Johnnic's new top ten enter the business


The biggest black empowerment deal to date has been finalised. Fay Davids profiles the new board members from labour and industry

THE country’s most significant black empowerment deal was completed this week when Johnnic’s 10 new directors were voted in at the annual general meeting, bringing the total board membership to 20.

They’re an unusual crew, yoking together some of the best financial brains from the trade union movement with veteran movers in black business. Some cross the divide, such as Cyril Ramaphosa, who began his career in the union movement.

Among the new directors are a financial whizz-kid, a lorry driver and a former miner turned entrepreneur. Five directors are drawn from the trade unions and their investment companies. They were chosen according to the size of their investments.

A similar principle of proportionality was used to determine the directors drawn from black business. Johnnic’s new directors are sure to form an integral layer of the next generation of business leaders.


Thomas Qhena

THIS man’s not afraid of getting his hand’s dirty. Qhena started work as an underground miner at Anglo’s President Brand mine in Welkom 12 years ago.

Like many others, he joined the fledgling National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and climbed its ranks to become regional secretary for the Free State in 1990.

Qhena left that position in March this year. He joined the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC) full-time when NUM investments grew larger and larger.

In line with the MIC’s plan to place worker leaders in the companies it invested in, Qhena became business adviser to Royal Food Services. The MIC holds 60% of the catering company.

Qhena says he brings a combination of business and union skills to Johnnic. “Unions have never been anti-business or anti the economy,” he maintains.

Ezrom Mabyana

MABYANA has a solid grounding in economics. He is the South African Railway and Harbour Workers Union’s (Sarhwu) national treasurer. He’s also a full-time lorry driver for Spoornet.

As treasurer, Mabyana has been in the forefront of deciding Sarhwu’s investment portfolio. The union has significant holdings in the scrap-metal company, Xicaka, as well as in an advertising agency called Screenworld, and in Ntsika, an investment consortium it has started with Thebe Investments.

Mabyana is a quiet and modest man. “I’m here to learn more than to contribute,” he says, adding that he’s also secured an investment strategy diploma from the University of South Africa. National Empowerment Consortium (NEC) colleagues have one criticism of Mabyana: they say he is hard to place and has not made many memorable interventions in two years of negotiations.

Abram Modisana Mosiuoa

MOSIUOA wears a range of hats. Officially, he is human resources officer for the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu).

But it is his successful management of Saccawu’s national provident fund (co- managed by Old Mutual) that caught the attention of his colleagues in the NEC and made him a front-runner in negotiations for Johnnic.

“He’s a vocal guy,” say insiders, and he’s cut his capitalist teeth on numerous other deals for Saccawu.

“Unions are famous for doing things openly and that’s what I want to bring to Johnnic,” says Mosiuoa, who finds South African Breweries the most interesting of the holding company’s partly-owned assets. Mosiuoa started his career in a furniture factory where he was elected shop-steward for Saccawu.

Ernie Theron

THERON chose to wear a Maoist shirt to Johnnic’s annual general meeting this week, his trademark trade union satchel emblazoned with a worker symbol gripped firmly to his side.

Theron is not about to commit class suicide and be lured by the glitz of the boardroom. “He comes from a trade union point-of-view. Now he’s going to have to learn the business point-of-view,” warns an admirer who’s made the jump.

Theron has had an illustrious career in the Food and Allied Workers Union, which he still serves as deputy president. He has held the position of president, national treasurer and regional chairperson for the Western Cape.

In between union (and more recently) business duties, Theron is still a maintenance fitter for Premier Foods in Cape Town, although he is interested in personnel management and has just completed an IPM diploma. “I’m not really a businessman; I want to better the working life of people,” he says.

Theron is likely to be deployed in assessing the industrial relations practices of the companies in which Johnnic has shares.

Irene Charnley

IF Ramaphosa is the “face” of the new Johnnic, the stylish Irene Charnley is his second fiddle. She hails from Gauteng where she was a student activist in the 1980s.

Charnley started work in the NUM’s collective bargaining department where she first worked with Ramaphosa. Her commitment soon earned her the position of research co- ordinator, which encompassed responsibility for investment research for the union’s provident fund.

Under the NUM’s auspices, she was sent to study union investments in Australia. For the past two years, she has been a frontrunner in the NEC.

Charnley is described as “fast, a quick learner and a hard bargainer”. Others call her “fractious” and accuse her of exploiting differences in the tenuous unity that comprises the NEC.


Cyril Ramaphosa

WITH his immaculate pin-stripe suits, sober ties and gun-metal grey BMW, Ramaphosa has demonstrated his ability to learn quickly.

It’s the ways of business he has learned fastest, impressing business leaders and his former political colleagues alike with his acumen. “He’s not afraid to ask for information and he’s very hands-on,” says Jenny Cargill, director of the consultancy, BusinessMap SA. She adds that Ramaphosa is particularly strong at building and leading effective teams.

His newfound business skills gel well with lessons learned and contacts made in the union movement and the African National Congress to make him one of the most powerful business people around.

Ramaphosa has served as the NUM’s general secretary, the ANC’s secretary general and chief of the Constitutional Assembly.

Ramaphosa is the deputy chairperson of New African Investments Limited (Nail) and now chairs the Johnnic board.

Mashudu Ramanu

WHILE Ramaphosa and Wiseman Nkuhlu are “the names” in the Johnnic bid, watch this man! Business people and unionists alike credit Ramanu with being the firecracker behind the Johnnic deal.

“I’m independent-minded and I don’t believe in holy cows,” says Ramanu, the national director of Practice Transformation and Development at Ernst & Young. He’s also the secretary-general of the National African Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Nafcoc). “But his style is very different to other Nafcoc fuddie-duddies,” says an analyst.

While most others say it’s early days to decide what will or should be done with Johnnic’s underlying assets, Ramanu has already been carefully watching the companies in which Johnnic owns shares.

Salukazi Dakile-Hlongwane

DAKILE-HLONGWANE spotted the gender gap and climbed right in. Her company, Nozala Investments, has cornered the economic power of rural and urban women and fashioned a potential powerhouse.

On top of that, it also packs the economic clout of the some of the biggest business- women in the country. Nozala holds 6,05% of the Johnnic stake sold to the NEC. She’s unlikely to push for quick change in Johnnic’s largely successful underlying assets. “Change must be made within a growth strategy,” says Dakile-Hlongwane.

She adds: “We’re here because of the monies of little people and we have to work for them. We can’t take irresponsible decisions; they didn’t say `go there and talk politics’.”

Dakile-Hlongwane is also a senior manager at First National Bank.

Wiseman Nkuhlu

ALONG with Nthatho Motlana, Nkuhlu is one of the grand-daddies of black business in South Africa.

He was number two to Ramaphosa in negotiations to secure the NEC’s stake in Johnnic. His directorship of Johnnic is just another jewel in a crown of directorships.

Nkuhlu is also a director of Old Mutual and Standard Bank and he chairs the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

This one-time activist founded and chairs Worldwide Africa Investments Holdings,which has a controlling interest in Afric Oil and joint control of the electronics giant, Plessey.

Sam Montsi

THIS Western Cape businessman has been something of a surprise. He emerged as a frontrunner in the bid for Johnnic, with his investment company Siphumelele Investments.

The BusinessMap SA consultancy reports that he started the company earlier this year by mobilising black investors to invest R20 000 each. “It’s an investment fund of blacks, rather than for blacks,” notes the consultancy.

In addition to Johnnic, Montsi is one of few black investors in the fishing industry. The former general manager in the South African Breweries Beer Division also has property interests in the Western Cape.

He holds directorships at Channel Six Broadcasting, Cape Newspapers and the Southern Life Foundation. He is a governor of the University of Cape Town.

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