Business tycoon Thandi Ndlovu remembered

Dr Thandi Ndlovu was described as a “phenomenal woman and leader of the people”. (Image via Twitter: @DrThandi)

Dr Thandi Ndlovu was described as a “phenomenal woman and leader of the people”. (Image via Twitter: @DrThandi)

Construction tycoon Thandi Ndlovu studied as a doctor and ended up changing the built environment of the people for whom she had decided to go to war for.

The Umkhonto weSizwe veteran has been described as a loving, supportive, warm motivator who blazed a trail in her industry.

Ndlovu died in hospital on Saturday from injuries sustained in a car crash while on her way to a funeral in Rustenburg in the North West province.

Messages of condolence have poured in on social media with many who rubbed shoulders with her describing the business tycoon as a strong woman who believed that nothing is impossible to overcome.

Ndlovu, a well known community activist and social commentator, was the chief executive of Motheo Construction Group.

Mapaseka Mokwele, a niece to the late Dr Ndlovu, described her aunt as a person who believed in success and working hard.
She said Ndlovu championed the improvement of women, the underprivileged, black South Africans and a deepening of democracy.

In 1976, while a third-year science student at the University of Fort Hare, Ndlovu felt compelled to go into exile because of harassment at the hands of the apartheid security services.

She first travelled to Mozambique and then on to Zambia.  Mapaseka said Ndlovu would go on to receive training in southern Angola between 1977 and 1979. This was followed by a trip to Moscow to study at a school for the Young Communist League. She also served as an executive member of the ANC in Lusaka, Zambia where she served as an administrator.

In 1984, Ndlovu registered at the University of Zambia, where she obtained both a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB)  degree.

Forbes Africa profiled Ndlovu for its women’s month issue and told the story of how, when she returned to South Africa, Ndlovu interned at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, while simultaneously working at a train station in Vereeniging, Gauteng.

While working at the train station, Ndlovu became aware of the plight of the people in Orange Farm, who she realised had no healthcare services. It was at Orange Farm that Ndlovu decided to open her practice. She soon came to the realisation that most of her patients’ ailments were related to their living conditions, recounted Mokwele.

This realisation would inform her decision to start her construction business, Motheo Construction. Her leadership and acumen would see her appointed as president of the Black Business Council for the Built Environment.

Lettie Mashau began as a trainee at Motheo Construction in 2005 and now sits on the board of the company. Mashau told the Mail & Guardian that she hopes that in remembering Ndlovu, people would practise what the construction magnate taught all of them.

“There is so much I have learned and it made me realise that all the good things we say about her we should adapt in our lives,” said Mashau of her mentor.

“I am grateful that I had an opportunity to work with her. She was a visionary leader — and very constant in what she did; she was fearless and faced her problems head on,” Mashau said.

Mashau said one of the biggest lessons from Ndlovu was that “life is too short and people are there in our lives for a reason, and we should cherish one another and live each day as if it were our last”.

As the family spokesperson, Mapaseka said Ndlovu’s family will miss the trailblazer’s “loud voice, her beautiful smile, her encouragement and wise words”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa took to Twitter to offer his condolences, saying: “I mourn the devastating and sad loss of a most formidable pioneering and leading woman of the construction industry. I will miss her courageous spirit. Dr Thandi Ndlovu - may her soul rest in peace.”

Deputy president David Mabuza said Ndlovu was a “phenomenal woman and leader of the people”.

In a statement, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said: “We are deeply saddened by the news that Dr Thandi Ndlovu, one of the brightest stars that illuminated our country’s path to freedom … South Africa has lost a compassionate patriot and highly impactful leader whose work positively influenced many sectors of society.”

Tshegofatso Mathe

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