CFOs empowering the workforce of South Africa


Top CFOs reveal how their organisations are creating new job opportunities across the country.

The outbreak and continuous impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on global economies and workplaces saw millions across the world lose their jobs. South Africa’s recent economic report, released in December 2021, highlighted this impact. The report showed an unemployment rate of 34.9 percent for the country, officially branding it as the country with the highest official unemployment rate in the world.

We asked these CFOs what their organisations are doing to create new job opportunities across the country, and the future of employment in South Africa is certainly looking brighter.

Adriana Weilbach, Telesure Investment Holdings
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic hard lockdown period, we made R320 million available to support our communities and businesses most hard hit by these events. R200 million was spent on providing food to those in need in our communities and R70 million was spent to support small enterprises to help them survive through this period and be able to retain their employees.

Bothwell Mazarura, Kumba Iron Ore
In 2020, our spend was R9.8 billion with HDSA suppliers, and R3.6 billion of that was spent with host community suppliers. This is up from just R500 million spent with host community suppliers five years ago, which was simply not good enough.

Our host communities have benefited so much that we have seen the establishment of the first chamber of commerce within a mining community.

We are on an efficiency drive, which is counterintuitive to more direct employment, so we want to ensure that extra employment is happening in our communities. Our ambition is to create three jobs off-site for every job on-site by 2025, and by 2030 we want to see this increase to five jobs off-site.

Our community members are also shareholders of our business through the Sishen Iron Ore Company community development trust. Last year we paid R468 million in dividends to the community trust which benefits around 400,000 people in our host communities.

Prof Carolina Koornhof, University of Pretoria
We take pride in our locally and globally relevant programmes that produce graduates who are socially conscious, active citizens who address societal issues and who positively impact our communities.

There are two government-owned pieces of property in Hatfield that had become dumping sites and a place for drug use and sales. We’ve made a community engagement project there, where some of our students moved over 3,000 tons of rubbish from those two sites. Our engineering students came in and built houses for people who are drug-affected, our health science students came in to wean them off the drugs, our students in natural and agricultural sciences came to plant gardens for food, our humanity students came in and did occupational therapy, and our economic and management sciences students came in to teach them business skills.

Dirk Viljoen, Hollard
Hollard was instrumental as a founding member in funding Harambee before sponsors came onboard. It focuses on early childhood development, working mothers and black-women-owned small businesses.

A gap they identified is that school leavers are inexperienced when they try to get jobs – they don’t know how to apply for jobs. Since it was started, Harambee has supported 2.3 million school leavers and has linked 575,000 candidates to opportunities.

I am proud to be part of an organisation that is successfully a catalyst for positive and enduring change.

Eddie Fivaz, TWK Agri
We’ve recently opened two filling stations that created 50 jobs in Piet Retief and Ermelo. It was so sad to see how many people applied for those jobs. The stations have coffee shops and the ladies who work there have learnt new skills.

It’s about making a real impact and creating real value for a person.

We have the emerging farmer programme, with R50 million dedicated funding. The purpose is to develop, mentor and train people to become commercial farmers.

Glen Pearce, Sappi
Our Saiccor operation in KwaZulu Natal has set up training centres and provides community members with electrical, manufacturing and business development skills. These trainings are used within the mill’s operating area and beyond.
Project Khulisa is the flagship project in our forestry division, which I am most proud of. The programme has helped create almost 4,000 small-scale timber farmers supplying to Sappi’s operations, and over 100 SME operations to support their activities. Started over 30 years ago, today these farmers earn almost R400 million per year from their timber.

Lucas Verwey, Distell
We helped establish a consortium of about 36 women in Somerset West in CT and gave them a R2.4 million loan to set up the business, buy equipment and secure facilities. Because they were first-time business owners, we also helped them establish financial systems and trained them in operational, production and logistical systems and processes. They were subsequently awarded a multi-year contract to supply the product for the brand to Distell, whilst at the same time receiving ongoing business development and financial support. In the last financial year, they generated nearly R1 million in profit, and with the ongoing support of Distell have been able to diversify their product range and supply other customers – significantly improving the business’s overall sustainability.

We have also worked with some of our other suppliers to set up new business ventures that are able to generate extra income for their workers, as well as create sustainable jobs during a time when many companies were retrenching and down-sizing their workforces. Additionally, our drivers have been empowered with an owner-driver programme which allows them to own their vehicles and operate their distribution activities as independent business entities. This reduces the burden of having to purchase the vehicle upfront and they have the opportunity to make money by picking up loads from other companies.

Masilo Makhura, Department of Public Service and Administration
There is one instance that I am very proud of: Three years ago, we appointed a lady as a cleaner for the department. She had a qualification in finance, so I asked her whether she was interested in finance. When she said yes, we started training her within the finance function, as well as some of the other functions. She would clean until 12pm, after which she would come to us and we would train her. We started with filing and went through the units so she could learn how everything in the company worked. After six months, a post opened up in the finance department. She applied and we had no doubt she would fit into the role, so we appointed her. Now she’s a state accountant.

Meroonisha Kerber, Impala Platinum
Mining companies adhere to social and labour plans, which detail the company’s commitment over a three-year period to sharing some of the benefits that flow from its mining operations. These include initiatives for developing employee skills, upgrading local schools and roads, and providing housing, water and sanitation in our host communities.

In addition, Impala Platinum’s sustainable and responsible local procurement practices further enhance efforts to contribute to the economic and social development of these communities. Currently, we are also looking at ways to grow and support women-owned, historically disadvantaged or black-women-owned enterprises.


Mikateko Tshetshe, Unilever
Our Ola ice cream brand created 2,000 jobs by training mobile vendors to sell ice cream in public spaces, giving them bikes and training them how to be entrepreneurs, as well as keeping them going through lockdown by paying them a living wage until they could get out and sell again.

We also support partnerships with reclaimers organisations that have helped over 60,000 people earn a living wage from collecting recyclable materials, which we then used to make Sunlight dishwash liquid bottles from recycled plastic for the first time. We believe this kind of model can create a financially sustainable way to tackle our waste problems in South Africa, so we’re helping them to find ways to scale up and present a business case to the government to get recognition for the hidden contribution their work makes to our society.

Ockert Janse van Rensburg, Motus Corporation
We sometimes struggle to find candidates for employment, because of low education standards. So we have accelerated our involvement in education through CSI.

We have a self-funded trust through which we fund the development of school libraries and other education interventions. We have set up 50 libraries in under-developed communities. This is part of a 10-year plan aiming for 100.

We do an initial assessment before each intervention, and see many kids sitting in Grade 5 and reading at a Grade 1 level. We identify learners with difficulties and help them develop.

Because this is a long-term intervention, we are now seeing the initial learners moving into and out of high schools and even university. We recently had some of our first cohort qualifying with university exemptions or achieving distinctions at university.

Sheldon Friedericksen, Fedgroup
We took fallow land within walking distance of townships, developed it into blueberry farms, and are now providing employment to that community. One farm employs 1,200 people in season. There is community co-ownership of the farm too.

We have started a number of other businesses, such as our own solar installation company. Our solar fund has provided almost 300,000 employment hours, with a five year growth path being projected to create 3.2 million employment hours.

We also created a learnership programme where recipients of the beneficiaries fund – from the missing middle – spend a year working with us, rotating through the group. At the same time they do a diploma course. Seven years on, 15 percent of the workforce comes from that programme. We have plans to grow this further.

This article was originally published in the first 2022 edition of the CFO Magazine.

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