly. Let’s continue and enhance the values-based approach going forward,and the outcome will pleasantly surprise all of us!”