Slice of Life: ​"Getting richer isn't the problem, it is the gap getting bigger"

Everything changed when Brett Levy and his brother were handed the JSE Horn. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Everything changed when Brett Levy and his brother were handed the JSE Horn. (Paul Botes, M&G)

My journey as an entrepreneur began when I was 16. I was sitting with my brother, who was 20, having dinner.

I said: “Whatever you do in your life I want to be 50% part of it.”

He said: “Whatever you do in your life I want to be 50% part of it.”

We shook hands and that was the deal.

I realised I ‘made it’ on November 14 2007, the day we went live. We were young and naïve but we decided to list [our company] with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
You don’t understand the magnitude of listing. That was the day they handed my brother and I the JSE Horn and I realised everything had changed.

I owe this country everything. It gave me and my family a massive opportunity. We started with nothing and created something special. I only started in 2001, so I definitely never got the opportunity because I was white. I’ve had empowerment partners and it wasn’t because of BEE codes, so we definitely never got opportunities as white people. We got opportunities as South Africans.

Negativity is everywhere in South Africa. We have to be more optimistic and make this a patience game. Two decades isn’t long at all to bring about change.

I try to make a difference in my own way. You can’t feel guilty about getting richer but you can feel guilty about people getting poorer.

You get animosity because people are getting richer. Getting richer isn’t the problem. The problem is the gap getting bigger.

I grew up in a household where there was never race, there was never colour. There will always be a divide but things are getting better. When I look at my kids and youngsters out there, they’re going to have a life where the question of race doesn’t exist. If you brought up the question of land to them, they won’t even understand it.

Brett Levy (41), joint CEO of Blue Label Telecoms, as told to Ra’eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

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