Loan or gift? Mary Oppenheimer’s R1bn coronavirus donation explained

With matters of grave financial importance, it’s always important to check the small print. As we learned from Johann Rupert’s “commitment” to providing relief funds in the fight against coronavirus, a gift isn’t always a straightforward gift. So, with Mary Oppenheimer announcing her donation of R1 billion to the cause this week, we thought it’d be best to set the record straight.

Who is Mary Oppenheimer?

Her brother Nicky Oppenheimer is the richest man in South Africa, but Mary and her daughters have created their own charitable legacy. Harry Oppenheimer, father of the siblings, was the former chairman of Anglo American and De Beers. He left a vast amount of wealth for his children, and it looks like it’s being paid forward during Mzansi’s hour of need:

  • The R1 billion Mary is donating is separate from the billion-rand donation her brother Nicky has already made.
  • Both are understood to be gifts – no loan clauses, as we saw with Johann Rupert – but genuine freebies for SA.
  • Mary’s ten-figure donation is being ploughed into the Solidarity Fund, which aims to support South Africans who have been directly affected by coronavirus.
  • Mary Oppenheimer has expressed a desire for her R1 billion to be spent on “basic needs, food and medicine”.

Coronavirus: Solidarity Fund gets another cash injection

In a statement released by Mary Oppenheimer and her daughters earlier, she thanked South African healthcare professionals for “risking their lives” to fight against coronavirus:

“My daughters and I have thought long and hard about how we can make a difference in this fight and decided we must support the humanitarian needs of everyone living in South Africa. We think the Solidarity Fund is most aligned to our concerns about basic needs, food and medicine.”

“We are grateful for all the efforts, small and large, South Africans are making to get through these difficult times. We’d like to thank all of our hospital workers who are fighting and risking their lives to save South Africans.The Solidarity Fund will make an announcement shortly, after we’ve made our donation.”

Mary Oppenheimer

Mary Oppenheimer: Which other billionaires have donated to the cause?

The Oppenheimers join Koos Bekker and Patrice Motsepe in handing-over a portion of their huge fortunes, despite these financially-testing times. However, Johann Rupert’s contribution is thought to involve a loan element. Small businesses can apply for helpt, before having to pay back the costs – the move hasn’t gone down well in SA.

Rupert’s long-time adversaries, the EFF, likened the dollar-billionaire to a loan-shark. South African businesses – big and small – are facing huge uncertainty in the coming weeks and months. But the financial support being pumped into these relief funds could just help us find those green shoots of recovery.

  • You can read Mary Oppenheimer’s full statement here:

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