Businessman, motivational speaker and Mamelodi Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe. File photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Inequalities in the ownership of wealth are massive in South Africa, Cosatu said on Wednesday.

“The richest 100 South Africans now own a collective total of R198.6 billion, up by 10 percent from the previous year,” said Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesman Patrick Craven.

He said that meant a mere 100 people, of the country’s population of 51.91 million, owned the equivalent of six percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

According to the Sunday Times's annual rich list, Shoprite and Pepkor chairman Christo Wiese's personal wealth amounted to R27.4bn.

He changed places with last year’s richest man Patrice Motsepe, whose wealth amounted to R22.6bn, an increase of R2.6bn on last year.

“We hear business leaders, politicians and expert commentators bemoaning the excessive and unrealistic wage demands by workers, and deploring the rising number of strikes in support of those demands,” said Craven.

He said that of Shoprite and Checkers' 73 000 workers, only 35 percent were full-time staff, five percent worked a 40-hour working week on flexitime, and 60 percent were casuals or worked variable time.

“They are now in the second year of a three-year wage agreement, under which the minimum wage is just R2300 a month (R27 600 a year), and that is only scheduled to go up to R2350 in year.”

He said the firm’s CEO Whitey Basson, who placed eighth on the latest list of big earners, made R40 964 million, 1484 times as much as his lowest paid employee.

Craven said this year’s highest-paid director in South Africa, Mondi CEO David Hathorn, earned a salary of more than R76m last year.

“Hathorn's salary increased by 330 percent from the previous year. The rich complain when workers demand double-digit increases, so why are they silent about his huge triple-digit increase. Is that not to be condemned as excessive?”

He said 50 percent of the average workers in the formal sector, according to the median salary data from Statistics SA, earned R33 600 a year, or R2 800 a month.

“That means that workers on the median wage would have to work for 2261 years, about 37 average lifetimes, to earn what Hathorn did in a single year through a basic salary, performance bonus and the appreciation in his stock option.”

Craven said the rich list provided powerful evidence to call for a legislated national minimum wage.