South African businesswomen of the year saluted

8 September 2015

They were paragons of excellence and determination, said Nolitha Fakude in speaking about the winners and finalists of the third annual Businesswomen of the Year Awards.

Fakude, the executive director and executive vice-president of strategy and sustainability at Sasol, was one of the speakers at the awards, which were organised by the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (Bwasa). Sasol, the international integrated energy and chemicals company, was this year’s sponsor of the awards.

The awards were held to recognise the leadership and contribution of South African businesswomen to the economy, country and greater business community, Bwasa said. They were handed out at a ceremony held in Sandton, Johannesburg on 3 September.

Nosipho Siwisa-Damasane, of Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT); Lee Den Hond, of Blue Platinum Events; and Tembela Kulu, Gauteng provincial manager of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), won in the corporate, entrepreneur and government categories, respectively.

Siwisa-Damasane is the first female chief executive officer of RBCT, an operation that is dependent on rail logistics and port marine services. It works closely with Transnet Freight Rail and Transnet National Port Operation. In November 2014, she received the Institute of People Management CEO of the Year award.

Kulu, the Gauteng provincial manager of Prasa, was previously the public affairs manager at Metrorail’s Cape Town branch. She was also the spokeswoman for Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi during her term as minister of public service.

Den Hond founded the events company, Blue Platinum Events, 15 years ago. She is also an inspirational speaker and athlete, and has completed four full Ironman endurance events.

Fakude called on women to actively seek to play a role in developing a new generation of female leaders. Sasol recognised that it was through harnessing diversity that the company could deliver on its strategic objectives and create sustainable value.

Farzanah Mall, the national president of Bwasa, told Business Times that too often women did not take the time to celebrate themselves. “What we sometimes also forget is that success is achieved only as a collective,” she said.

“Celebrating yourself is a healthy habit,” she advised women. “Reflecting on what you’ve achieved is not only a way to fight self-doubt, but to gain clarity around how you have used your time and energy, paving the way for better future decision-making.

“For every step taken, every crisis averted, every smile brought about, every tear you wiped, for every triumph big or small – my fellow women, I salute you and I celebrate you,” said Mall.

Keynote speaker at the event, former Malawian president Dr Joyce Banda shared a personal message of support and inspiration with the three winners. Having overcome many of the challenges facing women in a male-dominated political arena, she noted how women from all spheres of life were being called to step up with courage, compassion and integrity – and drive much needed change across the country and continent.

“The advancement and recognition of women continues to be an integral part of my work, and, as such, the role and efforts of advocacy institutions like BWASA resonate with me immensely. I salute and thank each of you for your passion, purpose and contribution,” she said.

Before entering politics, Banda was the founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation, the National Association of Business Women, Young Women Leaders Network and the Hunger Project.

In 2014, Forbes named President Banda the 40th most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful woman in Africa.

SAinfo reporter