Moneyweb reports – Corporate heavyweight Jabulane (Jabu) Albert Mabuza, 63, passed away from Covid-19 complications, his family confirmed on Wednesday evening.
The news has come as a shock to fellow South African business and political leaders, who hailed Mabuza’s contribution to the business world, his advocacy of SA Inc and activism against apartheid.
Mabuza’s role as the former chairperson of Eskom is being headlined, but his illustrious corporate career goes back almost three decades, with positions at Tsogo Sun Holdings, Telkom and South African Breweries (SAB) and AB InBev, amongst others.
His most recent board positions include being chairman of JSE-listed Sun International and Net1 UEPS Technologies as well as on the board of MultiChoice as a lead independent non-executive director.
Mabuza, however, is likely to be remembered most for his position as CEO of Tsogo Sun Holdings, which was established in the early 2000s out of Southern Sun’s hotels business.
At the time, Tsogo Sun secured two of South Africa’s most lucrative new casino licenses in urban areas – Montecasino in Johannesburg and Suncoast in Durban.
Being the boss of one of the country’s fastest growing gaming and hospitality groups at the time, saw Mabuza also appointed to the board of South African Tourism in 2003. He was on the board of the national tourism destination promotion agency for nine years, six of which as chairman until 2012 (including the 2010 Fifa World Cup period).
After retiring as Tsogo Sun CEO in September 2011 he joined the group’s board.
Arguably Mabuza’s most noteworthy board contribution came in 2012 with this appointment as chairman of Telkom. Together with Telkom CEO at the time, Sipho Maseko, he played an instrumental role in the turnaround of the former state-owned telecommunications operator.
In organised business bodies, Mabuza’s roles including being the former president of Business Unity South Africa (Busa), chairman of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), the Casino Association of South Africa, co-chair of the CEO’s Initiative, chairman of the regional council for the World Economic Forum, as well as a founding member and former CEO of Fabcos (the Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services).
Mabuza became involved in the establishment of Fabcos in 1988, after venturing into the taxi industry in the mid 80s. Fabcos is a founder member of the Black Business Council (BBC).
In 1993, he secured a lucrative position as group advancement manager at SAB, which was a major shareholder in Southern Sun Hotels and Sun International at the time. This gave Mabuza a foot into the upper echelons of corporate South Africa.
By 1996 he was appointed managing director of Southern Sun Gaming Investment, which later became Tsogo Sun’s gaming business. In 2006, he became group CEO of Tsogo Sun Holdings (now unbundled into two separate JSE-listed groups – Tsogo Sun Gaming and Tsogo Sun Hotels Limited).
In 2016, SAB’s owners AB InBev, appointed Mabuza as chairman of its African business.
Mabuza’s death on the Youth Day public holiday is a poignant reminder of his contribution to the fight against apartheid.
He was a youth activist in the 70s and was expelled from a Johannesburg school after being caught up in the 1976 student uprising.
However, he moved to Durban and matriculated from the historic Ohlange High School in Inanda in 1979. The school, which was founded by the ANC’s first president John Langalibalele Dube in 1901, is where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994.
Mabuza pursued a law degree at the University of the North but dropped out in 1982, according to his CV. He drove taxis to pay for his tuition, but later decided to become a taxi owner.
His taxi business led him to become a co-founder of Fabcos in 1988, together with the likes of James Ngcoya, president of the SA Black Taxi Association at the time.
In 2017, Mabuza received an honorary doctorate in commerce from the University of Witwatersrand for his leadership in business.
BBC president Sandile Zungu was among the first to confirm Mabuza’s death on Wednesday, in an interview with the SABC.
In the official statement issued on Wednesday night, Mabuza’s family said that he “passed away on Wednesday 16 June following Covid-19 complications”.
He leaves behind his wife, Siphiwe and three children.
“Jabu lived his life so beautifully and committed to the transformation of South Africa’s economy … He was a pillar of strength for his family, a dedicated servant of the country, an activist in empowering black entrepreneurs and committed to work for the transformation of corporate SA,” his family said.
“On this day in 1976, he had joined thousands of black youth who demanded the end of Bantu education. He was later expelled for participating in that seminal protest that exposed the brutality of the apartheid regime and propelled the struggle for liberation,” the family added.
Meanwhile, Busa leaders mourned Mabuza’s sudden death and conveyed condolences to his family.
“I am at a loss for words. The passing of Jabu is tragic, devastating and a great loss for business and our country,” said Busa president, Sipho Pityana.
“Jabu played a leading and pivotal role as a business leader with foresight and courage. He was a phenomenal human being and a gentle soul. Jabu was a role model for all South Africans who aspire to make a difference,” he noted.
“He lifted himself up by his bootstraps, moving from being a successful small entrepreneur to becoming my predecessor as president of Busa. Along the way, he became a powerhouse in the South African economy, occupying leadership positions in several South African corporates … as well as in the public sector,” added Pityana.
“He will particularly be remembered for his courage during the State Capture era when, as president of Busa, he often had to deliver very difficult messages to government. He will be sorely missed at a time when we need all hands-on deck to resolve the massive challenges posed by the global Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact on business and society.”
Busa CEO Cas Coovadia, who worked with Mabuza when he was president of Busa and co-chair of the CEO Initiative, said: “Jabu had a character and personality that was contagious. He led with courage, honour, and honesty. He was a true patriot.”
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