'A true patriot': Former Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza, 63, has died of Covid-19 complications

16 June 2021 - 22:06 By TimesLIVE
Former Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza died of complications related to Covid-19 on Wednesday.
Former Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza died of complications related to Covid-19 on Wednesday.
Image: FINANCIAL MAIL

Former Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza died on Wednesday as a result of Covid-19 complications, his family confirmed.

He is survived by his wife and three children.

The family said in a statement: “He was a gallant fighter for the political and economic freedom of South Africans. On this day [June 16] in 1976, he had joined thousands of black youths who demanded the end of Bantu education. He was later expelled for participating in that seminal protest that exposed the brutality of the apartheid regime and propelled the struggle for liberation.

“At 63, Jabu lived his life so beautifully and committed to the transformation of SA’s economy. He was a pillar of strength for his family, a dedicated servant of the country, an activist in empowering black entrepreneurs and committed to working for the transformation of corporate SA.

“The family is grateful for the support and prayers during this time. We request the public afford the family privacy and space as we process the passing of our father.”

Business Unity SA (Busa) president Sipho Pityana said of his predecessor: “The passing of Jabu is tragic, devastating and a great loss for business and our country. Jabu played a leading and pivotal role as a business leader with foresight and courage. He was a phenomenal human being and a gentle soul.”

Mabuza was most recently chairperson of Sun International Ltd and lead independent non-executive director on the board of the MultiChoice Group. He was previously the group CEO of Tsogo Sun Holdings Ltd, and served on boards of companies across SA. He was also co-convener of the CEO Initiative to look into the state of the SA economy.

Pityana said: “Jabu was a role model for all South Africans who aspire to make a difference. He lifted himself up by his bootstraps, moving from being a successful small entrepreneur to becoming ... a powerhouse in the SA economy, occupying leadership positions in several SA corporates.

“He will particularly be remembered for his courage during the state capture era when, as president of Busa, he often had to deliver very difficult messages to government. I will always regard Jabu as a true leader, a man of integrity, and someone who was never afraid to speak his mind.”

Busa deputy president Martin Kingston said: “I am dumbfounded at the sad and tragic passing of a patriot and friend. Our country has lost a beautiful person and a great leader. We remember his lovely nature and his outstanding leadership, both in the private and public sectors.”

Cas Coovadia, Busa CEO, said of Mabuza: “He had a character and personality that was contagious. He led with courage, honour, and honesty. He was a true patriot.”

Eskom paid tribute to Mabuza for leading the power utility during one of the most difficult periods in the organisation’s history.

“He was an exemplary leader and an advocate for clean governance. We are grateful for his service at Eskom and salute him for his enormous contribution to our country. His legacy will live on,” said Eskom board chairperson Prof Malegapuru Makgoba.

Mabuza was first appointed to serve on the Eskom board of directors by President Cyril Ramaphosa in January 2018 and in July 2019 became its acting CEO. He resigned from the organisation in January 2020.

Eskom said: “Great strides were made during his tenure in addressing allegations of financial mismanagement and a myriad of issues related to lapses in governance processes and other internal controls within the organisation. These efforts resulted in the stabilisation of Eskom, improving investor and public confidence and laying a solid foundation for the organisation’s turnaround.”

The Small Business Institute said Mabuza's death “is not only our loss, but also the loss for the rest of South Africa and anyone who shared his anxiety about growing inequality, unemployment and poverty in our country”.

“In Jabu’s demise, the SME ecosystem is poorer for losing one of its loyal and long-standing supporters. During this time of great sadness, we join the family in prayers as they come to terms with Jabu’s passing.”

The SA Tourism board and management also shared its condolences. Mabuza had held various leadership roles in the tourism industry and had served nine years on the board. Mabuza also served as SA’s representative on the board of the World Travel and Tourism Council. 

“It’s a sad day for the nation to lose a person of his stature and calibre as he contributed to the success of many industries and sectors, including tourism,” said current SA Tourism board chairperson, Siyabonga Dube.

“He led our organisation through the tough times of the economic crisis in 2008/2009 and then through the successful times of the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, where the tourism sector enjoyed some of its greatest achievements from an arrivals and economic growth perspective.

“Jabu was also a champion in leading the way for the transformation of the sector and was key to pushing for equal and added opportunities for black businesses and entrepreneurs and for inspiring the emergence of black businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Dube.

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