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Meet Xolani Sithole – Managing Director, Sebenza Forwarding and Shipping, 32

There is much to be said for having a supportive family: despite the fact that Xolani Sithole grew up in a shack, his mother made him read the newspaper every day. Although she herself did not have much education, she admired her boss and believed that smart people read the newspaper, which is why – before she made use of the newspaper for other practical purposes – she made sure her son knew what was happening in the world.

“It was during the time I spent reading the papers that I noticed how any jobs were advertised for CAs(SA) across a number of different companies and industries,” Xolani recalls, adding that he concluded that this qualification must be one that guaranteed job opportunities. He decided that as the only male in the family, as well as the eldest child, it would be his job to take the family out of poverty by following the CA path.

Xolani believes that his success has come from his belief that for every problem, there is a solution – a mantra that has taught him resilience. He also maintains that there is hope to be found in every situation, regardless of how challenging it may seem.

Today, his is the MD of Sebenza, a company owned by the Makana Investment Corporation, which was established to look after the poverty-stricken families of prisoners held on Robben Island. His career at Sebenza – which has a turnover of over R50 million and assets of R100 million – began when he was appointed as the Group Financial Manager, eight years ago. Since being appointed he has made a number of significant and positive changes to the company, including reducing audit times and costs by 60% and advancing the BEE rating to a Level 2. The turnaround strategy that he implemented at Sebenza saw the company making a profit within six months, after having run at a R17 million loss previously.

Building a successful business is not his only talent however. Xolani has a knack for bringing out the best in people too. “Every person has something unique to contribute, yet sometimes they are crippled by the hardships they’re facing. When you take a moment to give them a sense of dignity, you will see their best come out,” he insists.

In keeping with his passion for working with communities, he conducts personal finance lectures free of charge. Just like his mother, Xolani believes that it is education that will free many South Africans from the hardships they endure. 

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