Business magnates, king makers, champions of the African cause — the most influential people in South Africa
Chairman, 2010 World Cup Local Organising Committee
The country’s most powerful sports administrator, Iron Duke (as Khoza is popularly known) was instrumental in getting this year’s Football World Cup to South Africa. After being kicked out of Orlando Pirates Football Club in 1980 as secretary, Khoza made a triumphant return a decade ago and has turned the body into a money-spinning venture. Often embroiled in scams and scandals, Khoza was recently again in the news when his daughter gave birth to President Jacob Zuma’s 20th child. Khoza was known to be close to the President, who is six years older than the football czar.
Archbishop Thabo Cecil Makgoba
Like his predecessors Njongokulu Ndungane and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Makgoba has used his position to take a political stance on various current issues — thereby proving that his young age (at 47, he was the youngest to take the position in 2007) is not a handicap. He might be leading four million members of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Lesotho and Angola, among many African countries, but his influence surpasses governments and denominations. Few question him being called the keeper of national consciousness.
Chairman, Business Leadership South Africa
Image: STR New/ Reuters
One of the foremost mining professionals in South Africa, Bobby Godsell was the CEO of mining giant AngoGold and was later the chairman of Eskom Holdings. Apart from being a member of the National Planning Commission, after being handpicked by President Jacob Zuma, Godsell chairs Business Leadership South Africa, an association of South Africa’s largest corporations and major multinational companies with a significant presence in the country. An organisation à la CII of India, Business Leadership South Africa “is an influencing/catalytic body which commissions research, facilitates projects and co-operates, as appropriate, with the broader business community and with government.”
Nyameko Barney Pityana
VC, University of South Africa
Pityana is a lawyer, theologian, academic and a champion of human rights. His research in theology, especially its interface with politics and culture, has been read and debated nationally and internationally. He was one of the founding members of the influential South African Students’ Organisation and was also an integral part of the Black Consciousness Movement. Since 2001, he has been the Vice Chancellor of the University of South Africa, the country’s largest learning centre with more than 200,000 students. It specialises in distance learning.
Motsepe is South Africa’s first black billionaire. He literally hit gold after buying unprofitable mines and then turning them around. His company, African Rainbow Minerals, now also has interests in ferrous metals, base metals, and platinum. Often called South Africa’s mining oligarch, Motsepe’s relatives are among the most influential in the country. He is married to a medical-doctor-turned-fashion-impresario. Motsepe’s sister, Bridgette Radebe, heads a mining company and is married to Justice and Constitutional Development Minster Jeffrey Radebe.
Image: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters
General Secretary, Congress of South African Trade Unions
Despite a reputation of being a loose cannon (he accused government leaders of promoting women in order to sleep with them), his third consecutive term as the general secretary of South Africa’s largest trade union federation means that Vavi is one of the most powerful mass leaders in the country. The 10th child of a poor mining family of 12, Vavi started as a child labour in a mine. His independent and forthright views have seen him playing international roles, including in Zimbabwe and also at the International Labour Organization.
Editor, Business Day
Apart from covering the usual news staple, Business Day has made a mark in reporting black economic empowerment, helping cement its position as South Africa’s largest selling and most influential business paper. Adding the edge is its editor Peter Bruce, who earlier headed Financial Mail, a leading financial weekly in the country. Bruce honed his skills as the Madrid bureau chief of Financial Times.
As the president of African National Congress’ Youth League Mbalula made his name after helping install Thabo Mbeki as the country’s President. He cemented his place in the party when he later played a pivotal role in replacing Mbeki with the present incumbent, Jacob Zuma. After resigning from the Youth League (though only after surpassing the age limit) Mbalula has made sure that his chosen man replaced him. Now a deputy minister in Zuma’s cabinet, the 39-year-old Mbalula is seen as one of the promising new leaders in the political era.
Image: siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters
Chairman, Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs
From advising leading multinational companies in raising money and acquiring assets to guiding the government in taking important policy decisions, Katz has done it all in his 40-year career. He also heads South Africa’s largest law firm, Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs. The firm has also advised Indian bigwigs including the Tata group, Dr Reddy’s Lab and Biocon, each of whom have considerable presence in South Africa.
The MTN chairman might be infamous in India after Bharti and Reliance Infocomm failed to takeover the African telecom giant after Ramaphosa insisted that the company retain its African identity. But at home, Ramaphosa is seen as a champion of the African cause. Though now a business magnate, Ramaphosa has had an incredible transition from a lawyer to a powerful trade union leader, to a leading politician with presidential ambitions and finally as a businessman.