Charmaine Mabuza, Zamani Holdings Group CEO, helps give wings to those in society who need upliftment most, while Major Mandisa Mfeka flies South Africa’s flag high as the first black woman combat pilot.|inline|https://cms.contactmedia.co.za/image/e0cf60e65f93dbe865264ad10eea8623|landscape||jpeg|Charmaine Mabuza.jpg||center|
Name: Charmaine Mabuza
Position: Zamani Holdings Group CEO
Charmaine Mabuza stays out of the limelight and prefers to let her business success talk for itself. However, when you become one of South Africa’s most prominent businesswomen, keeping mum is not an option.
Mabuza rose to the top while juggling life as an entrepreneur, a wife, and a mother of three, now adult, children. She was born and raised by her single mother in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal. Being the eldest, after matriculating from Stanger High School, Mabuza had to help care for her younger siblings and ensure there was money for their education.
This kickstarted her career as an entrepreneur. Her mother was, what she calls, a “multipreneur”, and proved to be one of Mabuza’s greatest role models. “My mother ran a curio shop that sold traditional African leather products,” explains Mabuza. “But she also managed multiple retail stores, including a butchery, a petrol station and a local supermarket.” Mabuza grew up watching her mother face the daily challenges of being a black woman in business. “My mother inspired me. Even at a young age, I believed in the power of women, that is why I am so passionate about gender parity.”
Mabuza established a name for herself as a director in Wiphold, the first women-owned company to list on the JSE in 1999 with a net asset value of R1.2 billion. She resigned in 2008 and together she and Advocate Eric Mabuza, her husband, launched Zamani Holdings, a holding company for several independent companies. In 2013 ITHUBA was launched with an aim of providing a national service in the form of operating the South African National Lottery.
Mabuza’s success has hinged on three key principles:
1. Ubuntu: Mabuza believes that people are at the forefront of any business’s success. “It’s vital that businesses always think about the best interest of their employees, their customers and the communities in which they operate.”
2. Excellence: Not accepting average performance is an ethic firmly installed in Mabuza’s personal business philosophy. “As a business leader, I expect all of those around me to deliver excellence at all times.” Mabuza is a great role model for those she works with.
3. Consistency: Mabuza also demands consistent excellence, saying: “You are only as good as your last job.”
To honour her past and challenges faced by people from disadvantaged backgrounds, Mabuza makes sure that she always gives back. It is for this reason that the National Lottery is such an important endeavour for her as a way of ensuring that money is raised to benefit society’s most needy.
This is also why The Eric and Charmaine Mabuza Scholarship Foundation was conceived. From helping students in Mpumalanga initially, its reach quickly spread to assist young people from all over South Africa. The Foundation provides full scholarships to deserving matriculants from previously disadvantaged communities and has funded many students who are now qualified as doctors, chartered accountants, quantity surveyors and ICT specialists.
Education, she believes, is the key to transforming the African continent.
Mabuza is currently studying towards a Harvard Business School certificate and says: “I believe it is never too late for anyone to pursue their dreams, especially when it comes to education.” Education, she believes, is the key to transforming the African continent.
Name: Mandisa Nomcebo Mfeka
Sector: Military aviation
Position: Hawk Mk120 Pilot at 85 Combat Flying School
As a Hawk Mk120 Pilot at the 85 Combat Flying School in Limpopo, Major Mandisa Mfeka is a proud member of the South African Air Force and has been actively training and growing in the country’s defence force since 2008.
Mfeka’s earliest memories of flying come from watching the air shows at Durban’s Virginia Airport. She was five years old, and even after going to subsequent air shows, she didn’t think she could pursue a career in aviation. That was until she was drawn to the field of aeronautical engineering as a possible career path as a student at Queensburgh Girls’ High School. “Aeronautical engineering sparked my interest in becoming a pilot, and once I had a gateway into flying, I knew that I wanted to join the air force and pursue a career as a pilot – at the age of 16!” she says.
Her parents were a bit worried about their daughter aspiring to become an aviatrix, and “they felt like the environment was very harsh,” says Mfeka. But since earning her pilot’s wings in 2011, her parents have always been supportive of her dream, and proud of her achievements.
After obtaining her aviation qualifications at Central Flying School in Langebaan, an experience Mfeka says was “challenging and a great balance between academic and physical aspects of being in the military,” she has gone on to putting in the hard yards to become a combat pilot. At President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration earlier this year Mfeka formed part of the Hawks awe-inspiring air display and made history as the country’s first black woman combat pilot.
“In my position right now, I’m very much still learning, adapting to the environment, using my skills to become the best. You need to be disciplined, ambitious and always wanting to grow. Being open to being moulded and nurtured is key,” she maintains.
The seeds of Mfeka’s determination were planted much earlier in her life. In school, was a self-confessed “all-rounder”. “In matric, I got Honours for academics and I had full colours for provincial hockey. I think I took the Sportswoman of the Year [award] at that time too. I was also soccer and hockey captain, as well as deputy head girl at school. I was athletic and academic at school,” she says.
These qualities placed her in good stead for physically and academically demanding aviation training, and the daily life of a combat pilot. She encourages young girls to go to air shows and air displays, ask pilots questions about their career, and importantly get good grades in maths, science and geography. Besides being studious, prospective combat pilots need to cultivate tenacity and resilience.
I knew that I wanted to join the air force and pursue a career as a pilot – at the age of 16!
“Personality-wise you find that people in the combat line are what is known as a type-A personality. You’re very competitive and very interested in being the best, wanting to be a specialist and know your aircraft better than anyone else,” she concludes.