Pow­er­ful pro­fes­sion­als put the pos­i­tive in busi­ness

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ASANDA SOKANYILE

AHEAD of Na­tional Women’s Day, we pro­file four women try­ing to bring about pos­i­tive change in their pro­fes­sions and cir­cles of in­flu­ence. around the time when we were taught about Jan van Riebeek and that he dis­cov­ered the Cape. But my grandmother had taught me that we were here long be­fore, so now how can a per­son dis­cover another per­son?”

Khoza has more than two decades in the pub­lic sec­tor.

In 1998, her hus­band died and hav­ing to deal with politics while rais­ing two young kids on her own, she opted to bow out of pub­lic service and join the cor­po­rate world. The 48-year-old mother of two re­turned to politics in 2004 and is now a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and mak­ing head­lines for be­ing a strong, out­spo­ken and hon­ourable woman.

The com­pany is 100% black- and woman-owned and op­er­ates in the Cape Flats.

Bomela has been in the solid waste man­age­ment busi­ness since 1997. But, be­cause she had lit­tle to no ex­pe­ri­ence and the in­dus­try was pre­vi­ously dom­i­nated by “white males” she had to be trained along with other peo­ple and form a joint ven­ture.

“At the time, our com­mu­ni­ties were not reg­u­larly cleaned, and white com­pa­nies did not care much to come into our ar­eas and when the op­por­tu­ni­ties opened up we jumped for them. The re­quire­ments were Stan­dard 6 and a Code 8 driver’s li­cence and I had those,” she said.

She was grouped with eight oth­ers and trained to become en­trepreneurs in waste man­age­ment.

Her hus­band at the time worked as a court trans­la­tor but was not earn­ing much.

“We lived in a small shack in Site B and I worked as a domestic worker in Som­er­set and later got a job as a cashier at a re­tail store,” she said.

Now, Bomela is a proud owner of a waste man­age­ment com­pany with 11 com­pactor trucks and 55 em­ploy­ees.

She also owns a security com­pany which em­ploys 400 men and women. Though she is one of the very few women in both security and waste man­age­ment, Bomela said she feels she has not yet “done enough”. Hav­ing been raised in ex­ile by po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists, 32-year-old Pan­dor ex­pe­ri­enced racism at school and her neigh­bour­hood fol­low­ing her fam­ily’s re­turn in 1990.

Her ex­pe­ri­ence at the time made her ques­tion the “ran­dom­ness of one race be­ing thought to be above another, whilst also strength­en­ing my char­ac­ter”.

Be­ing the great­grand­daugh­ter of the strug­gle hero ZK Matthews, who helped draw up the Free­dom Char­ter, Pan­dor was only 10 “when the 9th of Au­gust was pro­nounced Women’s Day and South Africa had cel­e­brated our first free and fair demo­cratic elec­tions the year prior”.

“I re­mem­ber the day as a con­tin­u­a­tion of a feel­ing of cel­e­bra­tion, of our free­dom, of women. I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber the phrase ‘you strike a woman, you strike a rock’ and feel­ing very em­pow­ered by it.

“At the time, it was also a pos­i­tive feel­ing around the ANC specif­i­cally and the progress the party was mak­ing in the coun­try.”

Now, she works in tech­nol­ogy, where “women are dras­ti­cally un­der-rep­re­sented”.

With her com­pany, Sweep­South, Pan­dor has cre­ated over 3 500 jobs for women with 60% made up of young peo­ple. Grow­ing up with­out a woman men­tor in a male-dom­i­nated busi­ness world, An­ina Mal­herbe said she has en­joyed turn­ing her mis­for­tune into other women’s step­ping stone.

“In the last five years that it dawned on me how much I was en­joy­ing men­tor­ing and grow­ing these young women, I re­alised how grat­i­fy­ing it is to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on a young woman’s ca­reer. I didn’t have that when I was young,” she said.

Mal­herbe has been in the busi­ness of strate­gic lux­ury com­mu­ni­ca­tions for over 10 years and be­lieves she has em­pow­ered her staff to “man­age their ca­reer with tenac­ity and grace, with­out hav­ing to stand back for any man”.

Raised by a house­wife, the youngest of three and the only girl, Mal­herbe grew up a tom­boy. She broke all the fam­ily rules and ex­pec­ta­tions that were set for her as a lit­tle girl. She vowed she would never be a house­wife and set her sights on brand­ing, fash­ion and lux­ury.

She said she hads taken a leaf out of the books of a num­ber of strong women in her life: her late mother who taught her “re­silience and the art of per­fec­tion­ism” and her grandmother “for her grace and good genes.”

She will spend Women’s Day be­ing pam­pered by her hus­band. The rest of Women’s Month, she will try to make an im­pact in the lives of younger women – to give them the sup­port that she didn’t have when she was their age.

An­ina Mal­herbe

Aisha Pan­dor

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