Three South Africans were reported to have the wealth that is equal to that of the bottom half of the country’s population and in reaction, one of them Christo Wiese, has slammed the report for blaming them for South Africa’s problems.
Oxfam, in its ‘An economy for the 99%’, reported that Christo Wiese’s wealth, alongside those of two other billionaires are equal to that of the bottom half of the country. The report also said the world’s richest eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world.
The research group used data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2016 and it said this inequality is more pronounced in South Africa as the richest 1% of the country’s population have 42%, or $272bn (R3.7tr), of the total wealth of $650bn.
Reacting to this, retail tycoon Christo Wiese said he is fed-up with the rich getting the blame for South Africa’s problems.
According to him, South Africa always has a perverse obsession about the rich with little or no regard for what would happen to the poor if the rich are pulled down
Speaking at the FW de Klerk Foundation’s conference on the Constitution and governance, Wiese said: “The question government must ask is: ‘What better person is there to be managing and investing money than a person with a proven track record to earn it justly?”
Christo Wiese is a South African businessman whose source of wealth is consumer retail. He, – alongside Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg and Aspen Pharmacare’s Stephen Saad – was particularly slammed by Oxfam International executive director, Winnie Byanyima for the shocking amount of wealth they accumulated compared to South Africa’s poorest.
“Such inequality is the sign of a broken economy, from global to local, and lack of will from government to change the status quo,” he said
“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International,
“Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy,” Aspen Pharmacare’s Stephen Saad added, noting that governments including the South African government, can act to help everyone not just those at the top.
Wiese however, argued that even if Oxfam was correct in its wealth distribution report, this still does not justify radical policy changes based on assumptions.
He further accused the research group of using dubious methods to reach their sensationalist conclusion. He said the mere fact that a few who supposedly own too much keep changing, should get them to ponder the fluid and fickle nature of wealth. Proving that there is no such group as the rich.
“The harsh truth is that the problem is poverty, whereas the narrative implies that the problem is wealth. Criticism is only directed at people who make money by employing thousands of people and supplying society, also the poor, with goods and services competitively,” said Christo Wiese, highlighting that half of new title deed holders, most new business owners, vehicle buyers, insurance policy customers are black, but noted that there was a “serial silence” about that.
Around six million black people in South Africa earn middle-class incomes – more than the entire white population – and they did this by themselves.
Wiese concluded by calling for government to set up policies that would help alleviate poverty. These policies, according to him, should be evidence-based and economically sound, not based on wild statistical claims that blame “White Monopoly Capital” for South Africa’s social ills.