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The South African Chamber of Commerce in the UK in partnership with Brand South Africa took the annual SA Business awards to a new level at a gala event in London on Thursday night (23 April) which saw the South African community uniting in its total condemnation of the violence directed against other Africans.
Team South Africa displayed new levels of unity as SA Chamber chair Melissa-Powys Rodrigues announced that the South African High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, His Excellency Obed Mlaba, had agreed to be the honorary President of the Chamber.
Powys-Rodrigues spelled out her vision for the SA Chamber as the primary platform for small, medium and large companies in the UK and a platform for uniting government, business and the South African community as a whole.
“I pledge my full support to the SA Chamber and to Team South Africa in our collective efforts to attract more trade and investment to South Africa,” Mr Mlaba said.
Brand South Africa Country Manager Pumela Salela asked the audience to stand to observe a silence in honour of all those who had died as a result of the recent violence directed at Africans from other parts of the continent working in South Africa.
The audience were presented with small bags containing a candle accompanied by a card bearing the slogan “WE ARE AFRICA” with a map of Africa to show solidarity with the victims of violence in South Africa and draw a clear line of condemnation of the violence.
Salela recalled the words of Nelson Mandela and asked the audience to repeat a pledge to ensure that such violence would never be allowed to happen again.
Salela quoted statistics which indicated that high level of trade and investment that existed between South Africa and the UK and announced that a seminar would soon be held in the UK to promote the Ocean Economy in South Africa which was a key component of Government’s Operation Phakisa which means “hurry up” and which is at the centre of the National Development Plan.
She congratulated the winners (see below) but appealed to the SA Chamber to make sure that the “giving-back” award, which went this year to Jill Ritchie, head of the SA-UK NGO Network, became a theme which was reflected in all the awards.
“We want the principle of giving-back to cut across all the business awards and to permeate everything we do as Team South Africa,” Salela said.
She appealed to the South African audience to regard themselves as Global South Africans and to contribute to the nation-building effort in South Africa wherever they were able.
“As Brand South Africa we will assist you in every way so that we can build South Africa South Africa together,” she said to the business audience.
Salela said that the likes of Bill Gates, Rockefeller and Ford were not famous only because they were successful at business and had made a lot of money.
“They were famous because of their legacy of philanthropy and addressing social causes,” she said.
She read from her favourite poem A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson – focusing on the verse:
“ ‘ Our deepest fear are not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure,’ “ she said.
Salela said that good business and giving and philanthropy were not mutually exclusive.
“I am a believer that you can do business while you are doing good,” she said.
Master of Ceremonies Geoff Johnson read out a long list of prominent South Africans who had distinguished themselves in the UK as top lawyers, business leaders and sports people.
Business Leader of the Year: Paul Gardiner
Innovator of the Year: Avi Lasarow
Rising Star of the Year: Petrus Madutlela
Giving Back Award of the Year: Jill Ritchie
New Business of the Year: Eugene Zietsman
Entrepreneur of the Year: Pily Mirazi
Women in Business of the Year: Odile Ham