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Ten minutes with Bonang Mohale: Guest speaker at #MatiesHomecoming
Author: Development & Alumni / Ontwikkeling & Alumni
Published: 28/02/2019
​On 1 March, Bonang Mohale, the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) was at the #MatieHomecoming for a conversation with two MBA graduates from the University of Stellenbosch Business School regarding the topic Will the South African economy recover? New roles for businesses in the South African public sphere. 

The free event was held at the Century City Convention Centre and facilitated by Daniel Strauss, an MBA lecturer and Founder and Director of Stocks & Strauss (Pty) Ltd. , and Nthabiseng Moleko, a Statistics and Economics lecturer for the MBA Programme at USB as well as a Commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality.

We sat down with the businessman to find out more about the man who is recognised as a leadership guru who has ensured the growth of many major South African and multinational companies like Shell and Otis.

Did you always know that you wanted to be in business?

No, I wanted to be a doctor and studied medicine for four years. Thereafter, I embarked on a three-year Diploma in Marketing Management at the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM), followed by an 18 months postgraduate Advanced Diploma in Marketing, only to proceed to write my Board Exams.

What did you study and how did that help you get into the business world?

In 1993, I completed an 18-month postgraduate Advanced Diploma in Marketing Management through the IMM. My dissertation was on “The Future of Health Care in South Africa: Implications for Marketing in The Pharmaceutical Industry".

In 1999, I passed my Chartered Marketer [CM (SA)] Board Exams at IMM.

​OTIS Elevators, which I joined in 1996 also afforded me opportunities for personal development, such as the Director Development Programme through Carl Duisberg Gesellenschaft on behalf of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the International Programme in Management (OTIS Making Magic Work) at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland.  

Looking back on your career, what do you consider to be one of your biggest achievements and why?

In 1998, when I became the MD of Otis Elevators, responsible for Africa at the time that it was still rare for South Africans to be finally accountable just for the South African operations.

Who is the businessman / woman or person you draw your inspiration from?

Susan, my lovely wife of almost 38 years, Serialong Mahadibonwe Mohale, my paternal grandmother, Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela, Chief Justice Mogoeng and the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

What is the best advice you have ever received and why?

When invited for dinner, and someone else is paying, NEVER order the most expensive item on the menu! This is exactly how Susan was raised, and our two divine daughters.

What are some of the things you want to be remembered for as CEO of the BLSA?

I want to help rebuild that strong voice of business. The best way we think we can do that at BLSA is to demonstrate that we have fully transformed, we are broadly reflective of our country's demographics. We get back our voice – we get our licence to operate then – and together with civil society and labour, we can help to defeat state capture and corruption in both the public and private sector, and build an inclusive, prosperous South Africa.

The role of BLSA now must surely be to harness this architecture of partnerships so that together we can accomplish more. It's about realising, in our lifetime, this notion of inclusive socio-economic growth and transformation, because transformation is fundamentally breaking with the past, a change in form and character. It's not just cosmetic.

It is about being concerned about the protection of key institutions. It is institutions that are sustainable, not the leaders, who are just temporary occupants of the corridors of power. Here I'm talking about all Chapter 9 Institutions the Office of the Public Protector, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Judiciary, etc.

These institutions must be protected because that's how we derive our democracy. That's how we experience egalitarianism. Business has an important role to play in protecting these institutions.

Then lastly, it's about how we position business as a national asset. That's a more difficult objective because it's much more philosophical. But we will know when we are succeeding because it will be the people of Alexandra, who are currently living in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of abject poverty, who will feel compelled to defend business. They will defend it because they see the social aspect and broader good of business in job creation, in allowing them to regain their self-worth, self-esteem, dignity and pride.

Positioning business as a national asset means that when we are confronted with contentious issues, our leadership emerge to choose the high road and the side of angels, rather than being driven by self-interest. It means that when we talk about proposed amendments to the Competition Commission to deal with economic concentration in business, we ensure that we percolate the benefits of business to the majority of our people, because that is the challenge. It's about how do we get the bottom half into the middle class. ​