Mag­nate pack

Daphne Mashile-Nkosi won’t stop bang­ing the drum for women’s rights, writes Peter De Ionno

CityPress - - Business -

When Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, fresh from col­lect­ing the 2015 Africa Fe­male Busi­ness Leader of the Year Award, says she be­lieves that be­ing a woman is still an im­ped­i­ment to rais­ing busi­ness fi­nance, alarm bells should ring. Mashile-Nkosi is known as the “iron lady” of South African min­ing more for her achieve­ments in es­tab­lish­ing the Kala­gadi Man­ganese mine and sin­ter plant in the North­ern Cape – the latest in a long line of mines that started with Eye­sizwe Min­ing, one of the found­ing el­e­ments of the gi­ant Exxaro – than for the awards she has re­ceived in the past few years.

Last year, it was the Africa CEO of the Year Award. In 2013, it was the In­ter­na­tional Star for Lead­er­ship in Qual­ity Award and the In­sti­tute of Peo­ple Man­age­ment CEO of the Year Award. This year, she was recog­nised with a spe­cial com­men­da­tion from the Ge­or­gia Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus in the US.

At her of­fice in Rivo­nia, Mashile-Nkosi ex­plains why she ar­rives a lit­tle late: “I heard that Nkosazana [Dlamini-Zuma, the chair­per­son of the African Union Com­mis­sion] was in town and I just had to tell her about the award.”

And the award was not men­tioned again. In­stead, she launched into a long and im­pas­sioned plea for a greater and deeper un­der­stand­ing of her con­stant and ap­par­ently never-end­ing strug­gle for women’s rights. “Of course, you can say we are very far along the road now and we must celebrate the progress that has been made,” she says, claim­ing that al­most 42% rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in Par­lia­ment and the small but in­creas­ing num­ber of women on boards are vic­to­ries.

She wel­comes the in­creas­ingly broad sup­port for women, es­pe­cially in Women’s Month, but she says there is still a long way to go be­fore there is real equal­ity in both board­rooms and ev­ery­day life.

“You are at the mercy of those who ac­tu­ally fund you,” she says. “If I can’t raise R1 bil­lion to start a mine af­ter tak­ing all kinds of steps to prove its vi­a­bil­ity, what chance then for a poor woman in Po­fad­der who needs help? “I am sure it is be­cause credit com­mit­tees are usu­ally white men and men with black skins who worry more about their bosses than about what their clients need.

“De­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tions are com­pet­ing with com­mer­cial banks and most of them are more wor­ried about risk than they are about op­por­tu­nity. If you look at op­por­tu­ni­ties in busi­ness, I am still dis­cussing the same things that we were do­ing 21 years ago about the in­clu­sion of women.”

When asked whether she gets tired of bang­ing the drum, MashileNkosi does not miss a beat: “I am a bro­ken record, but I don’t care. It has to be said.

“I do get tired of mak­ing the same points, but as long as the prob­lems are there, we have to keep work­ing to trans­form what is plainly un­just. Too many women in our coun­try are still hope­less and help­less for any­one to stop try­ing.

“I know that with Kala­gadi Man­ganese I have helped to build a R7 bil­lion busi­ness from noth­ing and we have cre­ated 3 000 jobs in the North­ern Cape, where there was noth­ing, not even hope.

“We have proved that women can achieve if they are given the op­por­tu­nity by putting them into the most se­nior po­si­tions, and we have watched them suc­ceed.”

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