ON THE SPOT
Why giving away millions gives PSG founder Jannie Mouton a billion reasons to smile
Business Day asks Jannie Mouton about his R1bn donation to his foundation
There is a certain cachet to being part of a club where you are able to give away most of your fortune and still remain a billionaire.
Locals Patrice Motsepe and Allan Gray have pledged mighty chunks of their money to charity, in the vein of US philanthropists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
And PSG founder and chairman Jannie Mouton is the latest to catch this feel-good wave, with his announcement on Wednesday that he will donate R1bn from his family trust, Dana Beleggings, to his foundation. Business Day asked him why.
At the moment I get a lot of requests for donations so we handle them as they come, but we want to make it something proper now and appoint somebody in a full-time capacity to run it.
Are there any particular areas where you’d like to donate your money?
Education is close to my heart … but there could be other charitable, great opportunities. We started Akkerdoppies as a preschool operation where both parents are working. It’s a fantastic operation and we want to extend things like that.
In 2016, you donated R50m to the University of Stellenbosch. Are there particular schools or colleges that you’d like to help fund?
It was something I have done, but we will have a more formal approach because there are a lot of people coming to see me with all sorts of opportunities to invest. We’ve tried to build a proper school here in the Stellenbosch region and it’s difficult to get green lights from the municipality and others — it’s not the easiest.
Who would you like to run the charity — someone in the Mouton family?
My three children and my wife’s kids are all keen on this but I’m sitting with a CV in front of me of somebody who is unbelievably fit for this job.
She shares the same view as us: that we have to do something great for SA. It’s a great country and the country was good to me.
The cynics will say this is a form of tax dodge. What would you say to them?
At the end of the day, who inspired me is Warren Buffett. I once watched a TV interview they had with him and the thing he enjoyed the most in life was his big donations.
This is exactly how I see it and how my family sees it.
A successful company can never be a drag on civilisation — it employees people, pays taxes and creates businessJannie Mouton
PSG created an enormous amount of wealth and we have the numbers up to date — we have done BEE [black economic empowerment] deals with a total value of R20bn through Capitec, PSG, Pioneer etcetera.
Is philanthropy the only answer to a system that creates some spectacularly wealthy people but leaves millions either middle class and squeezed, or poor? In other words, unequal societies.
You know you will get that all over the world. [But] the world is full of opportunities, whether you are in China or the US or whether you’re in SA.
One has to sit back and see where you can make a difference to people who are not as fortunate. Ten years ago, PSG and I started a bursary scheme at Stellenbosch University and it’s working fantastically.
So education is the catalyst for a less unequal society?
I think that’s at least important. Through education you learn a lot about life, and (in my view) you have to focus on something, you have to work hard and nothing will stop you in life. And if you can pass that on to new generations then it will be fantastic.
Are you worried about SA? Education outcomes are worsening, jobs are going, mechanisation is a huge threat and there is an internet and digital revolution for which the country is ill-equipped.
Sure, I am also worried. But you know, whenever I travel overseas and I come back to SA I’m so grateful. Rather play a role to make it a better place.
[But] we are worried about the future of SA.
Are you concerned about a big wave of emigration?
The people who will leave the country are those who can afford it, who run great businesses here and there’s a drive among people to make investments overseas.
You know, you insure your house and maybe there’s a fire and it burns down so you have to take out insurance and take money out the country — legally — so that to a certain extent if something terrible happened you can live overseas.
But that option is open to only a few.
At the moment all my children are here, my grandchildren are here…. I remarried — my wife’s children are here. We like SA and if I can make a difference it would be fantastic.
You haven’t (yet) been singled out like Johann Rupert as the face of "white monopoly capital", but does it make you uneasy that white monopoly capital has been singled out as the reason for SA’s societal and economic ills?
A successful company can never be a drag on civilisation — it employees people, pays taxes and creates business.
Take the businesses like Capitec and Curro we have created here — they’ve made a big contribution to the country.
Will you try and get other billionaires like yourself involved in this kind of philanthropy? Do you think people should work in a collective or do things individually?
Everyone’s different. I’ve shared this idea with my colleagues here. They’re positive and behind me, so I’m not going to spend time trying to convince other people.