Sunday, June 16, 2024

Reclusive Sydney gambling mogul emerges as kingmaker in South Africa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s social democratic African National Congress party is set to come under pressure next year amid South Africa’s dire economic troubles. A senior party official has warned the country could become a failed state.

Mr Moshal is the largest individual political donor in South Africa in the last two years. He has given 46.5 million rand ($3.8 million), according to electoral records analysed by My Vote Counts, a non-profit advocating for more transparency in politics.

“Given the amounts donated it has become clear to us he now has a large stake in our politics,” said Robyn Pasensie, a researcher at the organisation.

The size of Mr Moshal’s wealth is unknown. He is extremely private and only admitted to his ownership of online gambling giant Betway after UK journalists traced his ownership back to offshore trusts. Mr Moshal did not respond to a request for comment.

Aside from ActionSA, Mr Moshal has donated to the Democratic Alliance (DA), Build One South Africa and said he also intends to support the Inkatha Freedom Party. Mr Moshal is ActionSA’s biggest backer. The Australian Financial Review is not suggesting Mr Moshal supports the party’s policies.

“I’m not saying these parties are all perfect, but we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good… They are all far better than the government we have today,” Mr Moshal told The Jewish Report earlier this year.

“Pirkei Avot was my late dad – John Moshal’s – favourite part of the Talmud within which Rabbi Tarfon is quoted as saying, ‘It’s not up to you to finish the task, but you aren’t free to avoid it’.”

Mr Moshal said he believed South Africa needed a new government and was on its way to becoming a failed state.

“[This is a] government that’s corrupt, cannot provide basic security and opportunity to its citizens… we need the change of government and leadership that these parties can provide.”

Herman Mashaba, leader of ActionSA, is backed financially by Mr Moshal. 

ActionSA is known for advocating for life sentences and hard labour for serious offenders and also wants to repeal the ANC’s Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) policy, a form of affirmative action introduced post-apartheid.

“Martin knows my views on racial policies and how dangerous they are,” said Mr Mashaba, who started off in business and was the founder of African hair care brand, Black Like Me.

ActionSA has also been vocal on immigration, views labelled as “xenophobic” by some critics and politicians.

“We recognise that South Africa was built… on the back of migrants,” said Mr Mashaba. “But they must come here legally… you break our laws, we will send you back to your country, the country where you came from.”

One of South Africa’s main economic problems is mismanagement and corruption inside the country’s electricity utility Eskom. The utility has been forced to implement rolling blackouts, which have further stymied economic growth.

“If Eskom cannot run on a commercial basis then it must die a natural death,” Mr Mashaba said, adding changes were needed to give other companies the opportunity to compete.

Mr Moshal’s Entrée Capital is one of Israel’s most active funds in the Israeli VC space. He is the beneficiary of a trust which is the largest individual shareholder in Super Group, which became the parent of Betway and online casino brand Spin after a 2022 listing. The group reported net gaming revenue of €1.3 billion ($2.1 billion) in 2022.

“Moshal is one of the least visible betting entrepreneurs in the world,” Guardian reporter Rob Davis wrote in his book Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain.

“Moshal made much of his fortune from his home in Durban where he patented a series of technological solutions for the online gambling world and developed them via his company Microgaming. The company has since become one of the industry’s leading software players”

A philanthropist, he sits on the capital management advisory committee of Sydney’s Moriah College, alongside Steven Lowy and former Babcock & Brown chief executive Phil Green. He is also a life trustee of the Moriah Foundation and previously donated to Israel’s SpaceIL project attempting to land spacecraft on the moon.

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