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Cape Town - An initiative has been started by two law professors at UCT to call on as many well-off South Africans as possible to give a minimum of 5 percent of their income to organisations helping to reduce poverty.
Anton Fagan and Hugh Corder, both professors at the university’s Department of Private Law, began the initiative, the Five Plus Project, in December.
They were inspired to do so after reading The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer, an Australian moral philosopher with a chair at Princeton University. Fagan said the book made “a very powerful case” for why the wealthy should assist to alleviate poverty in South Africa.
“We contacted by e-mail a whole lot of people we know. Family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues.”
He said about 300 people were contacted. A total of 118 people, among them lawyers, academics, business people and activists, had already signed the pledge.
“It is an incredibly and overwhelmingly high response rate.”
Founding members of the initiative included Ndifuna Ukwazi director Zackie Achmat, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price, Rhodes University vice-chancellor Saleem Badat, Western Cape Economic Development Partnership chief executive Andrew Boraine and Institute for Justice and Reconciliation director Fanie du Toit.
Asked what defined “well-off”, Fagan said that was a judgement call which people should make themselves.
He pointed to statistics which showed that just 1.3 percent of South Africans had a taxable income of R750 000 or more, while only 14.8 percent had a taxable income of R200 000 or more.
Other statistics mentioned on the Five Plus website included that about 13 million South Africans did not earn enough to eat properly.
It was required that members take a public pledge in order to hold them accountable and to encourage others to join. “I would like to see as large a membership as possible. I don’t see why we can’t have thousands of members,” Fagan said.
The pledge did not prescribe which organisations or initiatives members should donate their money to.
“People have different views on how best to alleviate or reduce poverty. There are a range of organisations and we don’t want to prescribe to people.”
Fagan said to assist members with the choice, a database of possible organisations would be put together soon.
This project comes after mining magnate Patrice Motsepe’s announcement last year that he would donate half of his family’s fortune to charity.
He had done that in response to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, which called on the world’s richest people to donate at least half their wealth to philanthropic or charitable causes.
* See the initiative’s website at www.fiveplus.uct.ac.za