Life as a one percenter

David Bullard says that thanks to the ANC there is a rather low bar for belonging to the most rich


I’m in the high fidelity, first class travelling set and I think I need a Lear Jet”

The lyrics from Pink Floyd’s song ‘Money’ seemed highly appropriate last week as I discovered to my surprise that I am among the top 1% of wealthiest South Africans measured by net asset value. Hopefully many of you are also members of this exclusive club where the entry level is a mere R2.7mln (or US$180000). I nonchalantly say a mere R2.7mln but if you haven’t got it then you haven’t got it and you can’t come in.

You won’t be at all surprised to learn that we are well down the list of countries when it comes to qualifying to be in the top 1% of wealthiest residents. In Switzerland you would need US$5.1mln and in the UK the entry level is a more egalitarian US$1.8mln. But we can take some comfort from the fact that Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia are below us with Kenya coming last with US$20 000 needed to qualify as one of the 1% wealthiest citizens. So if you are thinking of emigrating for a more affordable lifestyle then Kenya is the place to go.

The source for all this is the Knight Frank Wealth Sizing Model and while I’m in no position to challenge the findings I do find it hard to believe that I am a member of the elite 1% club with net assets that would probably qualify me for welfare payments in many countries. As I wrote a few weeks back when discussing the wealth tax, you try buying anywhere to live in Europe and having enough money to live on for the equivalent of R2.7mln.

Now while I would normally be dancing a jig and popping the cork on something bubbly on learning that I was among the 1% of richest citizens in a country I am afraid that this news fills me with nothing but horror.

Thanks to the ANC’s planned impoverishment programme over the past 27 years having net assets of R2.7mln to qualify for a rich list is laughable. Admittedly, there will be many in that 1% (including many ANC cadres) who have net assets worth considerably more than the R2.7mln entry level.

Since the commies are busy planning a wealth tax for anyone with more than R3.7mln we can assume that there are also many who are a good deal wealthier than R2.7mln. However the reality is that, according to this report, 99% of the population of this country don’t even qualify for entry to the rich list. So this report isn’t really an indicator of how many rich people live in South Africa rather than a reflection of how many poor people live here.

Hardly surprising then that Tito Mboweni didn’t raise income tax in last week’s budget. As economists have frequently warned, the tax base is shrinking in this country and those who have the highest net wealth also employ some very smart people to ensure they pay the minimum of tax.

On the other hand there are 18 million or thereabouts welfare recipients and we have youth unemployment now running at over 50%. So if R2.7mln is the entry level for the top 1% of wealthiest South Africans then I would suggest we are in real trouble.

Which is why it’s comforting to see the ruling party spring into action with an evidently well thought out plan for economic recovery by renaming a whole lot of places and airports in the Eastern Cape. Not only will this produce much needed work for well connected cadres in the road signage business, but it will also invalidate all economic data from places that no longer exist. Changing the name of Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha is rather like taking out a brand new sheet of paper when you’ve smudged your homework. It’s a whole new beginning and that’s exactly the way the ANC see it.

And what better to do with an economic disaster zone like the Eastern Cape than to rebrand it with difficult to pronounce new names? Admittedly the whole operation is going to cost quite a few million in tax payer’s money but I’ve already read news reports that the long suffering residents of this beleaguered province are so happy to have the heavy yoke of colonialist oppression lifted from them that they are prepared to forgive the lack of running water and jobs.

As always, the ANC brains trust leads the way in economic innovation: if all else fails and you can’t manage the most basic of service delivery, change the name of the place.

I had the temerity to suggest on Twitter that renaming places while we are still hoping to attract tourism to the country wasn’t a terribly smart plan. Needless to say I was roundly condemned for my insensitivity and branded a ‘racist’ (not for the first time I may add) just for good measure.

Two arguments were put forward in support of the name changes. The first was that the Eastern Cape has become the Almighty’s way of warning what could happen to the Western Cape should the DA be voted out of power. Therefore, since nobody wants to go there it really doesn’t matter what name you give to a place. The second was that tourists just want a great holiday and don’t mind what the place is called. In fact, a vacation in Gqeberha sounds a lot more exotic than a vacation in Port Elizabeth and, providing you download the app that tells you how to pronounce the name, your hotel booking should be fine when you book your flight to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

My own feelings on the matter are far more mundane. If you’ve spent years promoting places like East London or Port Elizabeth as potential tourist destinations most of your hard work and financial investment is undone when the brand changes name.

Take Grahamstown for example. It’s completely disappeared off the map for some reason and been replaced by something called Makhanda. I heard a news report last week that this Makhanda place had been without water for days and the Gift of the Givers were busy bringing in relief supplies.

I assumed that Makhanda was a desperately poor township somewhere in rural Eastern Cape until I Googled it and discovered that it is the place formerly known as Grahamstown: once famous for its annual arts festival and for having a couple of good schools and what used to be a half decent university. But that’s all in the past. Today it’s just another ANC run disaster zone with an unrecognizable name.

However, there was one piece of good news on the naming front that came through last week. Clearly this renaming business is exhausting for the ANC cadres paid a small fortune for their services so they are taking a well earned break. Which means the renaming of Cape Town International airport as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela International is on hold for the moment.


Media blood sports really seem to have taken off this year and last week it was eNCA’s presenter Lindsay Dentlinger who was being named and shamed as a ‘racist’ for something to do with a face mask during a post budget TV interview. The details are so mundane and inconsequential that they don’t bear repeating here.

A couple of weeks ago it was poor Jacques Pauw who was getting kicked in the nuts by his fellow journos. As Piers Morgan observed, “one day you’re the cock of the walk, the next you’re a feather duster”. What did impress me enormously was the amount of grog that Jacques could consume at lunch and still remain vertical (even if he couldn’t remember his pin code). What impressed me even more, as I explained to my learned colleague J Gordin, was that he got all this grog in an upmarket V&A establishment for only R1 600.

After his statement apologizing for the technical inaccuracies of his column it didn’t take long for the baying mob to put the boot in and, just to make sure he was well and truly finished off, Ricky (The Hatchet) Poplak was sent in by a sinister bearded man with irritable vowel syndrome to plunge the knife in further and give it a few twists. Oh how the members of the media loved it.

‘Maskgate’ has the usual sanctimonious media bed-wetters rejecting all sincere apologies, working up their confected outrage to fever pitch, baying for Lindsay’s blood, demanding that she be sacked and saying that eNCA must fall.

As a resilient survivor of multiple media sackings, I would urge Lindsay not to lose too much sleep over the matter. I suspect all this media cannibalism is due to a rapidly shrinking industry and the desperation to hang on to jobs at any cost, even if it means betraying your colleagues.

Look from whence all the noise comes Lindsay and treat the complainants with the contempt they so richly deserve. They are the real reason SA journalism has so little credibility these days.