The one university which most South African billionaires attended

Four of South Africa’s six billionaires, including Johann Rupert, Koos Bekker, Christo Wiese, and Michiel Le Roux, attended Stellenbosch University.

The latest Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires List, which is regularly updated, shows that South Africa has six dollar billionaires.

South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk is the richest man in the world, followed by French tycoon Bernard Arnault.

Musk’s net worth has recovered to $209.3 billion, with Arnault not too far behind with $203.7 billion.

The list includes six South Africans: Johann Rupert, Nicky Oppenheimer, Koos Bekker, Patrice Motsepe, Michiel Le Roux, and Christo Wiese.

Wiese dropped off the list in 2017 after Steinhoff’s collapse destroyed his wealth. However, he has since regained his billionaire status.

Capitec founder Michiel le Roux replaced Wiese as South Africa’s fifth richest person after the bank’s strong performance in recent years.

South Africa’s six billionaires come from different backgrounds and make their money in different industries.

For example, Johann Rupert’s wealth has its origins in his father, Anton, starting and growing the Voorbrand Tobacco Company.

This company rebranded to the Rembrandt Group and expanded into industries ranging from financial services to mining and engineering.

Today, most of Johann Rupert’s wealth is linked to Richemont, a global powerhouse in the luxury goods market.

In comparison, Patrice Motsepe made most of his money through his mining company, African Rainbow Minerals, which he launched in 1997.

He had no family wealth to speak of. However, he saw an opportunity in mining and launched African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) in 1997.

It merged with Harmony Gold and acquired Anglovaal Mining’s unproductive mines in 2003.

After this merger, Motsepe took up the role of executive chairman of ARM – a position he holds to this day.

Michiel le Roux is a banker. He partnered with Riaan Stassen to start Capitec in 2001. The bank showed exceptional growth, which made Le Roux a billionaire.

Despite their very different paths to becoming ultra-rich, Rupert, Bekker, Le Roux, and Wiese have one thing in common – they all attended Stellenbosch University.

Rupert studied towards a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Economics and Company Law. However, he dropped out and started a banking career in New York.

Bekker completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA) at Stellenbosch University before doing a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at Wits and an MBA at Columbia Business School.

Le Roux completed Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degrees at Stellenbosch University.

Christo Wiese completed a Bachelor of Arts (LLB) at Stellenbosch University. He was in the Wilgenhof residence with former Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson.

Nicky Oppenheimer attended Oxford University, while Patrice Motsepe studied at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Swaziland.

Stellenbosch mafia

Many of South Africa’s richest people have strong links to Stellenbosch, which go beyond their university years.

EFF leader Julius Malema popularised the term Stellenbosch Mafia which referred to wealthy Afrikaans men who lived in and around the town.

It became part of the business lexicon following political journalist Pieter du Toit’s book, The Stellenbosch Mafia – Inside the Billionaire’s Club.

Du Toit delved into the lives and business dealings of many wealthy men living in the picturesque Boland town, supposedly headed by Johann Rupert.

Members of the club reportedly include PSG founder Jannie Mouton, Shoprite’s Christo Wiese and Whitey Basson, and Mediclinic’s Edwin Hertzog.

Other wealthy men associated with Stellenbosch are GT Ferreira, Michael Jordaan, Paul Harris, and Naspers chairman Koos Bekker.

Du Toit said the Stellenbosch Mafia exists as a business network. “There is an interconnected grouping of extremely rich and influential businessmen who call Stellenbosch their home,” he said.

“They exert enormous influence on various industries in South Africa, social life, and politics. They are deeply connected with politicians and politics.”

He explained that the term ‘Stellenbosch Mafia’ had been weaponised politically, especially through Bell Pottinger’s divisive “white monopoly capital” campaign.

“To the members of the so-called Stellenbosch Mafia, the term was initially fun and even a badge of honour. These days, it has become a swearword,” Du Toit said.

Former Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson dismissed the term, saying there is no Stellenbosch Mafia with a secret network of connected billionaires.

“There is a sizeable circle of friends and acquaintances who studied at Stellenbosch University at roughly the same time,” he said.

“Some guys are not friends in the least, but they happen to have been contemporaries at Maties and have built up large businesses. And now they’re suddenly something akin to the Illuminati.”

He added that they may eat out together occasionally, or you bump into someone and talk some business.

However, there are no deliberate plans to act in concert or do business together.


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