Why are the RET millionaires not joining the fight against Covid-19?

People who arrived in droves to buy food at a Boxer supermarket in Alexandra, Johannesburg, were ordered by soldiers to go home to maintain social distancing.
People who arrived in droves to buy food at a Boxer supermarket in Alexandra, Johannesburg, were ordered by soldiers to go home to maintain social distancing.
Image: Thulani Mbele.

The late American billionaire Andrew Carnegie revolutionised philanthropy by crystallising thoughts into a famous essay titled "The Gospel of Wealth".

Carnegie opens his essay with a dramatic representation of the progress made by civilisation: "The contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the labourer with us today measures the change which has come with civilisation."

Had Carnegie lived among us in SA today, he would have lent more vividness to his imagery by specifying the contrast between the mansion of the millionaire in Sandton and the shack of the poor labourer in Alexandra.

Having spent days pondering the lives of the millionaires of his day, and indeed imagining the end of his own days on earth, Carnegie came to a haunting conclusion: "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced."

Think of a Sandton billionaire lying on his deathbed at the age of 90. The expiring old man knows that his bank account is brimming with money that will probably be squandered by a prodigal son. At the same time, the dying man remembers that his wealth was produced by the sweat of thousands of poor people who live in shacks across the M1 in Alexandra.

A rich idiot who smokes Cuban cigars and is pampered by pretty and internally hollow "slay queens" will not spare a minute to ponder big moral questions such as those that haunted Carnegie. But fate is inescapable: "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced."

It is not the mental agony of a dying rich man that matters. It is the moral ends that a rich man pursues in good health that determine his (dis)grace in death.

In the face of the coronavirus, there are many soulless millionaires who have hoarded food and other essentials.

There is nothing wrong in pushing a trolley brimming with food. The moral question is: does a millionaire ask himself what will happen to millions of poor people who will starve during a shutdown such as the one under way in SA?

Again, a rich idiot will say: "Why must I be troubled?"

It is in a time of Covid-19 that wealthy people with a soul remember that it is poor people who sweat for the rich to accumulate wealth.

Such is the moral and factual truth appreciated by such truly patriotic businessmen as Johan Rupert and Nicky Oppenheimer.

These two rich men have donated R1bn each to assist struggling small businesses. They have issued strict instructions that the money must go straight into the pockets of struggling workers.

There was a time in our recent past when it was in vogue to attack Rupert as the face of "white monopoly capital". The people who used to mouth such insults were, at the same time, busy looting money from public institutions. Now that millions of black South Africans face starvation due to the coronavirus, the looters who called themselves agents of "radical economic transformation" are nowhere to be seen.

No, they have not left the country. They are ensconced somewhere in the suburbs, savouring their loot. These black looters, too, have hoarded food and essentials so that they can enjoy a comfortable stay at home while poor black people languish under the yoke of the coronavirus.

It is very sad to behold the spectacle of limelight-hoarding black businesspeople who appear on our television screens daily.

When the real test comes, we never hear that the president of the Black Business Council, Sandile Zungu, a man who once accompanied the Guptas in championing radical economic transformation, has donated a mere R1,000 to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.

He also does not tell us how much black business has donated.

We don't see Rupert and Oppenheim on television daily, but we know they have donated R2bn to assist struggling workers.

If we were to answer honestly, whom would black workers wish a disgraced death - Rupert or Zungu?

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