On the 9 August 1956 over 20,000 women, of all races, marched through the streets of Pretoria to the Union Buildings to hand over a petition to JG Strijdom, South Africa’s prime minister, over the introduction of the new pass laws. This action became known as the Women’s Anti-Pass Demonstration. Women’s Day now commemorates this action, but it also gives us the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women in general.
It seems only fitting that we acknowledge and celebrate the top 29 woman whom have changed the face of history.
Inspirational Woman of our Time:
1) Wendy Appelbaum
Wendy Appelbaum is a businesswoman and philanthropist and one of the richest women in Africa. Currently she is the owner and chair of De Morgenzen Wine Estate. Appelbaum, daughter of Liberty Life founder Donald Gordon, was a director of Liberty Investors, the holding company of Liberty Group (Liberty International changed its name to Capital Shopping Centers Group in 2010, and Appelbaum still holds shares). Appelbaum is involved in many philanthropic projects. Through The Wendy Appelbaum Foundation, her company initiates, selects and drives programs addressing health and education interests and concerns of South African women. She is a director of Sphere Holdings, a black empowerment company focused on the financial services and mining sectors.
Appelbaum holds various directorships and trusteeships and is a member of numerous organizations registered in South Africa and abroad. These include the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Center, a postgraduate teaching hospital of the University of the Witwatersrand; The Donald Gordon Foundation, the largest private charitable foundation in Africa; and the World-Wide Fund for Nature South Africa. She is a member of Harvard University’s Women’s Leadership Board, the International Women’s Forum and a board member of Synergos Africa. She was previously the deputy chair of Women’s Investment Portfolio Limited (Wiphold Limited), the first women-controlled company to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with then-assets in excess of one billion Rands. In 2006, she was recognized by Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World, an organization that honors and promotes female entrepreneurial excellence.
Wendy Ackerman’s husband Raymond may have made a success of Pick n Pay, but she didn’t establish her name in business by hanging on his coat-tails. She was instrumental in developing the brand, particularly its social responsibility ethic. In 1967, while Ackerman was pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, her husband was fired from his job at Checkers. He scraped together the capital to buy four small stores, and from there they built up what is now South Africa’s second-largest supermarket chain. Ackerman was made a director in 1981. Her focus has been the development of Pick n Pay’s employee benefits. The couple control the Ackerman Family Trust, which owns half of Pick n Pay, but they have now retired from the company’s board. However, they are still involved in overseeing its expansion into Africa.
Wendy Ackerman has worked hard to mold Pick n Pay into a socially responsible retailer. In the 1970s, the Ackerman family established their first philanthropic venture, the Ackerman Family Educational Trust. The Ackermans were staunchly opposed to apartheid and Pick n Pay was one of the few companies to promote black employees. At her behest, Pick n Pay was the first company to start supplying free anti-retrovirals to HIV-positive patients in the early 1980s. Ackerman is also a patron of the arts and rescued Cape Town Opera from funding difficulties. Among her many accolades, she has a Paul Harris Award from the Rotary Foundation and was named one of the Institute of Personnel Management South Africa’s Most Influential in the Women in Business and Government competition in 2008/9.
3) Santie Botha
Santie Botha is a Branch Manager of Empangeni at Ithala Development Finance Corporation Limited. She is chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth and at 48, the youngest chancellor in South Africa, she serves on the boards of Tiger Brands Limited, Famous Brands and many others. She is a South African marketing pioneer who played a role in the success of the 2010 World Cup as head of marketing at FIFA sponsor MTN. Botha holds a degree in economics from Stellenbosch University. She started her career at Unilever in London and South Africa and then moved to ABSA bank at the age of 34, the youngest member of the group’s board. There, as group executive director, she successfully branded the newly amalgamated bank, launching an aggressive marketing campaign to win over its own employees as well as its customers, and attacking the image of a bank as stuffy and bureaucratic. She was also responsible for its e-commerce program.
During her time at MTN, she helped embed the brand in Africa and the Middle East. But her main legacy was that a company born in Africa became the first-ever global sponsor of the FIFA World Cup. Botha has won a slew of awards, including the 2010 Businesswoman of the Year from the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa, Marketer of the Year in 2002, The Star Top 10 Business people in South Africa 2003 and Young Business Person of the Year in 1998.
4) Elisabeth Bradley
In her 70s and having retired from the boards she sat on, Elisabeth Bradley still retains influence as the fourth wealthiest woman in the country. Bradley’s parents were businessman Albert Wessels and journalist and renowned poet Elisabeth Eybers. It was Wessels who brought Toyota vehicles to South Africa in 1961, and by 1968 they were the most popular commercial vehicles in the country. He soon began producing them here. Bradley, who holds a BSc from what was then the University of the Orange Free State and an MSc from London University, worked as a research chemist in the United States for a year in the early 1960s. When she returned to South Africa, she got involved in her family’s companies. Many say she was the brains behind Toyota South Africa’s success. In 1986, she was appointed managing director of Wesco Investments, which had a large stake in Toyota South Africa and, after the death of her father in 1991, became executive chair. When her brother Bert died in 2002, she was appointed non-executive chair. Bradley has served on the boards of blue chip companies such as the Standard Bank Group, Tongaat Hulett and Sasol, and the Rosebank Inn. She is also on the Wits Business School Advisory Board. In 2007, she was honored with a Manex Award, which recognizes excellence in leadership.