Hassle-FREE Online Campaigns On Sweech
It is not often that I get to sit next to billionaires. But I had the opportunity this week as chairman of the Cape Town Press Club: Pepkor and Shoprite Holdings magnate Christo Wiese was our guest.
I mentioned in my introduction that I could recall hosting only two other billionaires. One was Tokyo Sexwale, the former human settlements minister, who at the time (it was 2007) was running for the nation’s presidency. The other was President Jacob Zuma soon after he was dismissed as deputy president of the country.
I said I could not say for sure whether Zuma was, indeed, a billionaire – because the South African public could not get sight of the register of his interests, which he has to declare to Parliament. All the relevant sections about his personal wealth are in a closed book.
Only yesterday Lindiwe Mazibuko, the leader of the parliamentary opposition, reported that her DA colleagues walked out of the intelligence committee because the report on Nkandla spending was presented there – instead of to the public works committee. Thus the spending will forever be confidential, as all matters before the intelligence committee are required to be.
Be that as it may, Wiese is reportedly the third-wealthiest South African, the sixth-richest person in Africa and the 367th wealthiest on the planet, according to Forbes. For mere salary earners like most of us, he is simply mega-wealthy.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and outgoing chief executive Steve Ballmer, do-gooder Mo Ebrahim and international financier George Soros have one thing in common now that they have a pile of cash: they tell everyone money is not that important and charitable works or good deeds are at the centre of their universes.
Indeed, Wiese – whom I can report to be a most agreeable fellow – suggested that there were not enough resources in the world to allow everyone “to live the American dream”.
So, quite correctly, we can’t all be billionaires or even millionaires. It did cross my mind that it is funny how some people are quite comfortable holding on to vast wealth while imploring others who are less fortunate not to place too much focus on material goodies.
Wiese told the story of a friend, now late, who had constantly complained about how badly South Africa was governed. Wiese had pointed out to this friend that they were both fabulously rich – and had grown richer under the democratic order. It couldn’t be that bad in South Africa, could it?
Wiese was asked whether he would be contributing half his wealth to good causes, as Patrice Motsepe had done. Wiese pointed out that Motsepe had in fact offered half of his earnings on his wealth for good causes.
He waxed lyrical about Motsepe, pointing out that he and his sister, Bridgette Radebe, had been sent to a Roman Catholic school in Aliwal North as children so they could learn to speak Afrikaans. It was quite a thing to do when most black townships were rejecting Afrikaans as the language of apartheid. Today they were entirely at home with die taal. It has helped them to become billionaires, one supposes.
Wiese said he was sure he would get a place in heaven because he employed in his empire – including on the farms and luxury estates and in the stores – about 150 000 people. This number grew by about 10 000 a year. He believed he was doing his bit for society. Thus, he did not see the need to emulate Motsepe.
Wiese was disarmingly self-deprecating. It proves that you can be rich and remain “a good oke”. - Business Report
* Donwald Pressly is an Independent Newspapers journalist.
** The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.