South African billionaire Christo Wiese says the solution to South Africa’s problems is obvious: we need more jobs.
In his chairman’s letter for the 2017 Shoprite integrated annual report, Wiese was outspoken against the South African government for its failure to push economic growth over the last year.
He said that there is little doubt that the absence of growth in the economy has put consumers under enormous pressure, and that rampant unemployment and poor education had led to this dismal outcome.
“Attempts to find practical solutions to our social and economic challenges have been futile simply because the wrong questions have been asked,” he said.
“There is nothing structurally wrong with South Africa. The issue is that we are not following the policies that could so easily make life so much better for all South Africans.”
Wiese said that the right question is not: “What do our people want?” Nor is it: “What do our people need?” The right question is: “What can our people not do without?”
“The answer is self-evident – our people need jobs,” he said.
“Once we arrive at that answer, then everything else falls into place. Everything our government does should be determined by whether it creates or destroys jobs. If guided by this test, we will arrive at the right solutions and focus on implementing policies and actions which bring more people into the economy.”
South Africa’s unemployment rates are at 14-year highs, with the latest data showing that 27.7% of the adult population are without work – well over 30% when considering those who are no longer looking for work.
According to Wiese, the Shoprite Group is South Africa’s largest private sector employer – 143,000 people and creating between 5,000 and 12,000 new jobs a year. It added 6,000 new jobs in South Africa in the latest financial year.
In 2017, Shoprite paid out R11.56 billion in salaries and wages to 143,802 employees, translating to an average pay of R80,409 across the entire group’s operations. The group’s new CEO, Pieter Engelbrecht meanwhile took home a salary of R31.25 million – 390 times bigger than the average.
As chairman, Wiese pulled a salary of R397,000 for the year.
However, he remains the single biggest shareholder in the group – totaling over 101.3 million shares (16.9%), worth roughly R20.1 billion (at a share price of R206.89).