The Wealth Issue
The Wealth Issue
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Ed's Note

In our latest issue we talk wealth, and have packed it with everything that we could squeeze in, from glittering jewels and luxury fragrances to an exquisite sports car and a designer gastro bar. We also look at the broader meaning of wealth through a personal essay by Emmy Award-winning director Lebogang Rasethaba on the evolution of his relationship with his well-known businessman father, Sello Rasethaba, after the latter experienced a life-changing medical episode. You can also read my cheeky — and only half tongue-in-cheek —  challenge to the billionaire class below. Enjoy.    


It has become fashionable to knock billionaires. In lefty politics, their very existence is an abomination in a world where their kind — just over 3 000 as of 2022 — holds enough wealth to magic-pill away many of the world’s problems but doesn’t. I imagine the suppression of unions; lack of overtime pay; child labour; expensive, sub-par products; greenwashing; and costly juvenile extracurricular activities don’t offer much help either. They come in many guises.

They may be sleeping on their factory floor in Austin and indiscriminately laying off those who do not share their “dedication” while developing the next ChatGPT killer, wearing the same black three-pack T-shirts and subsisting exclusively on Cap’n Crunch with oat milk. They may live in self-imposed exile in Dubai, be Insta-visible and fabulous while facing accusations of looting their own country, like Angolan entrepreneur Isabel dos Santos, daughter of that country’s late former president José Eduardo dos Santos.

But, if we are honest, they are more than likely swanning around in bespoke Anderson & Sheppard with an outsized, private-jet-fuelled carbon footprint — from the office in Zurich to the cabin in Gstaad, via a shadowy meeting in the Caymans and some hot air in Davos. An easy target, then.

I could make more of a difference with a billion than most billionaires. I have no evidence of this and am terrible at accounting but have unflinching belief.

I don’t know many billionaires. The two whom I have met are alleged to be worth north of nine zeros but have never referred to themselves using the “b” word, let alone given the speculation any oxygen. This also means they haven’t denied it. If they are indeed billionaires, they bely what their ilk has come to represent.

Naturally, they retain the majority of what they have accumulated — they are not quite in the 50%+ range of The Giving Pledge — but consciously give away enough of it for visible transformation in the areas of philanthropy they have chosen. It doesn’t seem all that difficult, to be honest, and I think I could do even better. There was a time I had a figure in mind — you know, one of those figures that would shut down one’s laptop and lead one on to beach retirement and investing in the causes that move one. The figure shifted significantly over the years — who knew kids could be so costly? — but never came close to a billion. Until recently.

I like nice things but, in principle, I am also against mass (and crass) accumulation of anything, especially money, because I believe it will always be at someone else’s expense. But since we are here, in a world where luck in the geography, gender, race, and proximity lotto (and some occasional hard work) can accumulate the equivalent of a country’s GDP, I also want a billion. I would prefer dollars, but even rands will do for my Billion Challenge, cue the hashtag.

I have never handled budgets beyond several million in my various roles over the years, but I am convinced that, given the same resources (in this case, a team, research, and access), I could make more of a difference with a billion than most billionaires. I have no evidence of this and am terrible at accounting but have unflinching belief. How very billionaire-like of me — I’m well on my way.

Don’t buy it? Lounging on your yacht right now reading this and hosing yourself at the naivety of a salaryman looking at the world through his salaryman eyes? Put your money where your rolling eyes are, a billion vs a billion. For good. Let’s go.


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