A racially charged environment propels the ‘Mark Lamberti must fall’ campaign

5 Apr 2018


A campaign calling for the fall of prominent business executive, Mark Lamberti, is gaining momentum after he hurled what is widely considered racist remarks towards a black woman executive Adila Chowan. The campaign bears the hallmarks of an organised protest movement that’s setting out to secure immediate results.

The phrase consumer boycott has been thrown in. And global brands like Hyndai, Kia, Renault and Mitsubishi, Nissan, Europcar and Tempest could be affected by the a lash back against bigotry.

The campaign stands to be further propelled by a generally racially charged mood on the back of a number of infuriating incidents. The Vicki Momberg K word case was just in session and has left red hot race relations debate. You have the Afriforum defending the flag of the apartheid state in in court an an argument which wants to equate the struggle against apartheid and the colonial state repression. And there is the land question.

Black communities are in no mood to forgive bigotry at this point. There is strong sense in the air that many South Africans are yet to play their part in the reconciliation deal.

The case

The CEO of Lamberti has been lambasted by a court of law for branding Chowan, a highly qualified and experienced senior black female staff member, as “a female empowerment equity candidate” in demeaning white supremacist parlance. Chowan, a qualified chartered accountant; is said to have objected, demanded apology and registered a grievance within the company when the incident occurred in 2015. But she was harassed out of the company. She took the matter to court and won.

Lambert has since apologised for his misdemeanor saying he “deeply regrets” his comments and that they were not meant to insult or demean.

A campaign from key organs calling for his removal as CEO of Imperial Holdings has ensued. Imperial is one of South Africa’s largest corporations with revenue that tops R100 billion and a globalising footprint. It operates through a string of auto and logistics brands. It is one of the largest car retailer in the country with exclusive importing license for Hyndai, Kia, Renault and Mitsubishi. It distributes Nissan across six African countries, 113 Europcar rentals and Tempest car rentals.

Who is Lamberti?

Lamberti is a well known business executive who was appointed to lead Imperial in 2014 after he served as CEO of Transaction Capital and Massmart Holdings. He has also served as an executive and non-executive on the boards of various prominent corporations including Wooltru, Primedia, Datatec, Telkom and Altron.

Lamberti is also a prominent business activist who serve as an executive committee member and director of Business Leadership South Africa and is a trustee and executive committee member of the National Education Collaboration Trust. He was recently appointed by an independent non-executive director of Eskom.

His stature now stands to be tarnished as civil society organs gun for his head. Organs like the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) and the Black Business Council (BBC) has called for his removal from both Eskom and Imperial. Feeling the pressure the minister of finance Pravin Gordhan has said he is reviewing his position.

Cosatu said in a statement Lamberti’s “condescending and patriarchal statement is a reminder that our economy remains a racist and patriarchal apartheid capitalism that was designed by white man for white man.”

The anger

Cosatu added that “These are the consequences of our government’s failure and inability to transform our economy. The ANC government has left the apartheid capitalist system intact but has only negotiated for it to absorb the tiny black minority that is mostly black man. These black man are also part of the problem because they are not interested in transforming the private sector , in fact most of them resist and sabotage transformation.

“It is therefore not shocking that we still have arrogant people like Mark Lamberti dominating our private sector boardrooms but what is shocking and disappointing is the fact that our government that is supposed lead transformation not only tolerates them but sometimes protects them.”

The BBC said Lamberti must be released. Failure to do so will suggest that Eskom and Imperial  “are happily harbouring a racist who has no regard for black people and women.”

“BBC is seeking to engage with various key organizations to determine the possibility of triggering consumer boycotts targeted at these companies and/or other companies that are doing business with Mark Lamberti and his companies.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said “Lamberti is not fit to hold any board position in our state-owned entities, particularly a position at Eskom Board that has seen turbulences due to unprincipled characters in the recent past.”


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