OBITUARY: Jabu Mabuza leaves indelible mark on SA’s heart
Jabu Mabuza taught me that if we wait for someone else to fix things, we are doomed to further despair, writes Bonang Mohale
Dr Jabulane Albert Mabuza was my boss. We 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 the chair of Business Leadership SA. He, in turn, later personally strongly persuaded me to come out of my early ‘retirement’ at age 55, to be the CEO of BLSA, the 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, which started with effect from July 3 2017.
With his inimitable leadership, singularity of purpose and a strong board, we rapidly put an effective and efficient team in place that consisted of two African women and three African men, which we had achieved by November 1 2017. 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 the Treasury for consideration to the Eskom board. He ended up as chair in January 2018, of a board consisting of true patriots, determined to end the crucible of state capture, SA’s single systemic risk and the fourth means of production. We did initially suspend KPMG, Eskom, Transnet and Bain Consulting, 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 Phakamile Hadebe, had put in place, it was the very first company to have its suspension lifted.
He founded, among others, FABCOS, and went on to chair the Telkom, Casino Association of SA, AB InBev, SA Tourism, Unisa SBL, and Sun International boards. He has served as a member and patron of the SA Day initiative (Citizens in Partnership with Government). He served on the boards of Tanzania Breweries, and Castle Brewing Company in Kenya. He recently retired as board member from the Corporate Council on Africa in Washington DC and the World Travel and Tourism Council in England — UK as an executive committee Member.
He was appointed to the Concordia Leadership Council, US. He was also the chair of the Regional Business Council for the World Economic Forum (WEF). The University of the Witwatersrand, led by Prof Adam Habib, awarded and conferred a Doctor of commerce degree (Honoris Causa) on July 5 2017, “In recognition of his sterling work in his achievements in entrepreneurship and his contribution to the growth of the SA economy.”
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. 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 BEE 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 SA nationhood, for it gives expression to a fundamental truth in our national life. That 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. That 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 June 16 1976 student uprisings — for which you were later expelled.
And the United Democratic Front women and men who, when the great liberation struggle came, made so notable a contribution in that lifelong fight for both political and economic liberation.
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 SA.
Our heartfelt and sincere sympathies and condolences go to his lovely wife, Sis’ Siphiwe, their children, family, the Mabuza clan and friends on such a profound loss but nonetheless, a life so beautifully lived.
Hamba kahle Mshengu nkos’yam!
• 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, chair of both The Bidvest Group and SBV Services. He is the past president of the BMF.
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