Patrice Motsepe. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

In a ground-breaking move for post-apartheid South Africa, mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes Magazine to be $2.65 billion (R24 billion), has pledged to give away half of the income generated by his family’s assets to charity.

In a country where millions are afflicted by poverty and widening inequality, the announcement by Motsepe marks a major milestone in South African philanthropy.

He is the richest black South African to emerge from post-apartheid South Africa, and through his pledge he joins an elite club of prominent billionaires, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who have committed to use their wealth for good causes.

“I decided quite some time ago to give at least half of the funds generated by our family assets to uplift the poor and other disadvantaged and marginalised South Africans but was also duty-bound and committed to ensuring that it would be done in a way that protects the interests and retains the confidence of our shareholders and investors,” Motsepe told reporters yesterday.

Earlier in the day there had been speculation that Motsepe had convened the media briefing to announce some sort of a business transaction or deal. But to everyone’s surprise, he laid out how he planned to contribute towards the upliftment of the poor in South Africa.

Referring to his wife, who also attended the briefing, he said: “Precious and I recognise the huge responsibility and duty that the Motsepe family has to poor, unemployed, disabled, women, youth, workers and marginalised South Africans.”

Motsepe, the chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, made the announcement in Johannesburg, where guests were told to brace themselves for “a historic and very important announcement”.

When asked about how much he was expecting to give to charity, Motsepe said it was inappropriate to give a number, but added that the amount would be substantial.

The philanthrophic initiative involves the Motsepe Foundation, through which funds from his family ventures will be channelled – mainly to health and education.

He said between R40 million and R50m had been donated towards promoting entrepreneurship and black business since the inception of the foundation in 1999.

Last year R20m was donated to major churches. The Nelson Mandela Foundation is another of the beneficiaries of the Motsepe Foundation.

The foundation, whose deputy chairman is Precious Motsepe, will also focus on the upliftment of women and children, and urban renewal.

Motsepe, who was flanked by his wife and by several traditional and religious leaders, including King Goodwill Zwelithini, assured shareholders that giving to charity was no threat to their investment.

He said there was no intention of selling shares to fund charitable initiatives.

He thanked Buffett “for the advice and wisdom” he had shared with him in Omaha, and thanked Microsoft founder Gates and his wife, Melinda, for “their encouragement”.

Buffett and the Gates’s Giving Pledge encourages wealthy families to give away at least half of their wealth to charity.

Ajay Lalu, a black economic empowerment (BEE) expert and managing director of Black Lite Consulting, said Motsepe’s philanthropic initiative put tremendous pressure on other wealthy South Africans, especially those who had benefited from BEE.

“For a long time we’ve been looking for BEE to be more philanthropic. I think for the first time we are starting to see that emerge. I hope this is going to spur other BEE beneficiaries to follow a similar route,” he said.