It may be a function of the the positions that he has held, the companies he has chosen to work for, or simply the law of attraction selecting the right man for the job – but Bongani Nqwababa has a somewhat heroic reputation as Mr Crisis Management.
In the course of his illustrious career, Nqwababa has variously navigated national and multinational corporations through months long strikes, depleting workforces, customer supply issues, plummeting product prices and skyrocketing resource prices.
He also currently holds an unusual position at Sasol, in an executive arrangement which research says only succeeds about 10% of the time – that of a joint President & CEO. However, as with every challenge that Nqwababa has come across, he and his counterpart Stephen Cornell have taken it in their stride and become the poster boys for success. In fact Nqwababa jokes that he and Cornell are going to write a case study one day about how the ‘successful 10%’ make this kind of partnership work.
In this in-depth interview the refreshingly unassuming Nqwababa frankly shares the tough lessons that he’s learnt, both globally and locally, throughout his career. He discusses his early days in Zimbabwe as corporate accountant for the world’s largest single site steel company, his time as Finance Director at Eskom when the warnings of power outages were beginning to emerge (and being ignored), his experiences at Anglo Platinum during two years of strikes, and how his learnings have impacted his decisions in the current position that he holds at Sasol.