Pro­files in lead­er­ship

Public Sector Manager - - CONTENTS -

CEO of the Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion Sello Hatang on ex­tend­ing Madiba’s legacy

Sello Hatang’s name has be­come syn­ony­mous with the Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion. When he was made CEO in 2013, at the age of 37, his ap­point­ment came as no sur­prise. He is bright, ed­u­cated and a vi­sion­ary, all the qual­i­ties needed to ex­tend the legacy and vi­sion of one of the most fa­mous and re­spected states­men in the world. It’s a job that Hatang holds dear and con­sid­ers him­self lucky to have.

He suc­ceeded for­mer CEO Ach­mat Dan­gor, who joined the or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2007.

When for­mer Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela died in De­cem­ber 2013, it spelt the be­gin­ning of a big­ger task for the new CEO. He had to en­sure that the cen­tre out­lived its pa­tron and po­si­tion its role be­yond Madiba.

The job of run­ning the foun­da­tion was prob­a­bly eas­ier dur­ing Dan­gor’s ten­ure be­cause he had Man­dela by his side, al­though Dan­gor had to deal with the pres­sure of peo­ple want­ing to reach out to Man­dela.

Ris­ing to the chal­lenge

“When Madiba passed, I had to rise to a new chal­lenge. I had to imag­ine an or­gan­i­sa­tion that out­lives its founder. It’s a dif­fi­cult task; you have to imag­ine an in­sti­tu­tion that can out­grow it­self and re­main rel­e­vant to cur­rent re­al­i­ties while keep­ing the legacy of its founder alive,” said Hatang.

July is usu­ally the busiest pe­riod for Hatang and his team.This is be­cause July is cel­e­brated as Nel­son Man­dela Month in South Africa and glob­ally 18 July is known as Nel­son Man­dela Day.

When PSM went to in­ter­view Hatang, he was hur­ry­ing from one meet­ing to the next. He also had an in­ter­na­tional flight later that day. In his usual calm way, he popped in to sin­cerely apol­o­gise for keep­ing us wait­ing, say­ing that he would be with us in 15 min­utes.The 15-minute wait turned into 30 min­utes but we hardly felt it be­cause there was so much to learn and see at the Nel­son Man­dela Cen­tre of Mem­ory.

The fa­cil­ity houses al­most ev­ery his­tor­i­cal record as­so­ci­ated with Man­dela, from the let­ters he wrote as a pris­oner on Robben Is­land to the hand­writ­ten notes he drafted dur­ing his speeches and other en­gage­ments while Pres­i­dent of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Even Madiba’s of­fice, which he used af­ter his pres­i­den­tial years, has been left un­touched. His chair, ta­ble and of­fice dé­cor are the same as he left them dur­ing his last day at work, ac­cord­ing to staff at the cen­tre.

So what is a typ­i­cal day at the foun­da­tion?

“Some­times it can be a very calm day. Some­times it gets very hec­tic. On a typ­i­cal day, it can range from meet­ing with some­one who needs our help or wants us to in­ter­vene in some dif­fi­cult is­sue to meet­ing with a donor. I try to visit a project once a month, which means driv­ing to some far-flung place to see how we can as­sist,” said Hatang.

Help­ing the vul­ner­a­ble

Since join­ing the foun­da­tion five years ago, Hatang has taken part in a num­ber of projects and says help­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple deal with their dif­fi­cult is­sues as well as do­ing char­ity work to raise funds for the poor are what con­nects him to his work.

He is adamant that peo­ple should have a good un­der­stand­ing of what it is they wish to achieve.“When your mo­ti­va­tion is clear, it will carry you when your legs no longer can,” he says.

Hatang was born in a rel­a­tively un­known town­ship named Khuma in the North West. He was the first in his fam­ily to qual­ify and study at a univer­sity and is the fifth of six chil­dren. Raised by a sin­gle mother who was a do­mes­tic worker, suc­ceed­ing in life was a must for the young Hatang.

Pre­vi­ously he was the head of in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions and spokesper­son for the South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion. He par­tic­i­pated in the post-1994 trans­for­ma­tion of the Na­tional Archives, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing

archival sup­port for the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion, and is a for­mer Di­rec­tor of the South African His­tory Ar­chive at Wits Univer­sity. Hatang also serves on the boards of the Open Democ­racy Ad­vice Cen­tre and Coun­cil for the Ad­vance­ment of the South African Con­sti­tu­tion.

He was a mem­ber of the ed­i­to­rial team for Nel­son Man­dela’s book Con­ver­sa­tions with My­self and co-ed­i­tor of Nel­son Man­dela by Him­self: The Autho­rised Book of Quo­ta­tions.

But it was his time as spokesper­son for the Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion that in­tro­duced him to the wider pub­lic.

Step­ping up

So did he feel he was ready to step into the shoes of Dan­gor, who had led the foun­da­tion since 2007?

“I had the ab­so­lute priv­i­lege of work­ing un­der Dan­gor. From day one of me ar­riv­ing, he al­ready had his suc­ces­sion in mind. He in­tro­duced me to peo­ple that I needed to know. He en­sured that he pulled me into crit­i­cal meet­ings that dis­cussed things that I needed to know. At the time, I didn’t re­alise what he was do­ing. In a way, you could say he saw some­thing in me that I didn’t see.

“So when you ask me if I was ready for the chal­lenge, I can give you an em­phatic ‘yes’.The only thing is I didn’t know what the chal­lenge was.”

Hatang is known for keep­ing his pri­vate life pri­vate, but dur­ing this in­ter­view, he spoke fondly of his wife and three chil­dren.

“They are my life. They are the rea­son I wake ev­ery day to do the work I do. I have a very lovely fam­ily.”

He also spoke af­fec­tion­ately about his mother. He re­mem­bers the day he called her from a pay phone as a stu­dent to ask for more money for books. Al­though she earned very lit­tle as a do­mes­tic worker and had other chil­dren to care for, she promised to do what she could. De­spite im­mense fi­nan­cial chal­lenges and the heart­break of los­ing two of her four chil­dren, Hatang said she has al­ways been “my pil­lar”.

Hatang finds in­spi­ra­tion in moun­tain climb­ing. He has climbed Mount Kil­i­man­jaro, the high­est moun­tain in Africa, sev­eral times and is go­ing back for more.

“Ev­ery time I climb a moun­tain, I feel a sense of ac­com­plish­ment. Ev­ery time I do it, I re­mind my­self why I am do­ing it. If I don’t climb a moun­tain, I walk and that helps me to re­lax.”

Build­ing the coun­try of our dreams

As the world cel­e­brates Madiba’s life, the 42-year-old has one wish: “I would like to see a Nel­son Man­dela in each and ev­ery one of us. Madiba did a lot of things in a short pe­riod of time. He was robbed of al­most 30 years of his life; yet when he came out of prison, he be­gan build­ing the coun­try of his dreams.

“The ques­tion all of us should ask our­selves as in­di­vid­u­als is: What am I do­ing to build the coun­try of my dreams?”

Hatang said the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s mes­sages dur­ing Man­dela Month will fo­cus on build­ing a val­ues-based so­ci­ety.

“One of the strug­gles that we cur­rently have is that we are mov­ing away from val­ues. We will be try­ing to inculcate a cul­ture of val­ues in our so­ci­ety be­cause above all Madiba was a prin­ci­pled man who dreamt of a prin­ci­pled coun­try,” he added.

The Nel­son Man­dela Cen­tre of Mem­ory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.