The year 2015 will go down as one of the more memorable in South Africa’s economic history books – and for all the wrong reasons.
It was a year characterised by devastatingly low economic growth, plummeting commodity prices and a slowdown in the global demand for mineral resources that triggered a number of big corporates to embark on widespread retrenchment processes.
And who could forget President Jacob Zuma’s unceremonious removal of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene – now commonly referred to as #NeneGate or 9/12. This debacle sent the rand into a free fall, hitting hit all-time lows in December, resulting in over R225 billion being wiped off the JSE, of which R180 billion came from the banking sector.
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South Africans are still feeling the effects of Zuma’s colossal economic blunder, and according to Forbes’ latest Rich List, South Africa’s wealthiest businessmen were the biggest losers.
African Rainbow Minerals CEO Patrice Motsepe was the biggest victim of the year, with the publication estimating that the respected mining magnate and black industrialist lost half of his wealth, with his net worth depreciating from $2,2 billion (R34,6 billion) to $1,1 billion (R17,3 billion). He is now ranked the 1 577th richest man in the world.
Diamond magnate Nicky Oppenheimer remains the richest man in the country, although his estimated net worth is said to have declined by 1,5% since 2015 from $6,7 billion (R105,2 billion) to $6,6 billion (R103,7 billion) this year.
Oppenheimer is the only South African to feature among the world’s wealthiest 200 people, ranking 174th.
Pepkor chairman Christo Wiese was ranked 214th in the world with his riches falling by 7,9% from $6,3 billion (R99 billion) to $5,8 billion (R91,4 billion), while Richemont chairman Johann Rupert’s wealth fell 28,4% from $7,4 billion (R116,4 billion) in 2015 to $5,3 billion (R83,3 billion) this year. He is now ranked the 248th richest person in the world.
Allan Gray was the only businessman whose net worth remained unchanged at $1,6 billion for the year, while Naspers’ chairman Koos Bekker lost around 39% of his net worth, which fell from $2,3 billion (R36,1 billion) last year to $1,4 billion this year (R22 billion).
As a global collective, the world’s richest people’s aggregate net worth declined by $570 billion (R8,9 trillion) to $6,4 trillion.
There was very little movement in terms of the composition of the top 10 richest people, with Microsoft founder Bill Gates remaining the richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of $75 billion (R1,1 trillion).
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What is noteworthy, however, is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth, which grew by $11,2 billion (R176 billion) for the year bringing his total net worth to around $44,6 billion (R702 billion).