Sunday World - - Front Page - BA­BALWA SHOTA

THE ones who must hide their wealth are the ones who don t pay taxes. I pay my taxes, and I have the right to en­joy my money.”

This is how IT mogul Robert Gumede ra­tio­nalises spend­ing mil­lions of rands in cel­e­bra­tion of his 50th birth­day.

Last week­end, Gumede pulled out all the stops when he hosted a three­day ex­trav­a­ganza that in­cluded a ladies high tea, a VIP gala din­ner, a free con­cert for 65 000 peo­ple and a spe­cially cre­ated theme park for more than 7 000 chil­dren in Nel­spruit, Mpumalanga.

The big week­end was or­gan­ised by celebrity events plan­ner and fash­ion de­signer Gavin Ra­jah, who trans­formed Nel­spruit Rugby Club into an en­chanted gar­den with lo­cal and in­dige­nous flow­ers, as well as some flown from the Nether­lands and Sin­ga­pore. Guests in­cluded celebri­ties and the wealthy elite such as Dur­ban busi­ness­man Vi­vian Reddy and wife Sor­isha Naidoo, politi­cian Mathews Phosa and wife Pinky, co­me­dian David Kau and wife Thalia and Gumede s long-time friend and busi­ness part­ner, de­fence con­trac­tor Ivor Ichikowitz.

A pro­duc­tion about his life was also staged, star­ring ac­tors Ken­neth Kunene and Ra­pu­lana Seiphemo. That brought tears to my eyes,” says Gumede.

But it was Satur­day s fam­ily day that he sin­gles out as the most mean­ing­ful day of the three as it helped him re­live his child­hood dif­fer­ently.

I was born and grew up un­der apartheid. In the Lowveld we had the equiv­a­lent of the Rand Easter Show which takes place an­nu­ally in Au­gust. Dur­ing our time they would bring the merry-go-round and nice games. As black peo­ple, we were only al­lowed to come on the Wed­nes­day. The rest of the week un­til Sun­day was for whites only.

Now I re­alise why they got us to come on the first day; they had to make sure the ma­chines worked. And what bet­ter way than to ar­range for black peo­ple to come and en­joy the rides?” rem­i­nisces Gumede, who at­tended the fair just once.

Now that I can af­ford this, I can re­live my life. And the best way to do that is by invit­ing 7 000 kids to come and en­joy. That was the best part of the week­end be­cause I took the games and the cir­cus into the town­ship, some­thing that has never hap­pened. They en­joyed 30 min­utes of fire­works for the first time in the the town­ship.”

Sit­ting in a plush arm­chair at the Saxon Bou­tique Ho­tel in Joburg, Gumede, wear­ing steel-grey Louis Vuit­ton ev­ery­thing, says it s about time black peo­ple cel­e­brated their suc­cess openly.

If you have money, you wake up ev­ery morn­ing, you go to work, govern­ment takes 40% of your PAYE (pay as you earn), and 30% of your prof­its, then you ve paid your dues.

You have not stolen from any­one and you have the right to do as you please with your money. When I cel­e­brate, I m not cel­e­brat­ing for other peo­ple to see me. I cel­e­brate my­self,” says the bil­lion­aire, who re­ceived a 12seat Chal­lenger 604 pri­vate jet from his wife, Por­tia, and kids.

He also took pos­ses­sion of a Chopard watch from An­dré Kimbuta, gover­nor of Kin­shasa in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo. On giv­ing him the present, Kimbuta an­nounced: This could feed 5 000 of the peo­ple here.”

Gumede de­fends flaunt­ing his wealth, point­ing to his phil­an­thropic work that formed part of the birth­day week­end.

I know many South Africans white South Africans who spend tens of mil­lions cel­e­brat­ing their birthdays. They go to ex­otic is­lands, hire planes and take guests. That is never an is­sue. It s high time black peo­ple un­der­stood that if you pay your dues to the state and it s monies that you worked hard for, you have ev­ery right to buy the nice ex­otic car, ed­u­cate your chil­dren and build the nicest home for you and your fam­ily. And you have a right to de­cide to do­nate some of those monies to oth­ers.”

Gumede gave away two houses to chil­dren. One of the chil­dren who won a house in the raf­fle is a sev­enyear-old girl who Gumede says re­minds him of him­self be­cause I started work when I was seven, car­ry­ing golf bags big­ger than me

He has also put aside R40-mil­lion from the fam­ily trust for univer­sity scholor­ships for kids from Mpumalanga.

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