Inyathelo in the Headlines

Motsepe generosity a tough act to follow - 31 Jan 2013 - Business Day

Hope that billionaire's announcement will spur culture of giving, writes Sam Mkokeli

CYRIL Ramaphosa must have squirmed when he heard that his brotherin-law, SA's wealthiest black businessman Patrice Motsepe and his family had "done the right thing"— donating half the proceeds of their assets to the Motsepe Family Foundation, a charity organisation.

This act of generosity is likely to put the spotlight on other wealthy South Africans — including the likes of Mr Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale.

Mr Motsepe topped the list of the richest black people in last year's Who Owns Whom's Rich List. His wealth was estimated at about R2Obn. Mr Ramaphosa, who last month became the African National Congress's deputy president, came in at 15th on the list, with his wealth estimated at R3bn.

Mr Ramaphosa and Mr Sexwale — as high profile as they are because of their political and business success — may not be in a position to join the wave of black philanthropy on Mr Motsepe's level, taking into account how recently they have joined the business world. They may, despite at first glance having good figures, still be battling with the debt made to acquire their assets.

Mr Motsepe's announcement may be a drop in the ocean, in one of the world's most unequal societies, but it is hoped it will spur the already established culture of giving in SA. Mr Motsepe and his family's action is in the spirit of Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge with Bill and Melinda Gates, which was set up two years ago, to have the world's richest people giving back.

Saki Macozoma, another philanthropist, says it is important that wealthy black business people are seen to do good. "It is important, absolutely, that black people show a demonstrable consciousness about these kinds of issues."

Mr Macozoma, a former antiapartheid activist who became a prominent businessman, does philanthropic work in his home province of the Eastern Cape.

"I concentrate more on the education sphere than anywhere else because I feel that's where the greatest difference can be made," Mr Macozoma says.

He has been part of an initiative to help his high school, Kwazakhele in Port Elizabeth, benefit from a programme to assign subject-specific and university-trained teachers to disadvantaged schools.

He welcomes Mr Motsepe's step, which he says needs to be followed by those who can. But those who are still paying off their assets should not jump into it, as they could end up "jeopardising the assets".

Alfred Thutloa, the philanthropy programme co-ordinator at the South African Institute for Advancement, which works to encourage giving, says Mr Motsepe's act is "really wonderful".

He hopes it will encourage others to get into the "culture of giving". "It will help to galvanise and inspire other people to do the same."

Mr Motsepe's step is a good lead for up-and-coming black business people to follow and give back to their communities.

The Motsepe Foundation works with communities in health and education development, to help beneficiaries sustain themselves. It works with a broad spectrum of nongovernmental organisations and community organisations.