MiWay CEO in damage control after major Afrikaner social media backlash

Chief executive officer of MiWay insurance, Rene Otto has been forced into an apology, following comments he made on Twitter, where he called out Afrikaners for their role in the destruction caused by the apartheid era.

His tweets caused a backlash from the Afrikaner community, with many threatening to stop doing business with the insurance provider.

Otto was speaking in relation to the recently-published book, “The Lost Boys of Bird Island”, which delved into new allegations against some of the high-ups during apartheid, accusing them of running a paedophile ring.

The MiWay head said that all South Africans should read the book, but “especially Afrikaners who believe they are God’s chosen people – who are still in denial about the destruction of the apartheid era”.

Otto received backlash from the Afrikaner community, including by AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel, who called for his resignation, while others called for a boycott of MiWay Insurance, and for Santum, which owns MiWay, to intervene.

The main pushback was against labelling the entire Afrikaner population based on the actions of a few.

In a statement published on Monday, the MiWay CEO attempted to distance his personal views expressed in the post from that of MiWay, while admitting he could have worded things better.

“My intention with the tweet, while provocative, was not to hurt any person or culture, but to encourage the reading of the book and challenge all South Africans, in particular Afrikaans-speaking South Africans (which includes me), to debate their role in nation building,” he said.

“In retrospect, I failed dismally.”

Otto rejected the inferences that were made in the wake of the posts, which included that he hated Afrikaners, and believed Afrikaners were bad people, or were paedophiles and murderers.

The CEO said that he still believes there is room for construction debate around nation buildings, but he had failed to create such a space.

“I take full accountability for my actions. I should have known better,” he said.


The board of MiWay published the following statement on Monday:

“The Board of MiWay takes note of the twitter posting by René Otto, the CEO of MiWay related to the recently published book – The Lost Boys of Bird Island. We have also noted the social media conversations that have resulted from the posting and the offense it may have caused.

“We wish to emphasise that Mr Otto issued the post in his personal capacity and that the comments do not in any way reflect the views of MiWay or any related group entity. Mr Otto has issued an unconditional apology, in particular for the generalisations inferred from his posting and the harm and hurt it may have caused in the Afrikaner community.

“He also acknowledges that he should have been more discerning in separating his twitter profile and comments from the business of MiWay. As the Board, we regret the twitter posting and the harm it may have caused.

“MiWay is a proudly South African company that celebrates and embraces the diversity of cultures in South Africa and strives to provide exceptional service to all its clients, regardless of race, gender or culture. More importantly, MiWay treats all its clients and stakeholders with respect, dignity and the highest standards of professionalism.”

Read: Santam results boosted by improved underwriting conditions

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MiWay CEO in damage control after major Afrikaner social media backlash