Bonang Mohale | My boss Jabu Mabuza - a great teacher and a quality human being

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The late Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza. (Photo: Chris Yelland, EE Publishers)
The late Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza. (Photo: Chris Yelland, EE Publishers)

Jabu Mabuza left an indelible mark in SA's hearts that our destiny is to clearly build a free, democratic, united, anti-racial and anti-sexist South Africa, writes Bonang Mohale.


'We dream of a nation with people who are empowered, self reliant, selfless, skilled, free from corruption and with high morals and ethical values.' - Rev. Moshwabada 'Castro' Mayatula (1921 - 1989), revolutionary and mentor to the youth of 16 June 1976

Dr. Jabulane Albert Mabuza is my boss!

We had persuaded him and he ultimately agreed to be the single face of big business as the president of both Business Unity SA (Busa) and the CEO Initiative as well as chair of Business Leadership SA (BLSA). He, in turn, later personally strongly persuaded me to come out of my early 're-tyrement' at  age 55, to come and help be BLSA CEO, an organisation that was founded in 1960, even before I  was born!

At its inception, BLSA  had two primary purposes, to defend apartheid and sanctions-bursting. The two of us were absolutely convinced that it presented a perfect candidate for transformation, not reformation and I agreed to take up the cudgel and to eat  this monster from within, effective, Monday, 3 July 2017.

With his inimitable leadership, singularity of purpose and a strong board, we rapidly put an effective and efficient team together of two African women and three African men as early as 1 November that year. 

A year later, that team was to evolve to three African women and two African men. Against fierce opposition and at  great personal risk, we firmly laid the foundation to root out and defeat state capture starting with the planned, focused and relentless pursuit and ultimate demise of Bell Pottinger in just six months.

He reluctantly agreed to be included in the five names that BLSA submitted to National Treasury for consideration to the Eskom board. He ended up as chair, in January 2018, of the board consisting of true patriots, determined to end the crucible of state capture - South Africa’s single systemic risk.

We did initially suspend KPMG, Eskom, Transnet  and Bain & Co, in that order for aiding and abetting state capture. Due to his determination, dedication and will to succeed, and having been sufficiently convinced of the new strategy, systems and processes that the Eskom board and executives led by Baba Phakamani Hadebe, had put in place, it was the very first company to have its suspension lifted. 

He founded, amongst  others, FABCOS, went on to chair Telkom SA, Casino Association of South Africa, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, South African Tourism, UNISA SBL, the Sun International boards, etc.

He has served as a member and patron of the South Africa Day initiative - Citizens in Partnership with Government "CPG". He served on the boards of Tanzania Breweries, and the Castle Brewing Company in Kenya.

He has recently retired as board member from the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in Washington DC and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in England – UK as an executive committee Member.

He was appointed to the Concordia Leadership Council, USA. He is also the chairman of the Regional Business Council for World Economic Forum (WEF). The University of the Witwatersrand, led by Prof Adam Habib awarded him and conferred a Doctor of Commerce Degree (Honoris Causa) on 5 July 2017,  '"n recognition of his sterling work in his achievements in entrepreneurship and his contribution to the growth of the South African economy".

He, with the Busa board, ultimately convinced Dr. Sipho Mila Pityana to seriously consider being the president of the organisation, and he ultimately agreed.

I will, forever be grateful to you for being such a great teacher, amazing and good quality human being! Thank you for touching my life in such a meaningful way and impactful manner. Teaching me and many more, that if we wait for someone else to fix things, we are doomed to further despair.

For teaching me that our purpose must be to do something, no matter how small... it’s the sum of the parts that creates a greater whole. That we must each adopt one aspect of what government is failing to do and just get it done and, by so doing, we put ourselves on the path to real black economic empowerment and ultimate emancipation.

Thank you also for being a testament that having witnessed both the economic struggles of our forebears and the birth pangs of a new nation, there is truly real value in building our South African nationhood, for it gives expression to a fundamental truth in our national life!

Right through our history and texture one can trace a golden chord of exclusion, oppression, subjugation and engineered disunity endured at the hands of a racist, prejudiced and unsympathetic National Party government.

The liberation mothers and fathers have successfully impressed their quality and views upon successive generations - an influence later sustained, deepened and broadened by your personal participation in the 16th June 1976 student uprisings - for which you were later expelled - and the United Democratic Front - women and men who, when the great liberation struggle came, who made so notable a contribution in that lifelong fight for both political and economic liberation. Each of them, essentially a scion of the same stones in our shoes, scars on our backs, bound by the national ideals and traits and by deep inherent bonds of common kinship - as well as being subject to the ills to which this nation has immemorially been heir. A nation that must retain throughout the years, the original attributes of mind and person derived from a common African ancestor - a type that still tenaciously clings to its parent soil in Africa.

Thank you for leaving an indelible mark in our hearts that our destiny is to clearly build a free, democratic, united, anti-racial and anti-sexist South Africa. Indeed, today we are united on the many big issues. It is only really the few and little issues that still, to some extent, keep us apart.

Thank you for appealing for a cessation of strife between countrywomen, countrymen and brethren - becoming the means for quickening amongst South Africans a recognition of our common national bond  - a bond deeply rooted in the African soil, which carries with it the obligations of a common fellowship. It is indeed true that 'the strongest people make time to help others, even if they are struggling with their own problems'.

Our heartfelt and sincere sympathies and condolences go to his lovely wife, Sis’ Siphiwe, their children, family, the Mabuza clan and friends on  uch a profound loss but nonetheless, a life so beautifully lived.

Hamba kahle Mshengu nkos’yam!

Bonang Mohale is the Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Professor of Practice in the Johannesburg Business School (JBS) College of Business and Economics, Chairman of both The Bidvest Group Limited and SBV Services. He is the past President of the BMF and author of the best selling book, “Lift As You Rise“.

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