Nicky Oppenheimer (left) and Johann Rupert (right)
Nicky Oppenheimer (left) and Johann Rupert (right). Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Reportage by Getty Images; Cornel van Heerden, Media24
  • The two richest South African families will each donate R1 billion to prop up the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • The money will be used to help South African small businesses and their employees.
  • Together, Nicky Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert are worth almost R200 billion.
  • Go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage for more stories.

On Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will go into a national lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. During that time, all businesses must shut down, other than a list of those considered vital.

This will be a massive hit to an economy that is already in recession. To help cushion the blow, he announced interventions, including tax relief and other measures.

Read: Ramaphosa announces raft of 'quick, targeted' interventions to buoy SA economy

Ramaphosa also said that South Africa's two richest families, the Oppenheimers and the Ruperts, will each donate R1 billion to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Nicky Oppenheimer has a total net worth of $5.8 billion (R103 billion). He’s the 250th richest person in the world.

Oppenheimer was chairperson of the De Beers diamond group – which was founded by his grandfather Ernest in 1929 – until 2012, when the Oppenheimers sold their stake to Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash.

In a statement on Monday night, the 75-year old Oppenheimer and his son Jonathan (50) said that "as proud South Africans", they welcome “government’s robust and timely efforts to stem the tide of the coronavirus”.

“Our aim is to mitigate the immediate economic impact of this pandemic, by keeping companies in business and protecting jobs, in order to fast-track our economic recovery. We will do this by providing direct financial assistance to employees who are at risk of losing their jobs, or have suffered a loss of income, because of Covid-19.”

An agency – independent of the Oppenheimer family - will be created to administer the funding. It should have a continued role in boosting economic growth and job creation long after this crisis has passed, they said.

At number 287 of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index is Johann Rupert with a total net worth of $5.18 billion (R92 billion).

The 69-year old is chairman of one of the world’s biggest luxury conglomerates, Richemont, which owns brands like Mont Blanc and Cartier. Richemont was created from the assets of Remgro, which was founded almost 80 years ago by Rupert’s father, Anton. 

Johann Rupert is still chairperson of Remgro, which has investments in many large South African companies including MediClinic, Distell, FirstRand, RMI (OUTsurance) - as well as the Blue Bulls. He also chairs the international investment fund Reinet (named after Anton Rupert’s birthplace, Graaff Reinet in the Eastern Cape), which owns a stake in British American Tobacco (Dunhill, Lucky Strike and Rothmans).

Rupert has a long involvement with small businesses, and in 1981 founded the  Small Business Development Corporation, which funded enterprises. It later became Business Partners.

Rupert is a popular target of the EFF, who view him as the face of white monopoly capital (WMC) – although it has since emerged that EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu spent time with Rupert at an exclusive wine estate in Stellenbosch to discuss potential business plans.

Complied by Jay Caboz

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