South African CEOs are earning rather a lot of money right now – if not compared to Americans

Business Insider SA
  • Every CEO in the world is badly paid compared to Elon Musk.
  • But South African CEOs aren't doing too badly, with the likes of R300 million for Sibanye-Stillwater's head and R84 million for the boss of MTN.
  • Still, even excluding Musk, local CEOs have a bit of room to feel hard done by, compared to some of their peers.
  • For more stories go to

So far this year, South Africa's annual-report disclosure season has featured a mining CEO with a pay package worth more than R300 million, and a telecoms CEO with remuneration of more than R80 million last year - and then there was the CEO paid more than R30 million to leave.

With packages tied closely to share prices – and those share prices affected by everything from pandemic commodity price upheavals to corporate re-organisations – South Africa's top business leaders had a highly variable 2021. 

But some, at least, made eye-watering personal fortunes.

Even those individuals may feel somewhat poor in comparison to their American peers, though – who continue to set an example of sky-high executive pay.

Here is how some recent pay revelations in South Africa compare to top CEO pay in America, even excluding Elon Musk. 

Neal Froneman: R300.3 million....

Golden touch: Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman
Getty Images

In 2021, Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman was paid R12.42 million, the company's annual report showed this week, plus R7.8 million as a bonus – and R246 million in a share scheme.

The platinum group metals (PGMs) in which the mining company specialises has had a good run since 2020, with record-high prices for some of its products. 

At the time of the announcement, Sibanye-Stillwater was offering striking workers an R800 increase, while they were holding out for an extra R1,000 per year.

... but William Berry made R464 million.

William Berry
William Berry

William Berry, the CEO of Continental Resources Inc, which produces oil and gas strictly within the United States, pulled in $29.23 million last year, most of it via equity.

In rand terms, that is just about 55% above Froneman's remuneration packet.

Ralph Mupita: R84.2 million

MTN chief executive Ralph Mupita. (Supplied)

MTN's group CEO Ralph Mupita was paid a R15.4 million salary last year, the company's annual report showed this week. There were a couple of other benefits too, such as R28.9 million in short-term incentives, and R38 million in longer-term incentives.

MTN has been cashing in on "non-strategic" assets under his leadership, including selling or preparing to sell its shares in foreign operators and a company that owns cellphone towers.

... but Mike Sievert made R872 million.

Mike Sievert
Mike Sievert

The CEO of T-Mobile US Inc, Mike Sievert, became the highest-paid telecommunications executive in the United States last year, with a package worth nearly $55 million.

About $20 million of that was a one-time award of equity, after he became CEO. 

But even excluding that, his annual pay would come to well over half a billion rand in local terms – far over seven times more than Mupita has to settle for.

Daniel Mminele: R30.5 million (for leaving)...

Daniel Mminele
Absa paid its former CEO Daniel Mminele R30.47 million in total to part ways with him.
Netwerk24 Photo: Elvira Wood

Absa this month disclosed it had given its former CEO Daniel Mminele a R16.5 million ex gratia payment, plus R4.5 million for a six-month notice period he didn't serve, plus R8.25 million to cover incentives he had been eligible for, and a bit more than another million for accumulated leave and towards his legal costs – run up in his fight with the bank. 

Mminele's exit from Absa, officially because he and its board could not agree on strategy, came with much drama, and long negotiations on his separation package.

His total remuneration in 2020 had been R28.7 million.

... but Adam Neumann got R7 billion to go away.

Adam Neumann
Adam Neumann. (Photo by Jackal Pan/Visual China Group via Getty Images)

Pushed out of WeWork, founder Adam Neumann claimed an exit package of $445 million, of which $200 million came in cold cash. That is not counting soft terms on debt finance and other perks that came with the deal.

Neumann's high level of control gave him an effective veto on plans by Softbank to list WeWork, which he leveraged without mercy.

Mminele's exit is perhaps better compared to that of fellow banker, former Barclays head Jes Staley, who abruptly resigned in November. Not counting £22m worth of bonuses put on hold during investigations about his relationship to the dead accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, Staley was awarded £2.4 million in go-away pay

In rand terms, that is about 57% above what Mminele received. 

And then, of course, there is Elon Musk

17 May 2021, Brandenburg, Grünheide: Elon Musk, T
(Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)

When Bloomberg lists the top-paid CEOs, it includes the option to drop Elon Musk from the comparison so it isn't so badly skewed. A solid argument has been made that he is the richest person, ever. When he thought Twitter wasn't getting things right, he decided to buy it, and personally cover an interest bill that could run to $1 billion.

There is nobody quite like Musk.

But, if you insist on putting him on the scale, his remuneration came to $6.66 billion last year, making him the top-paid CEO in America for the third year in a row.

In local terms, that comes to a little over R100 billion. Or, in terms a little easier to grasp in the context of what South African CEOs are paid, about R12 million per hour, every hour of every day.

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