Politics in South Africa has been one of the most evolved in the entire African continent, looking at how much it has changed since the end of apartheid. Apart from the struggle for the control of power that naturally remained at the center of the country’s politics, there has also been an overwhelming struggle to control wealth and resources by groups, individuals, and, needless to say, politicians. This has raised the torchlight on who could be the richest politicians in South Africa.
The annual salary of the president of South Africa is put at $265,020 for the highest political office holder in the country. This is a good steep shy of the $400,000 that the US president takes home. However, politicians in the country have still managed to make a significant fortune for themselves, mostly through their involvement in businesses alongside their political involvement. While some politicians have always been businessmen in the country, some left politics for business, and others crossed the other way.
A Look At The Richest Politicians in South Africa Today
1. Cyril Ramaphosa
- Net worth: $450 million
- Age: 68 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: Secretary-General of the African National Congress (1991 – 1997), Deputy President of the African National Congress (2012 – 2017), Deputy President of South Africa (2014 – 2018), President of South Africa (2018- Date)
- Other Sources of Income: Business
Topping the richest politicians in South Africa at the moment is none other than the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who brags of a net worth of over $450 million. Although he is better known by many as a politician, he is also a businessman, which has made him the billionaire in Rand that he is today.
Born in 1952, Ramaphosa started his career as an anti-apartheid activist and trade union leader. He was arrested during the apartheid regime before he was later released. As soon as democracy returned to the country, he remained one of the foremen at the country’s politics, helping him rise to the top. He has held various positions, including being the vice president and subsequently the president of the country.
Ramaphosa built his net worth through a company he founded in 2001, Shanduka Group, which was into mining, telecommunications, food and beverage, property, and much more. He was named among the 10 richest men in South Africa at various points.
2. Tokyo Sexwale
- Net worth: $200 million
- Age: 68 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: Premier of Gauteng (1994 – 1998), Minister of Human Settlements (2009 – 2013)
- Other Sources of Income: Business
Born Mosima Gabriel Sexwale, Tokyo is well-known as an anti-apartheid leader who spent time behind bars with the country’s legendary leader, Nelson Mandela, on Robben Island for 13 years. He was born in 1953, and like many others, he started politics at an early age as a member of the African National Congress (ANC).
In 1994, after the country gained independence, he became the first Premier of Gauteng and remained in charge until 1998. He would disappear from the active political scene for a long time until 2007 when he attempted to become the country’s president. After his failed presidential bid, he was made Minister of Human Settlements under Jacob Zuma until 2013.
He made his net worth of an estimated $200 million from the business, which he found after his initial exit from politics, Mvelaphanda Group. He founded the company in 2003 when Mvelaphanda Holdings and Rebserve were merged. The company is into a lot of things, including mining, energy, and real estate. He is currently the chairman of the company.
3. Herman Mashaba
- Net worth: $100 million
- Age: 61 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: Mayor of Johannesburg (2016 – 2019), Founder and Chairman ActionSA (2020 – date)
- Other Sources of Income: Business
Herman Mashaba is very much different from most others on the list, as he was first a businessman and then a politician. He was born in 1959 into a poor and struggling family, where his mother was almost always not there as she struggled to provide for her kids while his brother was forced to drop out of school. Herman himself was unable to complete tertiary education.
He did not join politics as early as others on the list, but that did not stop him from becoming the Mayor of Johannesburg from 2016 to 2019 when he resigned because of the differences he had with the DA leaders. He found his own party, ActionSA, in 2020 and is the current chairman.
Herman Mashaba built his estimated net worth of over $100 million from his career as a businessman. He started his business very early in his life. His first company, Black Like Me, was founded in 1985 using a loan of R30,000, which he got from his personal friend, Walter Dube. He is the man behind the company, Lephatsi Investments (Pty) Ltd, which is into different things, including real estate, financial services, insurance brokerage, and bulletproof materials.
4. F. W de Klerk
- Net worth- $46 Million
- Age: 85 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: State President of South Africa (1989 – 1994), Deputy President of South Africa (1994 – 1996)
- Other Sources of Income: Farming, Properties
Frederik Willem de Klerk is yet another who has made the list of the richest South African politicians. Born in 1936, into a wealthy and influential Afrikaner family. Before he joined politics, F.W had a career in law. He joined the National Party, under which he made it to the parliament in the minority controlled South Africa with his family’s political influence.
Before the end of the apartheid regime, he served as the State President of South Africa from 1989 until 1994, when the government of Nelson Mandela came to power. Under the new regime, he became the 1st Deputy President of South Africa from 1994 until 1996. He is significant for overseeing the complete end of apartheid in the country after bowing down to the superior voices of South Africans and the international communities. He was the leader of the National Party from 1972 – 1997.
He has come by his massive fortune from many things, including his farming business. In 2008, it was reported that he was selling one of his massive farms, which was listed for an incredible R35 million. The property, which was on the banks of the Wildepaardejacht River, had a thatched manor house on the farm covering about 280sqm. It had about 3ha of fallow land, 14ha of vineyards, and 7ha of olive and fruit orchards.
5. Saki Macozoma
- Net worth: $60 million
- Age: 64 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: ANC Member of Parliament (1994 – 1996)
- Other Sources of Income: Business
Saki Camozoma was born in 1957 in Port Elizabeth. Growing up in apartheid-infested South Africa, it was almost a natural inclination for him, just as many of his other peers, to join the movement for the country’s liberation. This did not turn out too well for him, as expected, as he soon found himself languishing on Robben Island for the next five years.
After spending time and the liberation of South Africa, Saki leaped into politics as expected. He worked for the African National Congress (ANC), and in 1994, he became a member of the parliament. In 1996, he decided to leave the parliament to give a business a shot. The motivation for him was that the ANC had decided to focus on economic policy over its nationalistic drive.
The politician has today made his name as one of the frontlines South African businessmen. Even though today his net worth is put at $60 million, he was once considered one of the richest people in South Africa, with a net worth of $71 million as of 2012. In fact, his numbers were speculated to be much higher than what was listed. After he left the parliament, he became the managing director of Transnet. From this point, his mind remained on business.
His name has been linked to many businesses, including Tshipi é Ntle Manganese Mining (Pty) Limited, of which he is the chairman. The international investment company Safika Resources Limited and Safika Holdings, and Ntsimbintle Mining BEE are other businesses that he is linked to. Many other business involvements saw him becoming SA’s 39th richest man in 2012, including Standard Bank and Andisa Capital.
6. Jacob Zuma
- Net worth: $20 milllion
- Age: 79 Years old
- Major Political Offices Held: President of South Africa (2009 – 2018), President of the African National Congress (2007 – 2017), Deputy President of South Africa (1999 to 2005)
- Other Sources of Income: Business dealings
The past president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is one of the most controversial politicians the country has seen. Still, at the same time, he is also one of the richest, with his net worth estimated at over $20 million.
He was born in 1942 to a father who was a policeman and a mother who was a domestic worker. The country’s future president was only five when he lost his father, leaving his mother to struggle and bring him up together with his siblings in a racially divided South Africa. Like others, he joined the anti-apartheid movement at a young age, and he also did not escape being arrested and locked by the government. More than that, he was sent in exile and only returned close to the country’s independence for the negotiation processes.
After the return of democracy and Nelson Mandela became president, Zuma was made Member of the Executive Council (MEC) in KwaZulu-Natal. In 1999, he became the Deputy President of South Africa until 2005. In 2007, he became the President of the African National Congress, and then in 2009, he was sworn in as the country’s president. He remained in power until he was forced out in 2018.
Jacob Zuma did not only make his money from his involvement in politics but also his businesses. Beyond these, he has had a litany of corruption cases at his tail, although he has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing. Members of his family have also been accused of various levels of corruption, including his son Duduzane Zuma whose net worth is estimated at $15 million. He was linked to the Guptas before the final fall of the controversial brothers out of the South African business circles.
7. Thabo Mbeki
- Net worth: $10 million
- Age: 78 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: President of South Africa (1999 – 2008), Deputy President of South Africa (1994 – 1999)
- Other Sources of Income: Diplomacy
With Thabo Mbeki making the list of the richest politicians in South Africa, it means all the former presidents of the country after the apartheid regime has made the list, except for former President Nelson Mandela and Kgalema Motlanthe who served only for a brief period.
Thabo Mbeki was born in 1942 into a family that seemed to define his fate early enough as an activist and a politician as his parents were just that. Beyond staunch front members of the ANC, they also held close to the Marxist ideologies. He was forced to flee the country in 1962 because of his anti-apartheid activities as a member of the ANC. He disguised with other members of the party as a football team to leave the country. After the country’s independence, he became the first deputy president of the country, serving under Nelson Mandela. After the latter bowed out of power in 1994, Thabo Mbeki became the country’s president in 1999.
He was in power until he resigned in 2004. He is considered to be one of the bigger voices in South African politics and Africa as a whole. Thabo Mbeki made his net worth of more than $10 million majorly through his works as a politician and a diplomat. Interestingly, the former president, who now has no child since the disappearance of his only son alongside his brother many years ago, has no business ties openly linked to him. He remains one of the very few wealthy politicians in the country who have not been drawn into business.
8. Bulelani Ngcuka
- Net worth: $10 million
- Age: 67 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: Senator (1994 – 1997), National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) (1999 – 2004)
- Other Sources of Income: Business, Legal Career
In 2013, Bulelani Ngcuka was named one of the richest men in South Africa, championing a net worth estimated at an incredible R203 million. With that, he occupied the 137th spot. Years later, he is still a wealthy man who is, in fact, one of the richest politicians in the country. More than that, he joins with his wife, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, to form one of the most respected power couples in the country.
Born in 1954, Bulelani has come a long way as a politician, although his achievements seem to be dwarfed because his wife rose to the Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2008. More importantly, she was the first woman to hold such a position in the country. She is currently the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, serving as an Executive Director of UN Women. On his part, Bulelani began his career as an anti-apartheid activist like most other politicians of his generation. He would later serve as a senator in the South African parliament from 1994 to 1997, serving as ANC’s chief whip.
He got elected National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) the following year, and he served in that capacity until 2004, when he resigned. Bulelani Ngcuka built his net worth of more than $10 million from his involvement in many businesses. This is not surprising as his wife, who has been seen as a champion of black capitalism, once encouraged blacks not to feel ashamed of becoming filthy rich. Bulelani is currently the founder and chairman of Vuwa Investments (Proprietary) Ltd., City Lodge Holdings, Menzies Aviation SA, M&S Holdings, Amadlelo Agri, and Rolfes Technologies.
9. Mamphela Ramphele
— Living On Earth (@livingonearth) January 26, 2021
- Net worth: $5.5 million
- Age: 73 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: Democratic Alliance presidential candidate (2014)
- Other Sources of Income: Medical doctor, business
Mamphela Ramphele is fascinating in more ways than one. First of all, she is the only female politician in the country, with her name among the top richest politicians in the country. In 2011, she was listed as one of the richest women in Africa by Forbes Magazine on a list dominated by South African women such as Bridgette Radebe, Irene Charnley, Pam Golding, and Wendy Appelbaum, among others.
She was born in 1947 in the then Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo) into a family of primary school teachers. Her experience as a little child drove her into anti-apartheid activities and her subsequent contribution to the formation of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). It was through these activities that she met and started her relationship with Steve Biko. Although she did not hold any significant political position, she formed her own party, Agang South Africa, in 2013 with the hopes of taking out the ANC.
Ahead of the country’s 2014 election, she agreed to become the Democratic Alliance (DA) presidential candidate before she withdrew. She led her party to clinch two seats in the Parliament before she resigned from politics in 2014 to continue her activities in civil society. Her decision was linked to the division that had taken over the party she formed.
A one-time Managing Director of the World Bank, Mamphela Ramphele made her net worth of $5.5 million from her various investments. More so, she was also involved in the Circle Capital investment company, which belonged to her family. Apart from these, she is a medical doctor and an academic, among other things.
10. Pravin Gordhan
- Net worth: $5 million
- Age: 72 Years Old
- Major Political Offices Held: Minister of Public Enterprises (2018 – date), Minister of Finance (2009 – 2014, 2015 – 2017), Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (2014 – 2015)
- Other Sources of Income: Business investments
Even though the actual net worth of Pravin Gordhan is still being disputed, some sources put him to be as high as $5 million. One of the frontline economic minds in the country, Gordhan, was born in 1949.
He got into politics through the windows of activism when he joined the movement against the apartheid regime, first with the African National Congress (ANC). Then he later joined the South African Communist Party (SACP). At the end of the apartheid regime, he was elected as a member of parliament from 1994 to 1998. Next, he became Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service from 1999 to 2009. Arguably his most important role in the country’s politics is as the Minister of Finance, first from 2009 to 2014, and then from 2015 to 2017. He is currently the country’s Minister of Public Enterprises.
The alleged estimated $5 million net worth of the former finance minister was said to have been made from the many businesses he has to his name. He reportedly has shares in more than 40 companies according to his 2017 Declaration of interests, including as many as 25 000 shares in different real estate property investment trusts. More so, he had stakes in Absa, FNB, Nedbank, and Standard Bank. These shares are reported to be over 6,500. Other companies that the minister has shares with include British American Tobacco Company, Naspers, Remgro, MTN, Steinhoff International, and BHP Billiton. The shares had a value of as little as 160 Rand to as high as 200,000 Rand.
Others Who Could Have Made The List Of The Richest South African Politicians
Apart from the aforementioned politicians, there are other politicians we believe should appear somewhere among the richest politicians in South Africa. However, because their net worths are either still under review or because of unavailable data, they have not made it.
The former wife of former President Jacob Zuma, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is also wealthy, with speculations that she could also be among the richest politicians in the country thanks to her investments in mining and agriculture. Currently the country’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and a one-time presidential frontrunner, she has held various political offices in the country and the continent’s diplomatic scene. She was once the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, is yet another individual who is very wealthy. Apart from being a politician, he is a businessman who has started several businesses and worked for one of the top 100 businesses in the country, Aldes Business Brokers, as a consultant. Unfortunately, his net worth is still under review.
Mathews Phosa, whose name once appeared as one of the richest South Africans, is another politician that could have easily made the list, but again, his current net worth is still under review.