Motsepe sends an SOS to the South African polity

Why is Patrice Motsepe doing it like this? It’s very showy. Why does he have to make a big deal out of it… invite everyone in town to see him throwing money to the poor? It’s not on …He could have done it quietly like many other people.

These were the impressions of a person seating next to us at the Sandton Sun Hotel, where the Motsepe Family was announcing the decision to donate half of the funds generated by their investments to philanthropy. The eighth richest man in Africa will channel half of his family earnings towards social investment through the Motsepe Foundation.

It would seem the mining magnate, Motsepe, had prepared an answer to this. During his presentation he said, more than the act of distributing funds his family was sending a message to all South Africans and the entire world that a better world was possible.

We at ujuh concur with him. The message that Mostepe sent yesterday is more important than the money he will be doling out to socioeconomic development initiatives. More so, the message to his peers, the 500 or so dollar billionaires of the world. As far as we know, Motsepe is the first South African to go this big into philanthropy and yet he only just joined the world of business compared to the many others who have wealth with roots dating back to the first scramble for gold in the late 1800’s. As such Motsepe’s gesture reinforces a critical dynamic.  The South African economy needs to open up even more, accommodate more people from the historically marginalised, who owing to their historical background are more inclined to be friendlier to the broader surroundings and their condition.

It could be that Motsepe and his wife Precious Motsepe have planted seeds of a movement in South Africa and the entire continent where his peers are pressured into joining the US based organisation of super wealthy entrepreneurs who have done the same thing. Led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the organisation is gaining momentum and has gathered about 90 members.

Motsepe added that this was also a message to the less successful, people who are feeling hopeless. We are saying we are not going to let you suffer alone, your problems are also our problems. This may be a just in time SOS to the South African polity which has entered troubled waters as can be witnessed by growing number of violent community and labour protests, more so within mining communities where Motsepe made his money.

Motsepe’s fortune was valued just over the R20bn mark in the 2012 Forbes rich list. Most of his money was made out of the mining industry. His current main investment is JSE listed African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) which he serves as executive chairman. He also has an indirect stake in Harmony Gold. Motsepe has also participated in a number of black economic empowerment (BEE) deals, including a deal that saw one of South Africa’s largest financial services group Sanlam sell for a discount about 10% of its shares to black investors.

In this gesture Motsepe joins a growing list of philanthropist from the super rich league. These will include Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, George Kaiser, George Soros, Gordon and Betty Moore, Walton family, Oprah Winfrey etc.

Hid did say that he was inspired by the Giving Pledge to do this. In his statement he thanked Buffet and the Gates for the advice they offered him.

However he also emphasizes the values he grew up with as playing a significant contribution into his decision.

Motsepe said “South Africans are caring, compassionate and loving people. It has always been part of our culture and tradition to assist and care for less fortunate and marginalised members of our communities. This culture is also embodied in the spirit and tradition of Ubuntu/Botho.

“I decided quite some time ago to give at least half of the funds generated by our family assets to uplift 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”.

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