“I was the second born out of eight children. My father was a general worker in construction and my mother was a domestic helper. I really didn’t know what to do about my future - there was no career guidance at school and my parents simply couldn’t advise or help me,” Matabane, who was appointed chief executive of the Black Business Council (BBC) last month, said.
Matabane replaced Mohale Ralebitso, who left the BBC in 2016.
He joined the BBC in December when Danisa Baloyi was suspended as president of the BBC pending an investigation into a R5million donation from the Airports Company South Africa.
That investigation is still ongoing. Matabane, the former chief operations officer and executive director at Sentech, is well-placed to steer the council. He’s a seasoned business executive with more than two decades’ experience in operations and strategy, doing business on the African continent in the telecommunications, power utilities, rail logistics, motor retail, bus rapid transport and mining sectors. While at Sentech, he drove international business and also achieved five consecutive clean audits - a first for the government agency.
“To achieve a clean audit you need to be able to meet the financial targets and achieve 80percent of your strategic objectives or key performance indicators - your compliance to corporate governance and supply chain policies should be excellent,” he says.
Matabane is also a former executive director for operations and transformation policy at Business Unity SA, and worked for the Black Management Forum, the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, City Power and Transnet.
After school, with no means to study, he had a stint as a teacher’s assistant, teaching maths, accounting and economics for a year.
“I used the money I earned from my year of teaching to fund my first semester of cost and management accounting and then got a bursary for my second semester at Setlogelo Technikon (now Tshwane University of Technology) in the former Bophuthatswana - I passed with distinction.”
He later switched his course to Wits Technikon (now the University of Johannesburg), working weekends at Stuttafords in Eastgate Mall as a stock taker and shop assistant while studying.
Matabane remembers his time at the “Harrods of South Africa” fondly. “I was quite heartsore when they closed.” In 1998, he completed his bachelor of technology degree in cost and management accounting at Technikon South Africa (now part of Unisa).
In the next two months, he expects to receive his master’s in business leadership through Unisa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership. It’s been a long, tough slog, but Matabane is proud of his achievements.
“My biggest regret though was on completing matric, I knew that there was no money to study and I had no idea what to do. My parents simply couldn’t afford it. It’s why I always encourage people to study and attain personal development, because I don’t want other people to suffer what I did.”
To give back to his community in Limpopo, he started a Mathomo-Mayo youth club to organise career guidance for youngsters, inviting companies like Sasol to present career options to pupils.
It has helped create opportunities for rural youths, assisting them with their subject choices, bursary and NSFAS applications. That programme is ongoing, but Matabane’s no longer involved.
“I’ve handed that over to other competent people in the community. I’ve always believed in the importance of networking and surrounding myself with formal mentors to guide me,” he explains.
“With the right attitude, I believe anything is possible. At the BBC, I drive transformation to ensure that the majority of our citizens play a meaningful role in the economy by owning, controlling and managing the economy. We’re a confederation of black business organisations - we lobby government to push the transformation agenda and we represent black business in Brics, the IMF and other international organisations.”
His new role entails running the BBC and building on the work of his predecessors. “I also need to ensure that the BBC is strengthened in order for it to play its role of transforming the South African economy and representing the hopes and aspirations of Black Business in SA, the continent and globally.”
He’s enthusiastic about his new role at the BBC and the council seems to have picked an adept manager. “I’m able to work in difficult situations and play the role of a unifier - I come in to resolve conflict. It’s a natural strength for me, and to be cool under pressure.”
It’s about achieving balance. Matabane’s a keen distance runner and is actively involved in his three young daughters’ education. “When I get home at night, I help them with their homework. I run half-marathons, about three times a week. These things are important.
“A friend once told me: you must never become a position because what happens when you’re no longer in it and you’re no longer receiving the important phone calls and the attention. Separate friends and acquaintances - real friends will always be there. I try to live by that.”
- BUSINESS REPORT