If you thought things were economically dire in South Africa, think again. According to researchers from Who Owns Whom, the number of billionaires in South Africa almost doubled from 2009 to 2010. The country now has 31 billionaires to its name and many more clamouring at the doors to the exclusive club.
Read on to find out who's who among South Africa's business elite.
According to timeslive.co.za, Who Own Whom uses only information that is publically available and only looks at information from disclosed JSE-listed companies. Given that most businessmen and women have a variety of interests, we can take it for granted that many of those on the list are in fact wealthier than it seems.
â�¢ The richest person in South Africa is Lashki Mittal, who owns ArcelorMittal SA. He is not South African born, which seems a bit of a cheat, but his fortune can't be denied; he's worth R21.5 billion.
â�¢ Patrice Motsepe is the richest South African but his recorded wealth of R19.9 billion fails to include the lion's share of his investments, including his share in Mamelodi Sundowns. Motsepe also makes the Forbes list of the richest people in the world, although he's ranked a lowly 421 with a mere $2.3 billion.
â�¢ Sometimes fortunes are inherited. It can't be denied that Nicky Oppenheimer is a good businessman but nor can the fact that he inherited a fortune from his grandfather be overlooked. In purely JSE-listed terms, his shares in Anglo-American place his worth at R10.7 billion, but he also a significant shares in De Beers and owns the largest private game reserve in South Africa, so Forbes places his worth at $5 billion (154 in the world), more than twice that of Motsepe.
Who Own Whom also looks at the highest money earners from the country's parastatals. What is interesting about this year's figures (and is a sad reflection on our country) is that seven of the top 10 executive earners no longer work at the parastatal that gave them their fortune, or they are about to leave. Furthermore, scandal followed many of those that vacated their seats.
â�¢ For instance, Khaya Ngqula, who used to head up SAA, earned R13.7 million, including a golden handshake of R9.35 million that many speculate was intended as an incentive for him to leave.
â�¢ Geoffrey Qhena heads up the Industrial Development Corporation and his performance bonus pushed him up to R10.3 million. He still has his job and there appear to be no clouds on his horizon.
â�¢ Perhaps most controversially we have Jacob Maroga, who used to head up Eskom, but who left under a very dark cloud owing to gross mismanagement. Nevertheless, his salary of R5 million and portion of shares (awarded pre-mismanagement) placed him third on the top earners list. As an aside, Maroga sued Eskom for unlawful dismissal, claiming the laughable amount of R85 million. He claim has been denied.
Whether you get there by hard work or family fortune (or, occasionally, making a complete dog's breakfast of things), the trick, according to every rich person in the world, is to hold onto your money. So even if your fortune runs only to ten figures, be smart with it and you could see it soar.
We write about business in South Africa [http://www.thebusinessclass.co.za/business-south-africa.asp] for the top profilers of the cream of South African business people, Thebusinessclass.