Tendai “Beast’ Mtawarira is well into his MBA studies at Henley Business School Africa. Supplied image.
Tendai “Beast’ Mtawarira is well into his MBA studies at Henley Business School Africa. Supplied image.

Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira swops the locker room for the boardroom

By Kevin Ritchie Time of article published Sep 11, 2021

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Johannesburg - Tendai “Beast’ Mtawarira is well into his MBA studies at Henley Business School Africa as he transitions from being an icon on the sports field to hopefully attaining the same status in the boardroom.

He hung up his boots after South Africa’s third rugby World Cup win in Japan in 2019 and since then he’s continued as an executive director at Fidelity Security, founded Umlindi Security as inaugural CEO, taken up a directorship at the Sharks and become an independent consultant to MVM Holdings, the majority shareholder of the Durban rugby franchise.

Last year he did all of this plus successfully complete his PGDip in Management Practice at Henley Africa during lockdown.

“It was amazing,” he said of the PGDip, “it gave me a good foundation to get into the MBA. Being back in class after a very long time, my brain started to awake.”

What was particularly useful was that the lessons he learnt could be applied in both his work and family life. Doing it virtually wasn’t a problem either.

“It was quite interactive. The lectures were quite long; eight nine-hour zoom calls, but I was able to do them all from the comfort of my house. I was able to engage with the lecturers and with my class mates.”

Critically, Mtawarira was also able to manage a balance between all his interests.

“It was something I worked on, I always prioritised my different spheres: as a family man, as a father, a husband, a businessman and a student. I would try to put on different hats and manage my time wisely. I was able to move forward smoothly.”

He’s excited about all his new roles; Umlindi Security is a BEE subsidiary operation for Fidelity which it supports with infrastructure and manpower.

“I’m trying to create something for the future,” Mtawarira said. He’s hoping the MBA will provide him with both the fundamentals of how to successfully run businesses, as well as introduce him to a new network of business leaders.

The PGDip programme was the best introduction to the MBA, not just because of the academic rigour it introduced but also because of its reflective nature.

“Before you can conquer the world, you learn that you have to conquer yourself, learn your strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

At this stage his MBA, like the PGDip before it, is being conducted virtually because of the current lockdown levels, but he’s looking forward to being able at some stage during his two-and-a-half-year journey to come to the Johannesburg campus and meet his lecturers and classmates face-to-face.

Mtawarira is very conscious of the responsibility that comes with receiving Henley Africa’s first ever sports scholarship which was established to help sports people successfully transition from the changing room to the boardroom.

“I’m very grateful. It’s empowerment in a big way, because I’m able to pursue something as great as an MBA. Your life in sport is limited, you need to learn the fundamentals as soon as you can and be able to interact with business leaders to be able to create opportunities.

“My role now is to be a mentor to young sports people, to help fill the void that exists and help them understand the need to get the right advice and surround themselves with the right people.”

But it’s not just sport stars that Mtawarira wants to help, his foundation that bears his name was set up after he retired from playing rugby to use sport to encourage youth to become leaders to rebuild their communities and give back to the continent to help unlock its – and their – full potential.

Henley dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley said Mtawarira’s successful academic journey and his seamless transition from the sports world to the corporate world was testimony to the importance of the scholarship he had been awarded.

“Most sports stars struggle with the transition from ‘retirement’ from what they love at an age when most of their peers are only starting to see their corporate careers take off.

“Tendai is far more astute, he has been in the corporate space for the last decade and sits on the board of a listed company. The opportunity to study at Henley just allows us to help him take this career in jacket and tie to the same heights he enjoyed wearing the green and gold.”

The scholarship, which was launched in 2019, brought the number of Henley Africa’s scholarships that are awarded each year to 31 – the most of any business school in Africa. And they are all funded by Henley itself. It is part of the continuous evolution of a business school rooted in its community.

“We were the first and only business school in Africa, to design an MBA specifically for the music and creative industries. We were privileged to endow a scholarship for this, honouring the late Johnny Clegg, when we launched this in 2014,” said Foster-Pedley.

“We also have a range of other scholarships honouring quintessential South African heroes like Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for community leaders and the up and coming directors of NGOs to study further to allow them to do what they do even better.”

The purpose of the scholarships was both to recognise the service and sacrifice of leading South Africans and Africans, but also to imbue classes with unprecedented diversity, enriching the learning process for everyone involved, from faculty to students.

“Where else can you sit in a class studying towards your MBA with classmates of high achieving business people with the added mix of acclaimed investigative journalists, world class comedians, stadium-filling musicians and sporting icons that you might only ever have seen on TV?” he asked.

Henley Business School Africa is a leading global business school with campuses in Europe, Asia and Africa. It holds elite triple international accreditation; has the number one business school alumni network in the world for potential to network (Economist 2017); and is the number one African-accredited and -campused business school in the world for executive education (FT 2018, 2020), as well as the number one MBA business school in South Africa as rated by corporate SA (PMR 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021).

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