A recently released report by Oxfam SA shows that the wealth of three SA billionaires is equivalent to that of the bottom half of the country’s population.
The report entitled ‘An economy for the 99%’, named retail tycoon Christo Wiese, Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg and Aspen Pharmacare chief executive Stephen Saad as the top SA billionaires having the wealth equivalent to a quarter of the country’s population.
This comes at the time South Africa battles to strike a balance in its economic stand with the world. The country’s economy is said by the IMF to grow at a very slow pace following the highly increasing employment challenge, alongside political instability.
However, Oxfam SA’s research and policy lead Ronald Wesso who confirmed the report to Fin24 by phone, explained that the research information was based on data made available by the JSE in December 2016, and is based on shareholdings.
“No data set is perfect, but this is the best data possible,” Wesso said while explaining that the data does not take into account private holdings.
Oxfam’s report noted eight richest men in the world who own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world and using the Credit Suisse Global Wealth data Report 2016, the research group said the inequality is more pronounced in South Africa as the richest 1% of the country’s population has 42%, or $272 billion (R3,7 trillion), of the total wealth of $650 billion.
The wealth of the richest 10% SA billionaires accounted for 31% of the total wealth, or $202 billion (R2,8 trillion), according to Oxfam. While the remaining 90% of the population account for only $175, 5 billion (R2,4 trillion) of the country’s wealth.
“Such inequality is the sign of a broken economy, from global to local, and lack of will from government to change the status quo,” said Oxfam SA executive director, Sipho Mthathi.
“Governments, including the South African government, can act to help everyone, not just those at the top. They can build an economy where businesses pay their taxes and contribute to the wider good; where everyone is able to be healthy and educated, and where poverty wages are a thing of the past,” Mthathi added.
Mthathi also lamented how inequality is trapping hundreds of millions of SA citizens in poverty; he said it fractures the SA societies and undermines democracy.
His comments about wealth distribution in the country, puts to mind the findings in Thuli’s State Capture report which revealed how rich individuals influenced public policy and the allocation of public resources, Oxfam SA said, pointing out that its one of the factors in the largely recorded violence in the country 2013 and 2016.
Extreme inequality creates a society where wealthy elites can have undue power and influence in society and in public affairs, and is bad for democracy. It’s obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when one in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.