January 30, 2013 6:20 pm

South Africa’s Motsepe joins Giving Pledge

Patrice Motsepe, South Africa’s first black billionaire, has pledged to donate at least half of the wealth generated by his family’s assets to charity, becoming the first African to join Giving Pledge, the initiative set up by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.

Mr Motsepe, ranked by Forbes Magazine as the eighth-richest African, with a net worth estimated at $2.65bn, said he had decided some time ago to make the donations to “uplift poor and other disadvantaged and marginalised South Africans”.

It was not clear how much money would be pledged but the funds would go to the Motsepe Foundation. The Giving Pledge is a philanthropic initiative that has brought together dozens of billionaires, mostly Americans, who have promised to give much of their wealth to charity.

Mr Motsepe, who made his fortune in mining, is one of the most prominent figures among a wealthy black elite that has emerged in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Many of the group made their fortunes through the governing African National Congress’s policy of black economic empowerment. BEE was introduced in an attempt to redress the huge imbalances created by decades of discrimination but has been tainted by criticism that it has benefited a small, politically connected group.

In spite of the gains made since the end of white minority rule, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal societies and is plagued by rampant unemployment and widespread poverty.

A wave of violent wildcat strikes in the mining sector last year, during which police shot and killed 34 protesters, was seen as symptomatic of many black South Africans’ frustration with the slow pace of economic transformation in the country and the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

However, while Mr Motsepe has benefited from BEE, he is viewed differently from many other black tycoons and described more usually as a self-made entrepreneur.

He established his first mining company in 1994 and operates businesses rather than simply taking stakes in companies. He is the founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, one of the most successful of the new generation of post-apartheid companies, with interests stretching across platinum, coal, iron ore and ferrous metals.

His business empire grew after Mr Motsepe struck deals with groups such as Anglo American, Anglovaal and Harmony Gold in the 1990s and early 2000s, shortly before depressed commodity prices were about to boom.

Although he is politically well-connected he has never held office, unlike other black tycoons such as Tokyo Sexwale, a cabinet minister, and Cyril Ramaphosa, who was recently elected deputy president of the ANC and is touted as a potential future head of state.

“I recognise the huge responsibility and duty that the Motsepe family has to poor, unemployed, disabled, women, youth, workers and marginalised South Africans,” Mr Motsepe said. “We also have an ongoing obligation of nation building, uniting black and white South Africans and contributing towards making South Africa, Africa and the world a better place.”

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