Tokyo Sexwale: Political Activist, Astute Entrepreneur

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Tokyo Sexwale photo

Tokyo Sexwale

South African Minister of Human Settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, is well known for his political presence and his role in bringing down Apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela.  However, he is also an astute businessman, leading the Mvelaphanda Group and Africa Management Limited.

Founding the JSE-listed Mvelaphanda Group in 2003, Sexwale made a step into the private-sector launching the country’s foremost black economic empowerment investment holding company.  The Mvela Group came about through the merger of companies Mvelaphanda Holdings and Rebserve.  In turn, Mvela Holdings is partially owned by trusts in the name of the Sexwale family- making Sexwale a significant owner of the holding company.

The Mvela Group has assets spanning a wide range of sectors, including healthcare, financing, industry, real estate, but perhaps most prominently, mining.  Sexwale’s interest in the mining sector dates back to his position as Executive Chairman of Mvela Group’s predecessor, Mvelaphanda Holdings – the privately-owned company which still holds an 18 percent stake in the Mvela Group.

At Mvela Holdings, Sexwale headed up the diamond and platinum mining operations of the company, and famously is reported to have declared in this position that: “I want to be a black Harry Oppenheimer”.  This he has largely achieved; despite not much being known about Mvela Holdings, it is thought that the company owns extensive mineral assets across Africa, and is rumoured to be the third largest diamond producer.

Sexwale’s mineral-based endeavours also have another facet; in 2008 Sexwale’s Mvela Group saw Mvela Holdings enter into a joint venture with OZ Management and Palladino Holdings, in the creation of a company known as Africa Management Limited.  The partnership was unleashed in a venture to “act as the exclusive vehicle for Mvela Holdings and OZ Management to pursue private investment opportunities within the region”, with a particular emphasis on mineral resources and energy.  The joint venture has gained the contributions of numerous sources of mineral assets since its inception.

Speaking at the time on the ideology behind the new joint venture, Sexwale said: “We intend to build on our already strong foothold in African investments in partnership with Och-Ziff…The partnership … will help us accelerate in building the leading African investment firm.”

Estimated to have a net worth of 1.9 billion rand ($219 million) Sexwale has certainly attained the status of a controversial and acknowledged diverse entrepreneur, and has acted as a key role model in the South African black empowerment process.

In 2009, however, Sexwale decided to turn away from the private-sector, giving up his directorships in private businesses, and taking up his current position as Minister for Human Settlements.  While he certainly has a ruthless economic streak to him, it would seem that the activist nature of Sexwale has called him back to serving his country, for now.