Herbert Theledi: a champion for improving people’s lives through economic participation

By reflecting on Herbert Theledi’s life, it is obvious that he has been an ardent champion for the economic empowerment of people and disadvantaged communities from a young age. IN this context achampion is a person who ardently supports a person, cause, or belief.

Growing up in Bushbuckridge in the Lowveld, a community privileged to have many successful entrepreneurs, Herbert experienced the impact and benefits of business acumen on people’s lives first-hand. In addition, his father, as a passionate entrepreneur, was an outstanding example of a person who put sound economic principles and concepts into practice to advance himself and others.    

After being exposed to solid economic principles from a young age, Herbert eventually coined one of his core beliefs, namely, “the future of African people is in business.”

The belief that economic participation is a cornerstone in the process of improving people’s lives, is evident in what Herbert Theledi does and says.

Herbert’s passion for mentorship is well known and he has guided some entrepreneurs in his home province of Mpumalanga to business success.

b19feb09 herbert theledi - Herbert Theledi: a champion for improving people’s lives through economic participation
Image supplied by Herbert Theledi

Nthwese Developments

In 1994, nine years before the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (B-BBEE) was promulgated, Herbert Theledi founded Nthwese Developments. The company is described on its website as “a black-owned property development and management company” with the vision “to be one of Africa’s leading empowered players in real estate development and investment.”

One of the main objectives of the B-BBEE Act (as amended) is to advance economic transformation and enhance the economic participation of black people in the South African economy. In a way Herbert was nine years ahead of the formalising of black empowerment  when he founded Nthwese.

As managing director of Nthwese, Herbert has led a 100% black-owned company for more than 25 years to improve people’s lives through economic participation with its “commitment to socio-economic development” and to “support sustainable economic development and job creation.”    

Examples of Herbert Theledi’s   efforts to improve people’s lives and Ntwese’s “commitment to socio-economic development” are developments such as the Bambanani Shopping Centre in Diepsloot (in partnership with Sampada Private Equity) that opened in 2017 and Thulamahashe Mall in Bushbuckridge (in partnership with Twin City Development)  that opened in 2018.

Herbert’s passion to create opportunities for people and communities to better their circumstances through economic participation was frequently evident when he opened the shopping centres.

A man with passion and a mission

At the opening of Bambanani Shopping Centre he commented that it “epitomises Nthwese’s mission of long-term job creation and empowerment of disadvantaged communities.” He added that Nthwese provided about 600 jobs during the construction of the project by making use of local businesses and employing members of the community. 

At the launching of Thulamahashe Mall, Herbert said the development is expected to create an economic upswing in the rural community. He also observed that unemployment is a big issue in the Bushbuckridge area and that a development such as the Thulamahashe Mall brings relief in terms of job creation and sustainability. 

Herbert regards shopping centres as economic generators for communities. They provide job opportunities that generate income that can support the broader community. Put differently, by developing shopping centres, possibilities for economic participation are created, eventually improving people’s lives.

The lack of black ownership in the property market

Herbert expressed his feelings and concerns about the lack of black ownership in the property market on two occasions in August 2018.

The first being an interview with the newspaper City Press, in which he voiced his uneasiness about the lack of accessibility to the property sector for black people, explaining: “The equity cheque is the main barrier for black industrialists. Equity is a big problem because we have never had value creation through property.” He further emphasised to transform the property sector, land and capital have to be considered equally important and both have to be unlocked.  

The second opportunity was an article on the Moneyweb website, where he advocated for developing black industrialists in the property sector.

In the article, Herbert argued the potential of the property sector to radically transform the South African economy, particularly for previously disadvantaged people. 

Herbert mentioned that the fundamental negative impact on South Africa’s economy, caused by the denial of formal property ownership to “an overwhelming majority of black South Africans,” can be rectified by expediting black property ownership. “The property sector should be playing a leading role in radically transforming the South African economy.”

He also pointed out that property development can help to address the problem of unemployment and to alleviate poverty. One could say this is more  proof of Herbert Theledi’s support of the idea that people can benefit from economic participation.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is manmade and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” Herbert Theledi is doing his part by being a champion for the improvement of people’s lives through economic participation.

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