When Black Stars Fade

Something About Bra Don Mkhwanazi

NB. This unfinished essay was written around the year 2013 as just a personal reflection on the efficacy of African business leaders and African intellectuals. How have South Africa’s most famous business leaders helped to transform the lives of their communities was just one of the questions I had in mind. The person I am writing about has just recently passed away on 2 July 2016, reportedly while attending a party at one of Durban’s affluent suburbs.

I have just returned from attending my second Black Management Forum meeting. During this particular evening the guest speaker was none other but the audaciously inspirational and pioneering business maverick known as Don Mkhwanazi. This former business troubadour and former president/chairperson of the BMF is no stranger to controversy and one can easily tell why.

He is as opinionated as he is sharp, quick witted and immaculately wise and experienced in all the known spheres of South Africa’s Micro and Macro-Economic endeavour. Some even go as far as calling him one of the founding fathers of Black Economic Empowerment; and this was quite clear from this evening’s presentation. With exceptional clarity of mind and wisdom that can only result from experience, Bra Don as our Programme Director would casually refer to him is a seasoned elder who was one of the economic advisors of the ruling African National Congress during their earlier economic policy development stages – between 1990 until 1995.

Mkhwanazi’s reputation speaks for itself (add qualifications + achievements) but it was tonight’s speech and the manner in which he answered questions afterwards that truly won me over. While it is clear that this is a guy who has seen it all regarding business and leadership in Southern Africa, it is inspiring to actually hear a person in his position high-lighting both the positive and the negative aspects of our country’s economic development trajectory. It was rather refreshing compared to the rather tiresome diatribes that one gets from politicians and business leaders from all sides of the political divides.

Mkhwanazi spoke both like a mentor driven by passion for the mentee but also as someone who has a deep seated interest for the really transformative Black Economic Empowerment. He was ted by the way many black people have used the BBBEE codes for mere personal enrichment and fronting for white owned companies.

Perhaps he is always this relentlessly calculating and charismatic whenever he speaks to young-adults, but for myself, I have to say that everything he articulated was exactly the type of development talk that my comrades and I are always engaged in. We are all striving in our various capacities to elevate our personal and social condition to that of dignified citizens, hoping to realise what has been called an African Renaissance.

One of the main avenues that this is being required is in the field of Leadership. Leadership appears in virtually every subject that any conscious and concerned modern personality may be engaged in. Not only does the question of leadership rear its head everywhere, it has become like the proverbial white elephant in the room in all political discussions.

I am now listening to a rapper called Common, saying “If you play your cards right, everything’s gonna be alright/ I was dealt a band hand but I played the right card.”

Now as the name, suggests, the Black Management Forum is a forum which deals solely with the improvement of Black managements capacity to lead. This is a race which is not for the swift neither is it for the faint hearted …

 

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