What sort of society applauds the Motsepes of the world while condemning mineworkers for their "greed" when they demand a living wage?
It's a strange world we live in. Even Alice in her Wonderland would probably be taken aback by the Mail & Guardian Business lead, "Billion-dollar brother: Motsepe spreads the love" and the editorial "Motsepe's hard act to follow" (both February 1). The love that has created such excitement is Patrice Motsepe's intention to give away half of his income.
Left entirely unasked, however, is how the mining magnate amassed a net fortune of more than R20-billion and, moreover, did so in less than 20 years, from his humble beginnings as a (would-be) capitalist who had no capital. The poverty of mineworkers – now exemplified by the Marikana massacre – sits grotesquely alongside the mountain of Motsepe's wealth. Congratulating him for his generosity is like thanking someone who, having helped himself to your bank balance, your house and its entire contents, has the charitable compassion to buy you a second-hand bed for the shack you and your family are now forced to occupy.
This is not to deny that Motsepe is at least a bit different from other obscenely rich mining magnates. My focus is not on Motsepe the individual but rather on our dominant values. What sort of society fails to ask how an individual can possibly spend R20-billion? What sort of society applauds the Motsepes of the world while condemning mineworkers for their "greed" and lack of "patriotism" when they demand a living wage? – Dr Jeff Rudin, Cape Town