Business stalwart Dolly Mokgatle. Picture: SUPPLIED
Business stalwart Dolly Mokgatle. Picture: SUPPLIED

Business stalwart Dolly Mokgatle leaves a legacy of an authentic leader with a passion for SA and its people. The 64-year old Mokgatle, who held numerous senior positions in listed companies and state-owned enterprises, died early on Saturday.

Born into a family of eight children in Springs, Mokgatle holds a qualification in law from the University of the North and an LLB and a diploma in tax law from Wits.

Before the dawn of democracy, she worked as litigation officer at the Black Lawyers Association Legal Education Centre where she focused on political cases, housing, labour and other human rights violations.

In 1991 Mokgatle joined Eskom as a senior legal adviser and moved up the ranks to be the first black person and first woman appointed as MD of the utility’s transmission group, which she turned from loss-making to profitable within a year. From 2003 to 2005 she was CEO of state rail parastatal Spoornet, now Transnet Freight Rail.

In 2005 she founded Peotona Group Holdings, a majority black women-owned investment firm, along with prominent business women Cheryl Carolus, Wendy Lucas-Bull and Thandi Orleyn.

Mokgatle served on numerous boards, councils and committees. At the time of her death she served on boards including Telkom, Bidcorp and Total SA, the latter of which she chaired.

“Dolly was incredibly ambitious, tenacious and strong willed. But at the same time absolutely charming and loyal,” said Lucas-Bull.

A devoted wife and mother of five, Mokgatle channelled her creative flair into fashion, styling and the culinary arts. A long-time avid golfer, she took up horse riding in recent years and of late channelled her energy into church activities, and was appointed deputy chancellor of the board of trustees of the Anglican Church Diocese of Johannesburg.

“Whenever she focused on something she completely dedicated herself to it,” Lucas-Bull said.

Yvonne Muthien worked with Mokgatle at Transnet and most recently served with her on the board of SA SME Fund. Pro bono work epitomised Mokgatle’s altruistic nature, Muthien said. “That’s an enduring image I have of her, that incredible energy and passion to do good and to give something back.”

Mokgatle was a prominent advocate for the empowerment and development of young leaders and women in particular.

“As a female leader it’s fantastic when you speak to someone who can share experiences and provide guidance. She was always there,” said Mpumi Zikalala, MD of De Beers Group Managed Operations, who first met Mokgatle in 2006 when the diamond miner sold a 26% in the local businesses to an entity in which Peotona was a shareholder.

Zikalala said Mokgatle had a keen interest in supporting and mentoring people. “She genuinely cared about empowerment and wanted to see other people succeed. She herself was an outstanding individual from a business perspective. We were lucky that, as busy as she was, she always dedicated the time to everybody else.”

Fortune Mojapelo, CEO of Bushveld Minerals on whose board Mokgatle served, said her wisdom and guidance would be missed. “She has a great career behind her and she was willing to share of herself so readily. I learnt a lot,” he said. “She has a real genuine interest in the success of SA and in the success of the next generation of leaders.”

David Noko, former MD at De Beers, said Mokgatle was proof that dynamite comes in small packages. “She would tell you where to get off, nicely. She was able to express herself very well, she was articulate and she was forthright. All of it would be done with dignity and respect.”

Mokgatle was a big believer in foundation thinking, that every argument must be grounded in fact, Noko said. Her legacy is that of a bona fide leader, he said.

“She’s not a product of BEE or any of the latest acronyms. She’s always been a hard worker — since before the dawn of democracy — and she was going to always make it whether there were any accelerators or not. She wasn’t a kind of political appointment, she wouldn’t subscribe to that. She was a businesswoman in her own right, an authentic leader. And she demonstrated it.”

Correction: January 12 2021
A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Dolly Mokgatle had a qualification in procurement, instead of in law.

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