Wednesday, 28 September 2016

My Two Big Brothers

Eric & Ruel

The year was 1980,Bob Mugabe had just become the new African hero.Zimbawe was now independent of British rule .Bob Marley had just done a memorable Concert at the Independence Celebrations with ‘Stir it Up’ and ‘No Women No Cry’. The mood in the region was festive and we in South Africa thought that our turn is coming in a couple of weeks. Little did we know that it will take another 14 years.
Then there was Eric and Reuel .These two brothers were the shining light in our young lives that they were the proof that Freedom is close.
Mind you this was my first Matric year under the old Joint Matriculation System (JMB) were Matric was two years. At that age you are part of ‘die Manne’.This is that high school age were you think you are it.You know everything and your Uncle can cross the Vaal Dam with one leap without falling in the river. As part of ‘die Manne’ your mates are everything and you just in the middle of adolescence and fantasy is in everything. Girls, Women occupy every second minute of your life. Your view of the world has endless possibilities. The only thing cramping your style is this Matric that you have to finish.
Part of my portfolio at the school was Entertainment and I had the misfortune of taking my school to the Colosseum Theatre to watch the ‘Temptations or ‘Isaac Hayes’ in the school bus. Patrick Legege our bus driver was my main man as a self-appointed bus conductor cum coordinator cum spokesperson .I got to sit with him in the front of the bus and discuss adult things. The other day I bumped into my old class-mate Malcom Goldberg who reminded me of these trips to down town Joburg, Commissioner Street.
It was during one of these trips that I saw Eric Mafuna for the first time.
He was coming out of the then Carlton Hotel wearing a navy blue double press jacket with grey pants, white shirt and a smashing tie. Florsheim shoes with no laces and soft leather business case. I still dress like this till today!…………He was in conversation with some European business people and it was clear that he was in charge of the conversation and just concluding a few points before his next appointment.
Eric had an office at the Carlton Centre, then the centre of the World.
Now, for a Black Brother in Apartheid South Africa to have an office on the 48th floor of the 50 floor Carlton was Big-S—t.It means that this brother overlooks the rest of Johannesburg from his work desk every day. Even many white people do not have that luxury. This fact alone was very empowering to a young black mind. It said that despite everything even I can do it too.
This was so impactful and Vintage Eric. I was tempted to rush to him to say. My brother please wait for me I will be with you in six years. In my heart I said it loud but I think I must have said it to ‘die Manne’ as we watched him disappear in the distance. They laughed at me and said ‘Hot Shot’, one of my nick names then, ‘you are dreaming’.
Well I never stormed Eric that afternoon and little did I know I will be working on a project with him in 1986.Right on schedule.
Reuel Khoza on the other hand had an even closer impact on my life that by 1984 .He even showed me how to structure a proposal. As part of the Soweto Chamber of Commerce & Industries I was mandated to work with Ruel in our proposal for funding from National Cash Registers (NCR) in preparation for the Soweto Convention On Economic Development. The conference was a major success and in the two days I met people who would constantly be in my life and form part of the making of Mac Donald Ntau Temane (Cham, Goods, Spencer, Hot Shot, and Duck etc.).
Chris Ball (Ceo Barclays Bank),who I later worked for, Bob Tucker(Ceo Perm Building Society)Don Mkwanazi(President Black Management Forum)Don Ncube (Senior Exec Anglo American)Leon Louw(Free Market Foundation)Jill Nattress(senior Economist) Simon Brant (Head of the Development Bank).
Reuel Khoza, Letepe Maisela and a young Gary Morolo then run Coordinated Marketing and what a fantastic memorable Conference they put on. The resolutions of that conference and what is to be done with Economic Developments both in Urban and Rural areas is still relevant today. The current ANC government need not research anything but implement that document done in 1984.
Later Reuel served on the board of Standard Bank Asset Management (STANIC) and was a great source of inspiration to me and those of us who were coming up, Lot Ndlovu among others. His presence said ‘It can be done’. The late Vusi Ngubeni and I spend hour perusing this document and came to the conclusion that nothing needs to be altered on this document.
One of the most enjoyable assignment was to make a ring for the Kloza’s and seeing sis’ Mumsy smile brought so much joy to me.There is nothing like a smile that comes from a wife when a ring comes from her husband to her. The transfer of emotions is palpable. It is when these kinds of smiles come out that has kept me in the business for over 27 YEARS. You see, you can never tell what keeps you doing certain things on and on for years. I now know it is these small things such as a ‘Smile’ more that the money.
Anyway, Big Brother and I had a small stint through this journey of life with a Vodacom transection and were I sold all my shares to Vodac to move out of the telephone business. And when Qwede Mantashe of the ANC attacked him for calling out Corruption and Maladministration in government. I was offended and felt like ashamed that I did not stand up for my big brother against such bullies.
I was very proud to attend a meeting where my two brothers got closer. This was following the Reebok and Nike deal entry into South Africa. Both my brothers were on either side. I think it was Sam Noinyane who said to both of them that when as Blacks we enter these industries we must be a team. Compete on the field of play in the market but go out to dinner afterwards. You see, it has been my feeling that the unnecessary rivalry that was being pushed by some among us was unhealthy. Believe me, there were those who would say who is better .Reuel Khoza or Eric Mafuna?
This was a similar rival between Jomo Sono and Ace Ntsoelengwe.As to who is better?
We have so few Heroes In Africa, the last thing we need, is to have those that live in the same time period, to be at each other’s thoughts or work against each other.
So to my two Big Brothers. Thank you for what you have done for Me!

{This piece is dedicated to Reuel Khoza and Eric Mafuna my two Big Brothers. I have learned so much from watching you do things and if I can come half as close as your achievements. I will consider myself Lucky.}


  1. The Carlton University of Business and 🎉 fun

  2. Its amazing how situations that may seem arbitrary to many can be of great inspiration and significance to others. The fact that your idol became your business partner with six years is astonishing not to mention that the relationship has remained and flourished over the years. Being a millennial I often feel that in this technological age we live in, we are connected more than ever before but on such a superficial level that in realty we are not truly connected at all. What would you say are the reasons or factors that the relationships you formed at such a young age have with stood the test of time?

    1. I think under Apartheid.The recognition that together we win was in our DNA....As Blacks we stuck together because the odds where Legislatively against us....It is such a pity we lost that since 94 where it is every man 👨 for himself!

  3. The idea of organisation has really become weak point not a point of strength to the black race way of thinking; misunderstanding that the power of unity will someday liberate us from poverty. "Lets'oele le beta poho" or "Tlou haee hloloe ke moroalo" these are just some the many Sesotho proverbs that emphasise unity. We can only do much together.

    And again, every time I read your stories, I always see myself in them. Like now what I am experiencing, how my journey unfolds, how I interpret what unfolds, and what I tell myself as the journey unfolds. I believe one day will be my day, Thank you.

    1. Today I spoke to Mr.Khoza. One of my heroes in the story. ...His kind reception never disappoints. We had a brief discussion and he gave me Gold. ..I thank God for his life!