Interview by Phesheya Mkhonta
Inside Biz (IB): Welcome to INSIDE BIZ Mduduzi, can you please give us a brief synopsis of your educational background?
Mdu: I am an Economist and Statistician by training with a degree from the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) where I did a double major in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
I did my primary education at St. Mark’s Primary School, and interestingly attended three different high schools – Setsembiso Sebunye (also known as Baha’I High School), Ka-Schiele High School, and completed my O’Level at St. Francis High School.
IB: Everyone is interested in how you got to corporate South Africa. Walk us through your career journey, where did it all start?
Mdu: My first job was at Truworths Limited – a retail outlet where I worked after completing my O’Level. This job shaped me into understanding key fundamentals about work and business which I still apply to date in the corporate world.
I then worked for Eswatini Bank where I was an Appraisal Clerk in the Loans Department. However, I didn’t stay there for long as I then joined Business Eswatini (BE) where I also held a variety of roles. Being at BE positioned me in a way I never could have imagined. Positions I held at BE include Business Development & Training Officer, Research and Analyst role, and my last position being Manager: Trade & Commerce.
I was then poached by British American Tobacco (BAT) in 2014, where I held 5 different roles in 8 years. During that period I had the pleasure of working in 11 different countries. I initially joined the company as the Corporate & Regulatory Affairs Manager (managing Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini).
I then moved to managing the South African territory as the Manager: Regulatory Affairs and also served on the BAT Swaziland Board. From there, I moved to Zimbabwe where I was the Head: Legal & External Affairs, before moving back to South Africa in 2021. I left BAT in 2022 to join South African Breweries (SAB) in my current role, which is Director: Government Affairs & Stakeholder Relations.
IB: How important were these roles in shaping where you currently are?
Mdu: All the different companies and roles have shaped me differently – all have been challenging, but I have learned to be very resilient and work with grit. At Truworths, I learned the fundamentals of customer service. I would like to give a huge shout-out to my then-boss, Gcebile Dlamini, for instilling the traits I garnered while at Truworths. At Eswatini Bank, I learned the importance of financial management, including personal finance and prioritization.
At BAT, I learned the power of Corporate Affairs. For this, I would like to give another huge shout-out to Shungu Chirunda, Joe Heshu, Scalate Masiye, and Kabir Kaleechurn, these are leaders who took a chance on me.
SAB has been amazing so far. The company has enhanced my leadership qualities as I am surrounded by an amazing team.
This is especially important as we go intentional about growing the beer category responsibly, whilst empowering the communities we operate in. The support from our Corporate Affairs Leadership Team, led by Zoleka Lisa has been overwhelming.
IB: As you’ve articulated, you’ve had quite an interesting career excursion, one that has taken you from Eswatini to working in several countries on the continent. How would you best describe your career journey to date?
Mdu: I am truly blessed and highly favoured. I do not take these blessings lightly. One of the vital life lessons I learned from my mother was the importance of being appreciative and remaining humble, this is how I approach life. I would never have imagined this young Swati would be making such strides.
I would say being ambitious and curious has been one of the main drivers for my journey thus far. I have also always been one to challenge the status quo, and the experience I have from the number of countries I worked in, has built a great understanding within me of how and why we have such different business landscapes – this is what you need as a leader.
I have also always had great support, not just from family, but amazing mentors and coaches. My ambition has always been to be one of Africa’s most influential business leaders, and I believe I am on track.
IB: You now serve as the Director: Government Affairs & Stakeholder Relations at South African Breweries (SAB), under Anheuser-Busch InBev Africa. That is quite a mouthful in itself. Can you tell us more about your current position at SAB and what are some of your key responsibilities?
Mdu: My mission at SAB is to bring stakeholders closer to our business – that is how I can summarize my key responsibility. I am tasked with ensuring that our business is perceived and accepted as a credible and trusted partner to enable us to have a seat on the table, particularly when it comes to public policy.
I engage a wide array of stakeholders, from Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Politicians, all the way to technocrats. It is all about creating the right relations with the right people and creating solid and sustainable partnerships for our business as we empower the communities we operate in. At the end of the day, I contribute towards defending our license to operate in South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, and Eswatini.
IB: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Mdu: I am an ascribed networker at heart, so I would say it’s the opportunity to meet different leaders from different countries. Also very important is advocating for the good work we do in society because as SAB, we are not just about making beer, we are also very deliberate on empowering the communities we operate in, so to be an advocate of such is amazing. I love what I do.
IB: Deciding to relocate and work in a foreign country can be a daunting and challenging task. What are some of the biggest lessons or experiences you’ve learned and accumulated along your journey?
Mdu: As I said earlier, challenging the status quo is something that is just in me, so I look at working and moving around foreign countries as an opportunity, more than it being a daunting task. I view it as an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.
IB: What role have mentors and family played in the advancement of your professional goals?
Mdu: I have been blessed to have mentors in my career who have played a significant role in my career and life. It is important to have mentors as a professional because they give you a different perspective based on experience and understanding that you might overlook.
My family on the other hand has been nothing short of supportive – you know it’s tough not being home for almost a year to see your family, but in my case, I am blessed because they understand my ambition, purpose, and what I do – if anything, they are always walking the journey with me.
IB: And as this journey continues, what are your career aspirations?
Mdu: From a career perspective, I always advise people to get into a career that speaks to their ambition. As indicated, my ambition is to be one of Africa’s most influential leaders, so a career that speaks to that is what I aspire to get into.
IB: In closing this riveting chat, what motivates you, and what legacy would you love to leave behind?
Mdu: I am highly motivated by my family, especially my two beautiful daughters, Chulu and Simi – I always want what’s best for them and I do what I do to make sure that they are always in a comfortable space. The fact that I am always willing to learn and I’m forever curious is another thing that motivates me. The legacy I want to leave behind is that anything is possible, as long as you put your heart, mind, body, and soul to it. And to quote the late former President Nelson Mandela: “In life, there is nothing like losing, it’s either you win or you learn” – this is a mantra I live by.
IB: It’s been awesome Mr Lokotfwako. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your story with us.
Mdu: I’m honoured, and thank you for the opportunity.