From bottle stores to the big boys’ table
PROFILE: Rebosis CEO-designate Andile Mazwai
Former stockbroker plans to propel the JSE’s first majority black-owned and managed property listing into a major player in the sector
Andile Mazwai, former stockbroker and the man in line to be the CEO of Rebosis, plans to grow the JSE-listed property fund aggressively in size and stature.
When he opened his first liquor store 21 years ago in Lusikisiki, the small Xhosa village in the old Transkei from where he hailed, Mazwai did not know that a few years later he would be running one of SA’s largest stockbroking firms. The liquor business taught Mazwai, who at the time had just graduated from UCT with a BCom honours degree in information systems, how to make money by buying low and selling high.
"I quickly realised if I bought large enough volumes of beer from SA Breweries I could qualify for a sizeable discount, which allowed me to undercut my competitors." Within two years, he was running three liquor stores, making him the dominant beer trader in the region. "It was my first encounter with the art of arbitrage, and I absolutely loved it."
At 26, Mazwai found himself in Johannesburg, where his wife-to-be, Mondo, was practising law. A stockbroker friend saw an ad in the Financial Mail for a junior equities trader at Barnard Jacobs Mellet Securities (BJM) and encouraged Mazwai to apply. He got the job.
Five years later he opened Mazwai Securities, with the financial backing of BJM partner Paul Barnard. "I owe a lot to Paul. If it wasn’t for him I would never have started my own business. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself."
A few years later, BJM bought Mazwai’s business and he returned to his former employer as CEO. When FNB acquired BJM in 2010, Mazwai and his wife took their two children on a sabbatical to the south of France.
On his return to SA, he joined the National Stokvel Association of SA as CEO and continued as a nonexecutive at the JSE and at Rebosis Property Fund, where he chaired the investment committee. The company had made its debut on the JSE in May 2011. Sisa Ngebulana, founder and outgoing CEO of Rebosis, was a friend of Mazwai’s older brother and wanted someone with listed market experience on the board.
"I jumped at the opportunity, as I had huge respect for Sisa and knew what a brilliant developer he was. It was also a chance for me to celebrate the success of what was to become the JSE’s first majority black-owned and managed property listing."
Six years on, Rebosis owns a portfolio of shopping malls including Baywest in Port Elizabeth, Forest Hill in Centurion, Hemingways in East London and Sunnypark Shopping Centre in Pretoria. In January this year, Mazwai gave up his nonexecutive role on the Rebosis board to become chief operating officer and subsequently CEO designate. The new arrangement gives Ngebulana time to focus on Billion Group, the unlisted development partner of Rebosis.
When Mazwai takes over as CEO on October 1, his key aim will be to propel Rebosis from its mid-cap status to that of a major sector player. "I’m excited to take my place at the big boys’ table," he says. "In the six years since listing Rebosis, the portfolio has already gone from R3.5bn to R23bn.
"There’s every reason why we can get to R50bn or even R100bn within the next few years."