Who do you look up to in life? Is it a celebrity, famous athlete, top politician, a spiritual leader, entrepreneur? Or is it someone in your family like your parent, sibling, or leader in your community? A role model is an individual whose behavior, achievements, or example is or can be used as a source of inspiration by others, particularly by the younger generation. There are many South African role models in each and every sector of the economy that we hold in high esteem and would like to be like them.
Even though there are several role models in South Africa who are worth of recognition, we can only explore a few of them in this article. As such, if you are looking for some form of motivation, this article is meant for you, so read on!
South African female role models
1. Wendy Luhabe
Wendy Luhabe is a renowned author and social businessperson who had spent a great deal of her life working to inspire formerly deprived persons, especially women. Wendy stepped into the world of social entrepreneurship in 1991 when she founded a consultancy firm known as Bridging the Gap. This company was aimed at assisting needy people in the business environment. Later on, in 1994, she pioneered the establishment of Women Investment Portfolio Holdings, a women investment group that allowed thousands of women to invest for the first time in their lives. This company did well as it became the first female-owned corporation to be listed on the JSE. From September 2006 to 2012, Wendy served as the Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg. Other responsibilities and positions held include being the founding Chair of the International Marketing Council of South Africa, Board Member of global business school IMD and the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, as well as founder and chairperson of Women Private Equity Fund. She has four Honorary Doctorates for her work with Women and in 2014, she was awarded the Lieutenant of the Victorian Order (LVO) by the British Royal Family.
2. Gill Marcus
Second on our list of South African role models is none other than Gill Marcus, the first women to work as the ninth governor of the Reserve Bank. Gill was born in Johannesburg at a time when apartheid engulfed South Africa. Both her parents were anti-apartheid activists; hence, she grew up knowing the values of democracy and political dedication.
Because her parents were anti-apartheid activists, Marcus and her siblings went to exile in London in 1969, which disrupted her university studies. However, she still managed to complete her Bachelor of Commerce degree via Unisa while running the family sandwich bar in London. At the same time. In 1994, she moved around the country accompanying the late Nelson Mandela and in the same year, she was chosen as a member of parliament. In 1996, Gill Marcus became the deputy minister of finance and later the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank in 1999. Ten years later, Marcus had become the first female governor of the South African Reserve Bank. Her story shows that with hard work, one can achieve anything they want.
3. Nicky Newton-Kingill marcus sandwich bar
Third on our list is Nicky Newton-King, a successful businesswoman in South Africa. This is because she became the first woman to manage the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), one of the biggest money markets in Africa that have existed for 124 years. Newton worked as the deputy CEO of JSE for nine years, which paved a way for the top spot. Nicky Newton is a very educated woman who holds three law degrees obtained from internationally recognized universities. Prior to working at JSE, Nicky was a managing partner in South Africa’s largest law firm, Webber Wentzel Biwens, where she advised her clients with information regarding securities and financial services. It is in 1996 that she joined JSE to help sort out the trading scandal experienced during the almost-bankrupt exchange. In her time at JSE, Nicky Newton-King has developed several laws including her great contribution to the Insider Trading Act that aims at compensating individuals affected by insider trading.
4. Nonkuleleko Nyembezi-Heita
Nonkuleleko Nyembezi-Heita is one of the black South African models that many can look up to. In 2011, Nonkuleleko was named Forbes 97 most powerful woman in the world. She worked as the Chief Executive Office of a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal in South Africa, one of the largest steelmakers, possessed by the Mittal family of India from 2008 to 2014. Since 2014, she has been working as the CEO of Ichor Coal NV.
While in high school, Nyembezi-Heita was a bright student, and she performed well winning a prestigious scholarship from Anglo-American that aided her to study for a BSc. in Electrical Engineering at the Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK. After her degree, she did her masters at the California Institute of Technology where she graduated as a valedictorian. After her graduation, Nonkuleleko started working at IBM in the Unites States and in South Africa. It is here that she was trained to be a leader as she was the head of the Windhoek branch until 1998 when she was elected to be the CEO of Alliance Capital Management. Later on, she transferred to Vodacom as the head of the Mergers and Acquisition department.
5. Tumi Morake
Fifth on this list of South African models is the first lady of comedy in our country, Tumi Morake. She is a force to reckon with as she managed to create a name for herself in a male-dominated industry. Tumi Morake is bold and sassy, which makes it hard to be ignored. She remains the first woman to ever host Comedy Central Presents on African Soil. Not only is Tumi famous in South Africa, but she has also wow audiences in Ghana, Botswana, Wimbledon, and Zimbabwe. Owing to the success of her debut, one woman show; Herstory in 2011, Tumi Morake travelled to Scotland in 2013 for another one-woman show at Edinburgh Festival.
According to Tumi Morake biography, she has received much recognition in her line of work which has made her the face of major campaigns with Vodacom and Kelloggs. This also includes hosting top events such as the South African Film and Television Awards in 2013 and 2014 as well as SAMA Awards in 2012 and 2013. Most importantly, Tumi has received numerous nominations and was even voted as the You Spectacular Favorite Comedian 2016.
6. Graca Machel
We have listed Graca Machel as one of the South African role models because this woman is unique in her own way. Graca was lucky enough to be the first Lady twice in separate occasions with top African presidents. When her first husband Samora Machel passed away in a tragic air accident, she became Mozambique’s Jackie Kennedy due to her easy, cosmopolitan self-confident and natural aura.
The reason we see her as a role model to many girls in South Africa is that she is not successful because of the powerful men she was with but due to her own weighty qualifications. Machel holds a law degree and is a champion of several global accomplishments in women’s rights as well as humanitarian issues. Because of her achievements, Machel was offered an opportunity to vie for the post of Secretary General of the UN which she turned down gently. Moreover, during her time as the first lady of Mozambique, she hugely contributed to being a moderating influence over Samora Machel’s firebrand Marxist tendencies.
7. Basetsana Kumalo
Basetsana, formally going by Basetsana Makgalemele, is one of the black South African models as she has always been a leader all her life. While in high school, she was the head girl, and she won the title of Miss Soweto and Miss Black South Africa in 1990 at only 16 years old. She became Miss South Africa in 1994.
In 1995, Basetsana owned 50% of the Tsewelopele Production, a firm producing Top Billing. After the company merged with Union Alliance Media, it was listed on the JSE, making Basetsana the youngest black woman director to be associated with a lucrative company in the country. From that time, her company has conducted several prominent TV shows such as Afrikaans magazine programme Pasella which is a youth-oriented show known as Ses’kona. Ms. Kumalo was one time chosen by the first lady Graca Machel in 2007 to be among the five personalities who volunteered to take a public HIV test, which made her a source of inspiration to many. Other than that, Basetsana is a charitable individual and has dedicated her time to raising money for the Baragwanath Children’s Hospital. Ms. Khumalo also initiated the Agang Sechana project together with other professional women in her home society.
Other SA role models
8. Kagiso Rabada
Born in 1995, Kagiso Rabada is among the black South African models when it comes to cricket sports. At only a young age, he was widely recognized as an icon and was named Wisden’s Golden Boy of 2018. This is a prestigious award bestowed upon the best cricket players in the world who are 23 years old and below. Since his debut in 2015, Kagiso Rabada has had impressive statistics with 151 wickets in 32 tests. He is on his path to being South Africa’s greatest athlete, and he is definitely a source of inspiration to all young black cricketers in the country.
9. Laduma Ngxokolos
Laduma Ngxokolos is a prominent award-winning designer and the originator of Maxhosa by Laduma brand. According to him, his fashion label was inspired by the rich heritage of the Xhosa culture. The reason we consider him as one of the South African role models is that he founded a brand that appeals to the black people to remind them of their roots so that they can embrace their heritage and not the western cultures. To motivate others like him, Laduma hosts nationwide empowering workshops like the Laduma Design Business talks with Chivas Regel. The workshops are aimed at equipping designers and upcoming entrepreneurs with the knowledge they need to help them start and develop their businesses.
10. Elon Reeve Musk
Next on our list of role models in South Africa is none other than the successful businessman Elon Reeve Musk. He is the founder, Chief Executive Office and top designer of many giant companies including SpaceX. In addition, he is the co-founder, CEO and Product architect at Tesla Inc., co-founder at PayPal and Co-founder & CEO of Neuralink. Elon Reeve Musk net worth in November 2018 is estimated at $22.3 billion and is number 54 on Forbes list of richest people in the world. We can say Elon is the "Bill Gates" of Africa.
11. Elana Meyer
Elana Meyer, a renowned Olympian, is another South Africa model on our list. With several Olympic medals and multiple world records, Elana could have retired completely from the sports world. Nevertheless, she decided to create Endurocad High Performance Camp alongside Janet Welham to help foster the development of long distance participants across South Africa. Elana is a breath of fresh air and motivation to the upcoming athletes in the country.
According to this list of South African role models, it is evident that role models exist in almost all spheres of life. Moreover, it does not have to be a popular person, just someone who is making a difference in the world and from whom people can learn. So, who among these is your role model? Make a mark in your specialty and you may become someone's role model. Hope the piece above has encouraged you to strive for what you believe in.
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