Death of Motheo Construction founder has left void across industry and country

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Pretoria - August has come and almost gone, with celebrations of Women’s Month having reverberated across the country.

It is wonderful to see women recognised for who they are and the immense contribution they make every day. But, it is my contention that women need more recognition and opportunities to excel.

One way of doing that is by ensuring the education of girls is at the forefront of our efforts. Former US first lady Michelle Obama, speaking at the Global Girls Alliance, said: “The stats show that when you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country.”

Another way to see women excel is through creating economic opportunities. After all, when you empower a woman, you empower her family, community and country, too.

Emily Dreyfuss, a writer at Wired, interviewed another powerful woman, Melinda Gates, and wrote: That experts working on the world’s biggest problems agree that by helping women, you help everyone. “Want to solve climate change? Empower women. Lower infant mortality? Empower women. Cure Aids? Empower women. Make your company more profitable? Empower women. The list goes on.”

Economic empowerment of women is imperative. It is good for diversity because women bring unique qualities to leadership and we can take lessons from their journeys and struggles of past and present generations.

Is it their resiliency and never-give-up attitude? Their nurturing nature? Their loving and forgiving nature? Is it that they have good instincts and smart? Is it because they are good at what they do?

I think it is safe to argue it is the combination of all these that make women great leaders. One remembers fondly the immense contribution played by many women in South Africa’s struggle. We remember, with gratitude the generation of the celebrated 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings. Among the formidable mothers of our nation are Albertina Sisulu, Adelaide Tambo, Lilian Ngoyi, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Epainette Mbeki, among other heroines of our struggle. We stand in awe of what they achieved. They are pioneers and our source of inspiration as we wrestle with the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

Sadly, as we end Women’s Month, we lost an incredible woman, Dr Thandi Ndlovu, 65, whose larger-than-life personality and influence will be sorely missed.

I was fortunate to have travelled with her several times to Deauville, in the south of France, to attend women’s conferences. What a trailblazer.

A medical doctor by profession, she launched Motheo Construction in 1999, which became a major player in construction, and contributed substantially to the low-cost housing market.

She was a former president of the Black Business Council for the Built Environment, played an important role in the growth of the African Women Chartered Accountants by contributing to the advancement of their causes through her annual Golf day Fundraiser. Ndlovu died following a road accident. The Presidency has announced a provincial official funeral with the flag flown at half-mast in her honour.

To know her was to know a great human being. We are better for her abundant love and generosity of spirit. She helped many women ascend the ladder as she was rising. She was there when she was needed the most, by the most vulnerable. She put the greater good of others above her own. We draw strength to the exemplary life she lived.

We thank the Almighty for blessing us with her. She now belongs to the ages. Her voice has been stilled but memories of her will linger on.

Ngcetane-Vika is a businesswoman and church leader.

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