Patrice Motsepe
Patrice Motsepe

THE wealth of South Africa's 20 richest people, worth R134bn altogether, rose a mere 8% over the past year as the sluggish global economy weighed heavily on steel and mining share prices.

Patrice Motsepe, heading the Rich List for the second year running, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, ranking third, and mining heir Nicky Oppenheimer in fourth place were the big losers in the top 20.

The exception in the top four was second-ranked retail mogul Christo Wiese, who got a lot richer.

Motsepe, worth R20.07bn, had to contend with his fortune shrinking 13%. Mittal's R13bn stake in ArcelorMittal was 38% lower than last year. Oppenheimer's 2.3% stake in Anglo American, worth R9bn, was 19% lower.

Despite their investments on the JSE taking a hammering, these three were still worth more than a third of the combined wealth of the top 20.

Each of the top 20 is worth more than R2bn. The top 30 are all worth more than R1bn, based on disclosed investments in JSE-listed companies at the end of March.

They are all probably a lot richer as valuations do not include unlisted investments, property or cash.

Oppenheimer, who sold the family's 40% stake in De Beers to Anglo late last year, is estimated by Forbes to be worth $6.8bn (R57.7bn), making him the 139th-richest person in the world and the richest South African.

Forbes puts Motsepe's wealth at $2.7bn, ranking him fourth in South Africa behind Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and family, whose wealth is estimated at $3.1bn, and Wiese, who is worth an estimated $3.1bn.

India-born Mittal, who lives in London, has a global steel empire worth an estimated $20.7bn, ranking him 21st on Forbes's list of billionaires.

The Sunday Times Rich List shows most of South Africa's richest people are self-made men. Sixteen of the top 20 are entrepreneurs who built their empires after spotting a gap in the market.

Jannie Mouton, known as the "Boere Buffett" after US investment guru Warren Buffett, started financial services group PSG after he was fired from his stockbroking job at the age of 48.

Mouton is now worth R2.5bn, putting him in 19th position. His son Piet features in 120th place with investments worth R208m.

A handful of billionaires - the Ruperts, Oppenheimers and manganese heir Des Sacco, who has a stake in Assore - inherited family empires.

For others, notably Motsepe and Cyril Ramaphosa, black economic empowerment legislation opened a few doors.

The Royal Bafokeng Consortium, with stakes in companies like Vodacom and Rand Merchant Bank Holdings, ranked fifth, with assets valued at nearly R8.2bn, built on the foundations of its platinum-rich land in the North West.

While fortunes of some billionaires dwindled over the past year, many more of them have reason to pop some vintage Dom Perignon.

Media magnate Koos Bekker, CEO of Naspers, saw his fortune jump 117% to R3.7bn, placing him in 14th position.

Laurie Dippenaar, GT Ferreira and Paul Harris, who founded FirstRand banking group, all ranked in the top 20, and saw their investments grow 39%, 58% and 41% respectively. Dippenaar leads the trio with investments of R7.2bn, mainly in FirstRand-related entities.

Wiese, who holds stakes in Shoprite, Brait, PSG, Invicta Holdings and Tradehold, enjoyed 42% growth in his listed investments to R15bn.

The taxman should be pleased. Wiese, who was found carrying £674920 in cash at London City Airport in 2009, allegedly faces an outstanding tax bill from the South African Revenue Service of R2bn.

Ninth-ranked Stephen Saad's fortune from Aspen Pharmacare grew 51% to R6.4bn. His colleague Gus Attridge ranked 21st and is worth nearly R2.2bn. The duo started Aspen in 1997, building a multibillion-dollar business in just 15 years.

Ramaphosa also had a profitable year - his worth jumped 39% to R3.1bn. This includes his investments in Assore, Bidvest, Mondi, MTN, SABMiller and Standard Bank, which totalled R3.1bn, but excludes the value of unlisted investments held through Shanduka, such as McDonald's and a coal-mining partnership with international trading house Glencore.

Exxaro's Sipho Nkosi, worth nearly R2bn, was ranked 22nd, and his colleague Zweli Mntambo, worth R1.1bn, is ranked 30th.

Saki Macozoma ranks 39th with investments worth R634m. Lazarus Zim is 68th with investments worth R419.6m in Sanlam and Northam Platinum.

Robert Gumede ranks 82nd with his Gijima stake worth R334.4m.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale is not included in this year's ranking as his listed investments were moved to blind trusts when he was appointed to the cabinet in 2009. His worth was put at R1.95-bn on the 2010 Rich List, which would have placed him 23rd on this year's list.

The only new entrant to this year's top 20 is UK businessman John Whittaker, whose 20% stake in Capital Shopping Centres Group (CSC), formerly known as Liberty International, is worth R6.9bn. Whittaker gained the stake in CSC after selling The Trafford Centre, one of the UK's biggest shopping malls, to CSC in 2011.

Whittaker replaced electronics entrepreneur Bill Venter, who ranked 25th this year with a stake worth R1.57bn.

* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times