South Africa’s richest man Nicky Oppenheimer says it was ultimately his grandson which helped convince him to pledge R1 billion to fighting South Africa’s coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking in a rare interview on CNBC, Oppenheimer said that before even hearing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech, in which he called for assistance for private individuals, his grandson Sam had indicated that the family should offer its help.
“He that said we have been privileged as South Africans, and in a time of crisis like this you need to give something back to the country.
“This idea developed – which I am very proud of – through a trust which we will have no interest in. So the money we are giving is indeed a straight donation to keep small and medium businesses going during difficult times.”
To assist in distributing the donation, the Oppenheiemers have established the South African Future Trust (SAFT).
Four of South Africa’s leading banks – including Nedbank, Standard Bank, FNB and Absa – will administer the scheme at no cost to the fund. The banks have also waived their normal credit fees for all loans approved under the SAFT scheme to maximise the funds available to recipients.
SMMEs need to apply through their main bank. Once approved, the funds will be paid directly to the nominated employees, however liability for the loan remains with the business. You can find out more about the application criteria here.
When asked exactly what ideal he hoped to achieve with the trust, Oppenheimer cited a simile which he was told by his son.
“South Africa’s is like a car that has a puncture and you are pulled over the side of the road and you are stopped,” he said.
“But the car has another problem – that is that the battery is not as strong as you would want it; so it is absolutely vital that you should keep the ignition turning while you change the tyre.
“What the South Africa Future Trust is trying to do is to ensure that those small and medium enterprises – which are so vital for our economy – will keep going while the tyre is changed.”
Oppenheimer said that he hopes that other individuals and businesses will look at the structure put up to also help the country’s larger businesses.
He added that the more people that çome to the party, the sooner the crisis will be over.
Oppenheimer is currently the ranked the wealthiest man in South Africa according to the Forbes’ daily tracking of billionaire wealth, with a net worth of $7.5 billion.
He is followed by Johann Rupert, Koos Bekker and Patrice Motsepe – all of whom have donated over a R1 billion to fighting the coronavirus – either in a personal capacity or through their various companies.