New BMF star on the rise

2009-10-17 10:23

MEET the new face of black management in South Africa, Tembakazi

Mnyaka, the deputy president of the Black Management Forum (BMF).

Mnyaka is being groomed to take over the reigns from forum

president Jimmy Manyi when his term expires in three years’ time.

She hails from Durban, where she runs her own property company. A

progressive feminist, she is a firm believer in the traditional way of ­doing


As we chat, Mnyaka says she doesn’t approve of young people smoking

and is called Sister by her younger colleagues, who respect her for her


Our discussion is also peppered with talk of her support for

women’s empowerment.

The cool-headed Mnyaka is a ­veteran member of the BMF who joined

the organisation 15 years ago. She chaired several branches in Durban, on the

South Coast and at ­provincial level.

Also the chief executive of Hibiscus Coast, a KwaZulu-Natal

property development agency, Mnyaka says the BMF will remain relevant as long as

the private sector shies away from transformation.

“If you look at the face of government it almost reflects the

demographics of the country. But in the private sector you will find a totally

opposite scenario as at least 70% of the executive managers are still white. In

terms of the statistics, black Africans are supposed to fill about eight in 10

executive management positions.

“Our responsibility is to ensure that transformation in the

workplace happens,” she says.

Corporate South Africa is hesitant about employing executive black

managers, Mnyaka says.

At a BMF conference two years ago, a major retailer requested the

lobby group to help recruit a black financial manager.

“But when we submitted the names of three black candidates the

retailer came up with excuses, ­saying those people were over- ­qualified or

lacked experience.

“We are still suffering from prejudice in the workplace and need to

develop our managers so that they can drive the transformational agenda of the

BMF in their ­companies.”

The widowed mother of one says one of her main priorities is to

assist with the development of skills ­within the forum and to teach ­its

members about the importance of lifting ­others as they climb the corporate


“If I am a black procurement ­manager, I should ensure that I go

out of my way to find black suppliers who the company I work for will­ procure

services from,” she says.

There is still a long walk to empowerment, and Mnyaka believes

women have it harder.

“If you look at African females, they make up 36% of the

economically active population and it is only 3% of them who are sitting at the

top- level management structures.

“People make excuses that women are emotional leaders and they are

unable to work together. These are myths and lies.”

She says women can only achieve transformation in their workplaces

if they stand together and fight for what is rightfully theirs.

“Women must lift each other up when they rise in the workplace

­because the challenges up there are too many to be handled by only one


The BMF will train more of its young members to be good managers at tertiary institutions. Mnyaka, a graduate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal after training as a town and regional planner, is keen on instilling the ­culture of as a value system in the workplace.

“I find that black managers do not feel at home in the companies

they work for because the corporate ­culture does not reflect the demographics

of the country.

“But in other countries like China, business is done the Chinese

way, but here it is a big problem as business is not conducted in an ­African


Mnyaka says the BMF may be viewed as belonging to

the elite, but that is not the case.

“Elitism starts when a person ­forgets his or her roots and forgets

the community they come from. I ­believe we are still in touch with our roots as

BMF members.”

And whatever you do, don’t call her a black diamond. “We have

rejected the concept of black ­diamonds as it means people are ­only being

judged on their spending patterns and this overshadows the valuable contribution

they are making in the workplace and economy.”


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