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Zwelakhe Sisulu's first venture was building a mud hut, now he builds businesses

By unknown | Apr 23, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Lihle Mtshali

Lihle Mtshali

Zwelakhe Sisulu became the local head of international advertising agency McCann Worldgroup last week when he bought 49percent of its South African operation.

Sisulu is a former SABC chief executive and was an editor of the struggle newspaper New Nation in the 1980s. The past four years have seen him quickly establish his reputation as a businessman. His positions include chairing Afriminerals and Savannah Resources and serving as a director of Aquarius Platinum.

Sisulu says that he began building things when he was young. When he was nine he and his cousins built a mud hut from the foundations to the roof and lived in it for a number of years.

Sisulu was born in Soweto in 1950 to liberation icons Walter and Albertina Sisulu. He is the third of five children and grew up during the heyday of the freedom struggle. He has fond memories of sleeping under the table while ANC meetings went on at his home.

When he was nine he had to be taken to Swaziland to live with family while Sisulu senior was on trial in Rivonia.

Sisulu says that living in the hut that he and his cousins built gave them a deep sense of achievement.

"We did a lot of things during those days in Swaziland," he says. "We even became adapt at carrying buckets full of water on our heads."

He returned to South Africa in 1968 and a year later was detained for his involvement in underground politics. In 1970 he matriculated as a private candidate and went on to pursue a career in journalism.

"I was a voracious reader - a habit I developed when I was a boy," says Sisulu.

In 1990 he worked as Nelson Mandela's press secretary and personal assistant and in 1993 was appointed as the SABC's chief executive. He has been the chairman of both New Africa Media Holdings and New Africa Investments Limited.

"My transition from politics to business was seamless and I enjoyed it tremendously. My strategy in business is to acquire good medium-sized businesses and build them up into big networks all over Africa," says Sisulu.

"I am a deeply committed Africanist, so you could say I have not totally left politics," he says.

Sisulu and wife Zodwa, a radiographer, have three children, Moyikwa, Zoya and Ziyeka.


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