Nicky Oppenheimer was educated at Harrow School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Nicky Oppenheimer joined the Anglo American Corporation in 1968 as the Personal Assistant to the Chairman, and worked subsequently in the Gold and Diamond Divisions of the Corporation. He spent eighteen months in the London office of De Beers before returning to Johannesburg in 1975 to join the Gold Division.
Source: Nicky Oppenheimer, Chairman of De Beers, "Africa needs a hand-up not a hand-out" at The International Institute For Strategic Studies
Nicky Oppenheimer was appointed a director of Anglo American Corporation in 1974 and a director of De Beers in 1978. In 1981 he was appointed a member of the Executive Committee of the board of Anglo American Corporation and became Deputy Chairman in 1983. He subsequently resigned as Deputy Chairman in 2001 but remains a non-executive director of the Anglo American board.
In 1984 Nicky Oppenheimer was appointed Deputy Chairman of the then Central Selling Organisation (now Diamond Trading Company) in London and Deputy Chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1985. He was appointed Chairman of the Diamond Trading Company in 1985.
In 1990 he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the newly formed Swiss based company, De Beers Centenary AG. Nicky Oppenheimer became Chairman of the De Beers Group on 1 January 1998.
In 2003, a Doctorate in Technology, honoris causa was bestowed upon him by the Technikon Witwatersrand in South Africa. Nicky Oppenheimer is the first recipient of such an honorary doctorate by the Technikon to a person in the public and private sector.
Nicky Oppenheimer is married to Orcillia 'Strilli' Lasch and are blessed with one son Jonathan. His interests are reading crime novels, relaxing with his dogs and playing cricket.
Source:De Beers Group
Who do you share your house with? My husband and my two dogs, Jamludi and Mpevu.
Before dedicating all my time to the environment, I ... was a Montessori teacher for 30 years.
What’s the ugliest thing about your city? The advertising on every street pole and corner. It creates so much “noise” because it drags your attention to it whether you like it or not.
Where do you eat out? I eat out about three times a year. And, when I do, I usually go to Yamato in Illovo.
My creature comforts are ... definitely a hot bath.
How do you get around? In a Toyota Prius.
When people realise what my surname is ... they ask me how it’s spelt.
Pets are ... my children. My two dogs are actually from North Congo and South Sudan.
What made you agree to open up the gardens to the public? I think that one should share one’s privilege.
Why have you chosen not to leave South Africa? I am an African and I love South Africa.
What is the one luxury that you believe in? Being able to read. Another is being in good health.
I can’t go a day without ... doing tai chi with my staff. We have a master who comes around five days a week.
If you had R100-million to spend any way you saw fit, what would you do with it? I would teach as many people as possible how to grow organic vegetables. When people grow their own food, not only can they feed themselves, but their self-confidence rises.
What CDs are you playing in your car? I like Sibongile Khumalo’s music. I also love choral music by Mzilikazi Khumalo.
If your house caught fire, what would you save? My two dogs.
If you could move one of the world’s landmarks to your city, which one would it be? I would either move one of the Swiss mountains to Johannesburg, even though it would look quite strange. Or I would transform the entire city into the Serengeti plain.
If you could live in any other city in the world, which one would it be? Mumbai. I’m so sad about the attacks. It’s one of my favourite places.
Do you think philanthropy is important? Yes, privileged people have a responsibility towards those who have less.
When I go out at night ... it’s to the Linder Auditorium to listen to music. I go to the movies about three times a year. The last time I visited a cinema, I went to see Kung Fu Panda with all my staff. We loved the movie because we all do tai chi.
I collect ... less than I used to; I’m more prone to giving things away these days.
My friends and I like ... nature.
Perfect happiness is ... loving God.
Have you ever taken public transport in your city? Yes, but a very long time ago. I used to take the bus to school on Oxford road and the experience was fine.I met my partner ... at a golf course. We’ve just had our 40th wedding anniversary.
Source: The Times South Africa December 2008
Jonathan & Jennifer Oppenheimer greeting President Kagame at AAI awards dinner
First, I may not look it, but I am an African and proud to be so. Indeed a third generation African married to a fourth generation African, and with grandchildren who extend my family’s connection to the continent to the sixth generation. And, because I am an African, I claim the right to say that Africa does not exist simply to make people in this country ‐ or indeed anywhere else in the developed world ‐ feel good about themselves. It is much more than just a suitable case for charity.
Africa is not a place only of appalling poverty and deprivation, of uncaring despots and wars of unimaginable cruelty, as the public perception would have us believe. The emblem of this Africa is the starving child with a belly swollen by malnutrition and huge eyes covered with flies, a child whose plight demands our attention and rightfully commands our charity. But, in a continent of nearly 700 million people, 50 very different countries and hundreds of different languages, there is also another Africa, vibrant and full of potential that also demands recognition. The countries of Africa may seek a Pan‐African voice through the African Union and sport a number of regional and sub‐regional multi‐lateral organisations, but the dreadful civil wars of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Great Lakes region are no more symptomatic of Africa than the troubles which plagued the Balkans in the 90s were symptomatic of Europe. Africa is much more than simply a handy metaphor for poverty and we do my continent a great injustice when we use it as such. Africa is much more than a palliative for those Western consciences pricked by sweeping generalisations of how much Africans need help.
There are countries in Africa where people are taking their future into their own hands, where success is beginning to supplant simple survival as a suitable goal in life; where innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and flourishing, albeit often in the most difficult conditions. There are countries whose governments acknowledge the Rule of Law, the demands of transparency and fiscal prudence, who govern in the interests of all their people, not only the elite few, and who have recognised that business, not aid, is the spur to growth. There are some whose economic management has secured double digit growth rates and there is one I know particularly well which is recognised by Transparency International as not only the least corrupt country in Africa, but one of the least corrupt in the world. And in these countries success has been achieved either without the benefit of aid, or in spite of it. Sadly and inexplicably, these success stories seldom register on the public radar screen and appear to be of little or no interest to departments of overseas development. This is insulting to those African countries that set such a good example for others to follow. Instead of being largely ignored by governments, civil society and the media, these success stories should surely be celebrated.
The donor community, however, finds it easier to see and portray Africa as a whole, rather than to draw a proper distinction between very disparate countries. Some, certainly, are wracked by civil war, destroyed by corruption and rapacious leaders; but there are those which have thrown off the mental shackles of colonialism and decades of post‐colonial misrule, and whose people are demanding the benefits of democracy. There are some like South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, and Ghana which have established themselves as proud countries increasingly, or completely, independent of aid and with a clear and distinctive voice in the councils of the world.
We have heard a great deal in recent years about donor fatigue. In this year of Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, of Millennium Development Goals and Gordon Brown’s campaign to cancel Africa’s debt, and of international campaigns to “make poverty history”, donor fatigue appears to have been cured ‐ at least temporarily. May I suggest, however, that people in many African countries may be suffering from donation fatigue? It’s probably a surprising thought, but many are growing increasingly weary of being seen merely as recipients of Western largesse, especially largesse which expands dependence on the donor, or makes them hostage to the passions and prejudices of foreign NGOs. They may not admit this openly. After all, no one is going to look a large Western gift horse in the mouth. But that does not mean that they do not feel resentment at being seen simply as a charity case, offering easy balm to Western consciences. And they have learned to distrust the missionary zeal with which ‐ at depressingly regular intervals ‐ new generations of Western politicians “discover” Africa as a suitable case for treatment, a means of ascending the moral high ground as their domestic political fortunes and timing demand. This zeal to “save Africa” is not new. Generations of missionaries from Europe and America have yielded to that impulse, with not always benign results. I recall Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s immortal quote:
“When white men came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They taught us how to pray. When we opened our eyes; we had the Bible and they had the land”.
Western politicians and commentators should not be surprised, therefore, at the irritated insistence of African leaders that African problems require African ownership of the solutions if they are going to be solved at all; if once again, the developed world’s boundless charity is not to meet with boundless failure. For equally depressing is the fact that when it comes to Africa, Western Governments appear to have only one answer: aid, and aid in monstrously vast amounts. But aid is the one commodity Africa has never been short of, and it has failed dismally time and time again.