The macher who makes things happen

  • 7X1A9156SirMick
Wherever Sir Mick Davis is involved, he makes a difference. The length and breadth of his extraordinary career became clear as he ascended the stage to accept his Capricorn Lifetime Achievement Award.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Sep 12, 2019

Although he no longer lives in South Africa, this financial genius and conservative party stalwart began his speech by stressing his long-standing connection to the country of his birth.

“My wife and I left South Africa in 1998,” said Davis. “But we know how remarkable this country is, and how special its people are. I was privileged to spend my formative years growing up here.”

Davis’s Midas touch transformed Eskom when he worked at the company at the outset of his career. He continued his meteoric rise, making companies such as Xstrata mining company soar in value over a few years. He was knighted in 2015 for his services to Holocaust commemoration and education, made treasurer of the British conservative party in 2016, and appointed the party’s chief executive in 2017.

He attributed these achievements to South Africa and its people. “Our privileges stem from all the people who make up this great nation,” he said. “It was also a privilege sourced from the richness of my Jewish roots. Together, these instilled in me the South African Jewish capacity to do good.”

Davis explained that the word “good” finds its way into our vocabulary from the earliest verses of Genesis. “At the end of every day, G-d reviews his work of creation, and finds that it’s good. That is the value system of the Jewish people and mankind. Although underpinned by laws and complex requirements, Moses sometimes steps back from complexity in some instances and says to simply do good in the eyes of G-d.

“This simplicity has governed the way my wife and I have approached our lives and our interactions with friends and community. We want simply to add value and be constructive.”

The extent to which Davis has added value was stressed by those who appeared in the video tribute alongside the award. Among his many achievements, he was described as one of the most important Jewish leaders of the era, one who has contributed significantly to fostering ties between Israel and the United Kingdom. Others said he had enhanced enterprises relating to Jewish continuity, fought anti-Semitism, and strengthened the ability of Jews to live as Jews, no matter what.

“We have a wonderful term that we use for a leader,” said Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. “It’s a ‘macher’. This is a Yiddish word for somebody who makes things happen, and that’s exactly what Mick is.”

Davis said that though much had been made of his career, the partners who shared his odyssey had played an invaluable role, including his wife, Barbara. “These are people with more talent and brains than me. I’ve always found people better than me to work with, and be my friends. The best person I’ve ever found, I made my wife.”

Davis said failure and success could both change in a heartbeat. “Success is a transitory thing. Once at Xstrata, the share price dropped by almost 70%. We lost 20% in one day.

“It’s not by our success that we are remembered. Our legacy comes from how we face adversity. I know things look bleak in this lovely country at the moment, but the same factors which bedevil confidence here are true anywhere.”

Ultimately, Davis said our ability to overcome adversity and do good lies in how we approach our mission. “It’s not by the cards we are dealt that we do good, but how we play the hand. My wife and I will always be with you as the game is played in South Africa.

“We, like you, will play our hand with conviction, and a belief that we can always do good in this world.”

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