for the love of the game

10 facts about South Africa’s Motsepe, who wants the biggest job in African football

By Fatoumata Diallo

Posted on December 10, 2020 10:41

patrice motsepe
Patrice Motsepe, in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

A prime example of post-apartheid South Africa’s prosperous black elites, the billionaire businessman is taking on a new challenge: standing for the presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) against incumbent Ahmad Ahmad.

1. Early life

Patrice Motsepe was born in 1962 in Soweto Township, outside of Johannesburg. His father, Kgosi Augustine Motsepe, belonged to a royal clan of the Tswana tribe and owned a spaza shop (a small convenience store), near Pretoria. There, the young Motsepe learned the basics of running a business.

2. Self-made man

Unusual for the time, the seven Motsepe family children completed their primary schooling at a private Catholic institution. In the 1980s, Motsepe received a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Swaziland and was later granted special permission to enrol in the University of the Witwatersrand, a whites-only institution, where he earned a degree in mining and business law.

In 1988, he joined the law firm Bowman Gilfillan. In 1994, just two years after the end of apartheid, he became the firm’s first black partner.

3. Mining

Capitalising on the post-apartheid era, he founded Future Mining in 1994 and went on to launch African Rainbow Minerals Gold Limited in 1997, the first mining company to be owned by a black South African. Motsepe built a full-fledged empire through its cobalt, nickel, iron ore, copper and coal mining operations, and with the backing of the government’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme.

4. Billionaire

Motsepe is the perfect embodiment of the black upwardly mobile professional who successfully leveraged post-apartheid freedoms: according to Forbes magazine’s latest ranking of global billionaires, he comes in at No. 10 and is also the first South African black billionaire.

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With a fortune totalling $2.6bn, he is the country’s third-richest person.

5. Ramaphosa clan

The entrepreneur may not be a politician himself, but he is related to one, as his older sister, Tshepo Motsepe, is married to the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. Another one of his sisters, Bridgette, the only woman presiding over a mining industry association in South Africa, is the wife of Jeff Radebe, a high-ranking official in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party who formerly served as energy minister early on in Ramaphosa’s administration.

6. Philanthropist

Patrice created the Motsepe Foundation, an organisation focused on improving education and health. The billionaire is also the first African to have joined The Giving Pledge, a campaign founded by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. In 2013, he agreed to donate half of his wealth to charitable causes.

7. Verbal misstep

Back in January 2020, at a dinner during the Davos World Economic Forum, Motsepe told Donald Trump, “Africa loves America. Africa loves you.” Widely shared on social media, his words triggered a backlash of criticism, especially from South Africans wary of the US president’s indifference towards the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Motsepe walked back his comments, explaining that he wanted to encourage dialogue between the Trump administration and the continent’s entrepreneurs. He later added that he did not have the right to speak on behalf of anybody except himself.

8. Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club

Since 2004, Patrice has been the president of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club, South Africa’s most titled league. In 2016, it was crowned the winner of the CAF’s African Champions League after defeating the highly-regarded Egyptian team Zamalek in the final round. In 2017, the club won the CAF Super Cup.

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9. Surprise candidate

The announcement of his candidacy for the CAF presidency on 9 November came as a surprise. “Four years ago [when the Malagasy national Ahmad Ahmad was elected CAF president], we were talking about a wind of change. We support Patrice Motsepe because we have not seen this real change that African football needs,” said Sierra Leone federation president Isha Johansen.

The Nigerian and Botswana federation heads quickly joined Ms Johansen in supporting his candidacy. In all, four candidates will go head-to-head in March 2021 to challenge Ahmad’s re-election as CAF president.

10. COVID-19

The Motsepe Foundation has pledged to donate R1bn ($65.9m) to assist the coronavirus pandemic response in South Africa. Concerned that he had been infected with the virus, the billionaire went into quarantine in early November, leaving it to Danny Jordaan, the president of the South African Football Association, to announce his bid.

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