Elon Musk sets record straight about South African upbringing

Billionaire Elon Musk said it is false that he was raised in a wealthy family and that his father owned a stake in a Zambian emerald mine.

Musk made these comments in an interview with DailyWire’s Ben Shapiro during a visit to Krakow in Poland.

In 2018, Business Insider reported that Musk’s family owned a Zambian emerald mine. The report said it helped to fund a “lavish lifestyle of yachts, skiing holidays, and expensive computers”.

His father, Errol, claimed that lifestyle turned Elon into a merchant adventurer, which helped him create Tesla and SpaceX.

However, Musk debunked these claims during the interview, saying the mine was a figment of his dad’s imagination.

“I would love to see a picture of this mine. If someone can dig up a picture of this mine, I would like to see it,” Musk said.

He explained that the alleged emerald mine in Zambia was a random story his dad made up.

“My dad has many talents. He is an extremely talented engineer and a very talented artist,” Musk said.

“He has a lot of talents, but, unfortunately, he has a few screws loose. He actually went bankrupt in the nineties.”

Musk and his brother have supported their dad financially for the last 25 years. “We’ve inherited nothing from him,” he said.

When he left South Africa for Canada, he only had $2,000 in travellers’ cheques, a bag with his clothes, and a backpack full of books. “These were my entire possessions. That’s how I started.”

Elon Musk with his mother and brother when he founded his first company, Zip2.

Musk’s upbringing in South Africa

Musk previously said he grew up in a lower, transitioning to an upper, middle-income family but did not have a happy childhood.

Musk was regularly bullied at school and explained that most of his youth was punctuated with extreme violence between the ages of 6 and 16.

“I’ve been in real hard-core street fights,” Musk said. “I got beaten up badly in a few of them, actually. I grew up in South Africa. It’s a very violent place.”

Musk’s father said bullies at Bryanston High had injured Elon so severely that he did not recognise his son as he lay in hospital.

He spent two weeks in Sandton Clinic, and neither the school nor the police were interested in taking the matter further.

Musk moved to Pretoria Boys High School after this incident, where he completed his matric. He attended the University of Pretoria for five months before leaving South Africa for Canada.

Elon Musk said being bullied in South Africa probably helped motivate him to achieve success in life.

Another fallacy is that Musk agreed to make a once-off R1 million donation to Pretoria Boys High School on the condition that they never contact him again.

Former Pretoria Boys High headmaster Bill Schroder said it is nonsense. He said Musk had donated to the school on several occasions.

“It is true that Elon Musk did, at my request, give a donation of R1 million,” Schroder said.

“What is not true is that he disliked the country or the school so intensely that he told me not to approach him again. I, in fact, did, and he sent a second donation per that request.”

Elon Musk in 1989 with his brother and sister, shortly before leaving for Canada.


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