It's the Reddy Connection
When you mention the name of Vivian Reddy, everybody who is somebody in the KwaZulu Natal business world will stop and listen.
This is because Reddy is by far the most successful businessman in the province.
He is said to have succeeded where other have failed by managing to do business dealings with politicians of both the discredited and apartheid-created House of Delegates and the politicians of the new post-1994 political order.
His detractors dub him an "astute wheeling-and-dealing" character whose handshake is known for greasing the right political connections.
And emerging black business operatives sometimes talk proudly of a "Vivian Reddy connection" to enhance their business prospects.
This was underlined when the emerging black business fraternity awarded him a trophy in 1999 for championing the cause of black empowerment.
Charles Manjana, then-director of African Properties, said about Reddy: "Mr Reddy has emerged as the role- model in the quest by black people to empower themselves and control their own destinations in these challenging but exciting times."
Reddy connections know no borders, and he is known for rubbing shoulders with kings and presidents.
He is at home and comfortable in the company of Zulu monarch Goodwill Zwelithini as much as in the company of such high-ranking politicians as Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
And he was ready to bankroll Zwelithini's birthday party, as well as a party for KwaZulu Natal ANC leader Sbu Ndebele, and even a party for Zuma.
He is a man to cultivate influential connections wherever it matters.
For a man of such immense ties, it came as no surprise when his name cropped up in 35 sensational questions posed by the country's corruption-busting Scorpions to Zuma.
The leaking of those questions to the media triggered a political row, with accusations and counter-accusations between Zuma's office and the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions.
The questions related to the alleged bribery and corruption surrounding the controversial multibillion-rand arms procurement project.
The Scorpions wanted Zuma's answer on alleged benefits he received directly or indirectly from Reddy from 1995 until now.
Zuma was also asked to indicate any money received from Reddy, among others; any repayment agreements, and whether those were loans; and an explanation of how the money was used.
Asked about his relationship with Zuma, Reddy told Independent Newspapers yesterday that Zuma was a family friend. "We meet for birthdays," he said.
"I am surprised that what transpires between friends is now being put to public scrutiny. And they are acting like the apartheid security system."
So who exactly is Reddy?
The most successful businessman in the province, Reddy has admitted to being influenced by US astronaut Neil Armstrong at the age of 16.
The son of a teacher and second of nine children, he was chosen as SA's first representative to the Boy Scouts Jamboree in Japan. It was there that he met Armstrong.
When the young Reddy asked him the secret of his success, he was told: "My boy, if you can dream it, you can achieve it. Remain focused on your goals, never give up." Reddy has been dreaming and focused ever since.
He is said to be a cunning businessman, eager to build bridges across the political spectrum.
When the activists of the Natal Indian Congress were picketing against the House of Delegates, he was busy securing contracts to electrify Truro House, headquarters of the House of Delegates.
But when the new political elites were released and eventually took over the reins of power, Reddy was ready to do business with them.
He feted and charmed them; he gave, and was also ready to receive in the form of business contracts.
His Montevista casino in Newcastle was the first official one in KwaZulu Natal, while his company, Edison Power, secured the contract for the electrification of the International Convention Centre and the Sugar Mill Casino, among others.
When Vathasallum "Vivian" Reddy blew out the candles at his 50th birthday bash earlier this year, the burning glow around the cake illuminated the success story of an extraordinary entrepreneur.
Just 25 years ago he launched Edison Power - an electrical contracting firm - with a R500 loan in his back pocket and a borrowed bakkie.
According to Edison Power's website, the company is 100% black owned and managed, and employs more than 500 full-time core employees.
Reddy used his birthday celebration to announce his company's R1-million donation to a skills development and job- creation project in clothing and textiles for the impoverished Indian and African communities in Chatsworth.
The VIP guests at his party included Zuma, Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi and several other high-ranking dignitaries.
This is what Reddy said on the eve of his 50th birthday: "My father encouraged me to serve the community. He told me that when one does his bit for the community, one will reap the benefits."
With acknowledgement to The Star.