by Linda Ensor

FIVE PLUS

Project aims to reduce poverty

Riches for the poorer
New project reduces poverty

A GROUP of academics, activists, lawyers, judges and other prominent people have committed themselves to an initiative — the Five Plus Project — that aims to get as many well-off South Africans as possible to give at least 5% of their taxable income to organisations and initiatives helping to reduce poverty.

Two University of Cape Town (UCT) law professors, Hugh Corder and Anton Fagan, initiated the project in December last year. It has already attracted 118 founder members, who have agreed to make a public pledge each year to donate at least 5% of their income to help the poor.

The annual contribution of the 118 members is roughly calculated to amount to more than R6m a year. Founder members include Ndifuna Ukwazi director Zackie Achmat, Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price and Western Cape High Court judges Lee Bozalek, Dennis Davis, Shehnaz Meer and Owen Rogers.

The initiative follows last year’s announcement by mining billionaire Patrice Motsepe that his family would donate half of the money (about R300m-R400m a year) its assets generated to the charitable Motsepe Foundation. The Motsepes joined The Giving Pledge initiative started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and billionaire Warren Buffett.

The Giving Pledge initiative encourages wealthy people to donate at least half their wealth to charities.

Mr Corder and Mr Fagan said on Friday that making a public pledge to give was important to encourage others to do likewise.

"We want to make people think more consciously about philanthropy," Mr Corder said.

The context for the initiative is the widespread poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa, where 5-million live in extreme poverty and another 8-million fall below the food poverty line. In the past tax year, only 7.8% of those in employment had a taxable annual income of R300,000 or more. 

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