Mme Mokgolo led with power and dignity. She was a pillar for women

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Dr Semane Bonolo Molotlegi of the Bafokeng nation of South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images/City Press Archives
Dr Semane Bonolo Molotlegi of the Bafokeng nation of South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images/City Press Archives

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“Mme Mokgolo is here” seems to have been the reassuring statement that I’ve heard at the most seminal moments in my leadership life. Without fully understanding how she found out or who told her, the Queen Mother would appear like magic at the most unexpected times. Semane Bonolo Molotlegi, the queen mother of the Royal Bafokeng died this week after being rushed to hospital. She was the anchor and steady presence for many of our sessions at the Black Management Forum (BMF) in the early 2000s.

I first met her when we piloted our corporate governance leadership workshop for our branches, in partnership with Deloitte. One of the many stops we made on a national roadshow was at Phokeng, North West, with the traditional elders led by Mme Mokgolo. This was in 2001. She stayed throughout the full day’s session of King III and the Company’s Act discussions. As one of the facilitators I was nervous and awestruck, she meant business.

Throughout the day she quietly took notes and politely refused to speak. All I know is that everyone in the room, all 20 of us knew that this was important – she was serious about building a solid foundation of leaders for her community. No wonder the Royal Bafokeng kingdom has over the years been a beacon of light in terms of its progress in community development and good governance.

As women in various leadership positions in South Africa we knew without any doubt that she was one of our pillars, all we had to do was just ask and she would be there

Later in 2003 she came through for me once again in Cape Town at the BMF’s annual conference. She had travelled all the way to show us her support because she had heard that the organisation was going to elect a woman as its president in its 27-year history. During the gala dinner I politely asked her how long she was going to be in town. “Just for one night,” was her response. Once again I was dumbstruck.

This was a trend in Mme Mokgolo’s leadership style, not to be clamouring for the spotlight, however, leading with such power and quiet dignity in how she championed women’s leadership while leaving everyone with no doubt where her support and heart was. As women in various leadership positions in South Africa we knew without any doubt that she was one of our pillars, all we had to do was just ask and she would be there supporting your cause.

Rest in peace Mme Molotlegi.

May we as women leaders of your beloved South Africa be found worthy of your immense support that you so generously gave to each one of us. The great lesson that you taught us of being “fully present” to hold the spotlight for each other will never be forgotten. You gave us confidence to shine, for that we will always be grateful.

Nolitha Fakude is the chairperson of Anglo American South Africa, vice president of International Women’s Forum South Africa & former president of the Black Management Forum


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