Manifest talent actualised and actualising

By Dr Reuel J. Khoza (Chairman of Nedbank Group Limited, Aka Capital) to “Nedbank Group Technology Leaders”  I  30 July 2017


I suppose we are all familiar with the psychoanalytic concept of sublimation. What parents cannot achieve themselves they tend to want to realise by getting their children to accomplish. There is an African expression to the effect: “ukuzala ukuzelula (Zulu) / ku veleka I ku tiolola (Xitshonga”) meaning ‘to procreate is to extend oneself.’ It is thus apposite to start by paying homage to Daddy Lazarus Mabuza (Mabuza Senior): Shabalala, Mshengu, Donga laMavuyo for bringing Jabu about and grooming him for the nation.

Alongside every successful man there typically is a woman. In this regard our deep sense of gratitude is extended to Siphiwe, Jabu’s complementary half who views him as not only kind but utterly committed, allowing no half measures, no unfinished businesses.

The children also deserve a great salute for having behaved such that Daddy could go out and earn the bacon without much ado. They remember him fondly as a parent had a Pygmalion effect on them i.e. incrementally raising the bar every time they notched up an achievement.

oGogo Koya noGogo Namdawe, having bequeathed to you, Jabu, a wholesome value system, smile with a sense of satisfaction, from yonder.


For a crisp but comprehensive profile of Jabu’s achievements, I refer you to his Doctoral Citation. Mine is to congratulate him.

In the 1980s we used to quote this witty anonymous observation: “There are those who make things happen. Those who watch things happen; and those who wonder what happened.”

For those with a sense of destiny, life is a purposeful, persistent, progressive process of learning, lessons and practical, goal-directed applications and implementations. At the other end of the spectrum are the ambitionless, aspirationless who tend to be human flotsam or jetsam in a sea of circumstances. Those at whose demise JZM Sambo from Mpumalanga would give the summation: “Bazalwa, Bahlupha, Bafa.” A great number of us find ourselves in-between.

Well, why don’t we start right from the beginning?

  1. What is in a Name?

In our culture we do not give names for the sake of naming. Names have meaning and significance, e.g. Nomvula: She who brought the rain or she who was born on a rainy day; Sello: He who was born doing bereavement or he who brought the kind of pain that causes crying; Thato: She who brings or enhances love; Pandelani: Has to do with causing adversaries to show a clean pair of heels; even Reuel: Hebrew for behold God or appreciate what God has done. He has given us a son (biblical, this was the name of the father-in-law of Moses). In African culture names depict prevailing circumstances or significant incidences or they may also be for purposes of remembering past generations. I submit that Jabulani was so named because his arrival was perceived to be the harbinger of joy. Clearly, this was to be. So names depict:

  • Expectation
  • Hope
  • Chip of the old block / an older block
  • Early signs: hope enhanced / dashed

2. University of the North

  • Strikes, frustration.
  • Parental disappointment?
  • Detour to learning by doing.

3. University of Hard-Knocks

  • Sojourn at Research Company A C Nielsen.
  • Jabu – Reuel contact, 1980s: A bit of curiosity, active membership of the Chamber of Commerce movement.
  • Steering in / traversing in hard / tough terrain – the Taxi Industry.
  • FABCOS – association with Ashly Mabogwane and Ma-Khuzwayo of Call-Me-Woman fame.

4. Defining Moment

Entering Corporate SA at SAB, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Windsor Shuenyane, Graham McKay.

5. Refining Process

Practical delivery as Manager, Director, CEO, Chairman and Business Leader of remarkable stature.

Heeding brevity as the soul of wit, what can we say about this accomplished son of the soil from the Land of the Rising Son – Mpumalanga? His character, his personality and personhood. Elegant simplicity, integrity, frankness, commitment, diligence and goal-directedness are qualities that gave character to Jabulani Mabuza and to things produced by him.

A hectare of dedicated, diligent performance is worth an entire world of theory and wishful thinking. With greater wisdom and alacrity Ralph Waldo Emerson (an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century) advised: “Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work (diligence) one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his own boss. As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

Ambition and diligence achieve results. Proviso: principles-based knowledge and sense of purpose.

“It is a funny thing about life – if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it.”

Somerset Maugham (a British playwright, novelist and short story writer)

B C Forbes (a Scottish-born American financial journalist and author who founded Forbes magazine) advises:

“Think not of yourself as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiselling and scraping and polishing.”

Jabu certainly thought of himself as his own sculptor not just architect: Lots of hammering during his days as field researcher, Taxi Owner – from Driver to Head of Association. A great deal of chiselling as founder and chief exponent of FABCOS. Massive scraping as junior to senior manager at SAB. Meticulous polishing as a lead entrepreneur in founding Tsogo Sun and trail-blazing in the gaming industry. More fastidious polishing as Director, CEO and Chairman of various corporations. That is more deserving of a Doctor of Commerce than the theoretical pursuits of an academic researcher who ostensibly discovers some theoretical outcome, well understood by a few egg heads, but benefitting even fewer.

The radiance of Jabu’s beneficial impact is particularly manifest in turning Telkom around and his delivery through organised business, in the form of BUSA Chairmanship when South Africa needed him most. His leadership in coordinating the efforts of such corporate leaders as Mike Brown, Sim Shabalala and Ministers Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, in a bid to save South Africa from junk status and sequent recession, is unparalleled. In all these Jabu displayed much courage, which is viewed by such great thinkers as Winston Churchill as the first of leadership qualities, in that it is the quality that guarantees all of the others. What is more, Jabu manages to strike a commendable balance in utilising it as what it takes to stand and speak, but also as what it takes to sit down and listen, appropriately.

Jabu, you have discharged your duty and left the rest to the God’s of Africa.

Beyond business leadership, Jabu has returned, in part, to farming. In this regard legend has it that he treats his farm employees with kindness and modesty. In this regard we can do no better than echo William J H Boeticker (an American religious leader and influential public speaker), who would proclaim:

“Your greatness is measured by your kindness,
Your education and intellect by your modesty.
Your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices
Your real calibre is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.”

Nicholas Murray Buttler (an American philosopher, diplomat, and educator. Butler was president of Columbia University, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.) opines:

“The five evidences of education are as follows:

  1. Correctness and precision of speech
  2. Refined and gentle manners
  3. The power and habit of reflection
  4. The power of growth
  5. The possession of efficiency – the power to do.”

We, who have worked with and know Jabu, will concur that Jabu comes off with flying colours against these criteria: Correct and precise speech; exemplary refined manners; reflecting on critical national issues; continually reinventing himself; and a resilient sense of efficacy and diligent delivery.

Congratulations on educational achievement and recognition cannot be complete without some reference to Socrates and Plato. In this regard allow me a detour to this philosophical resource by citing Sir Alfred Zimmern (a British classical scholar and historian, and political scientist writing on international relations) who proclaims:

“All true educators since the time of Socrates and Plato have agreed that the primary object of education is the attainment of inner harmony, or to put it into more up-to-date language, the integration of personality. Without an integration of personality, learning is no more than a collection of scraps, and the accumulation of knowledge becomes a danger to mental health.”

Well, Jabu, all you have achieved to date flows from your inner harmony, your integration of personality. Your balanced courage, your wholesome ambition, your restless but focused entrepreneurship, your diligent application to everything you choose to pursue, your refined and gently manners, your habitual reflection, your propensity to continually reinvent yourself, your selfless dedication to serve the greater good, underscored by a principled, purpose–driven life; all these bespeak inner harmony – an integrated personality.

In light of all these, as you come home to our community and to the nation at large, with a Doctor of Commerce honoris causa, from such a reputable institution of higher learning as University of the Witwatersrand, we are delightfully duty-bound to endorse it with acclamation. We crown it with our own applause by conferring on you the degree QBE – Qualification by Experience!! Suma cum laude. From your inspired, inspirational, persistent perspiration in pursuit of excellent achievement we derive overflowing joy. Injabulo yethu iyaphuphuma. Take note though: It behoves one mountain top experience to beget another!! The Doctor of Commerce provides you with but a pause, to catch a breath, reflect and recharge for the discharge of even more national duties:

  • A duty to restore our Nation’s ethical soul, help imbue our leadership with moral authority and provide a wholesome compass.
  • A duty to revitalise our political economy, lift it out of the morass of junk status land recession, and help launch it onto a growth trajectory.
  • A duty to inspire our youth and give them hope!!

Congratulations Jabulani Mabuza!!