This is a continuing of a series of commentaries on places that are in obscurity although they are well endowed with immense assets that could be mobilised as resources for their brand development. The focus is on Sekhukhune, a district in Limpopo – South Africa’s foremost northern province. The Sekhukhune district is touted as the land of the legends because it has produced legendary leaders who waged wars of resistance against land dispossession as canonised in Peter Delius’ seminal work, “The land belongs to us…” But the truth is that these legends are not celebrated by South Africa on a national scale. This is the time to redress this historical sin against our legends.

The district is home to the legendary leaders. From the era of King Sekhukhune who fought against land invasions by colonialists; St Manche Masemola, a fourteen year old Christian martyr from Ga-Marishane, who became the first African to be crowned a saint by the Anglican Church (and her towering statue is erected sky high at the Westminster Abbey in London among legendary saints as Martin Luther King, Jnr.; and it’s home to the less celebrated composer of the Sotho stanza of Nkosi Si’keleli ‘Afrika, Moses Mphahlele (few people know about this fact because credit is only erroneously granted to Enoch Sontonga) – this was to become the national anthem of a number of African countries.

Furthermore, the countless number of the descendants of our warrior king, have waged wars of resistance against colonialism and fearless opposition to apartheid. We have to bow our heads and celebrate legends such as those alluded to below.

Lawrence “Phoks” Phokanoka – who was part of the first cohort of the trained uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) guerillas, who partnered with their comrades from the Zimbabwe Independence People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), and engaged in a fierce battle with the apartheid SADF/Rhodesian forces in Wankie and Sipolilo in northern Zimbabwe in 1967. The MK contingent was referred to as the Luthuli Detachment – named after the President of the African National Congress (ANC), and the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who had died under mysterious circumstances a few years before. 

Though there were casualties, and “Phoks” and others, were captured, their bravery and military excellence, encompassing their superior mastery of the AK-47s, reverberated as a moral-booster throughout our struggles against colonialism and apartheid racial tyranny. 

The uncompromising revolutionary and patriot, “Phoks” was in 1968 sentenced to serve twenty years on Robben Island. A consummate revolutionary scholar (with unmatched foresight), legend says for the “umrabolo” sessions (political discussions in Robben Island prison) he wrote a discussion paper that predicted the formation of a broad front among the anti-apartheid forces after the 1976 youth uprisings. 

The formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the 1980s proved his scenario correct. Legend also says he was the only one, with the equally fearless leader, Harry Gwala (from the Natal Midlands), who could honestly critique the imperfections of one of the leaders in prison, Nelson Mandela, if they believed he was out of order. 

Indeed the list is endless. But Sekhukhune District’s contribution to the national liberation struggle can’t be complete without sharing the narratives of Peter Nchabeleng (the father of Elleck Nchabeleng, a former MP) who commanded the MK underground unit whose members included Mosima Tokyo Sexwale (who became the first premier of Gauteng). 

Peter Nchabeleng ensured he sacrificed his son’s youthful formative years by recruiting him into the underground cell of the then banned ANC, and when the boers pounced on the unit, all members, including the young Elleck, were captured and sentenced to long spells of imprisonment on Robben Island. On their release, Peter re-established the ANC underground units and led the formation of the UDF structures in the mid-1980s until the apartheid security branch murdered him in 1985.

Although I may not provide the full list of our legendary leaders from this part of Limpopo province, let me just succinctly tabulate them as Isaac Lesiba “Bra Ike” Maphoto; John Nkadimeng; Elias Motsoaledi; Flag Boshielo; even younger revolutionary luminaries such as Moses Mabotha and Ephraim Mogale (the founding President of the Congress of South African Students and a Robben Islander who first appeared in court during his treason trial as a barefoot accused, as the legend goes, because he didn’t have shoes. 

Ephraim’s co-accused, from a relatively well-off family, Thabo Makunyane –  his father was a medical doctor and a successful businessman – was described by a judge as “a rebel without a cause” as he was also then a university student with a “bright future”. The judge sent them to long spells of imprisonment on Robben Island.

Although some of these luminaries are canonised through a number of local municipalities under the Sekhukhuni District Municipality which are named after them, the truth is that many of our today’s generation, even in Limpopo, know nothing about the sacrifices these legends paid to see us as a country liberated.

We have to plant the seed for national recognition of these legends by ourselves, the sister local municipalities in the Sekhukhuni District, the Limpopo province  and the country as a whole to begin to celebrate these home-grown national leaders  with the objective of implanting their memories in the national psyche of all our people.

While recognising the Makhuduthamaga Local Municipality pays tribute to all anti-apartheid activists from the Sekhukhune District as a whole, by paying tribute to all of them, we will be living up to this muncipality’s name. In marketing speak, we will then comfortably claim the municipality is living its brand: paying homage to our struggle icons from Sekhukhune!

These are some of those stalwarts of our struggle that the poet, Mzwakhe Mbuli, perhaps described as “gold and diamond/ in order to be refined/ have gone through the fires of time…”

Although the project could be aimed at paying homage to the Makhuduthamaga, it should be used to achieve the following objectives:

1. Brand positioning Sekhukhune District in general, and the Makhuduthamaga Local Municipality in particular, as a custodian of our liberation heritage;

2. Brand position Sekhukhune District as a tourism destination of choice;

3. Promote Sekhukhune, which used to be a nodal point under the Thabo Mbeki Presidency and Sello Moloto’s premiership (whom I served as a General Manager: Provincial Communication Services), as a viable developmental node among the business stakeholders (both local and global). This will speak to its local economic development objectives;

4. Evoking the spirits of those luminaries who deserted our shores from the graves – by ensuring that stories of their gallant deeds are told to our children.

This, my dear readers, is doable as I have been arguing in the past two editions for our sleepy places to be branded appropriately.

This will help the district to now take a lead in developing world class entrepreneurs. I’m glad to say I didn’t only develop Limpopo’s brand mantra, “the heartland of southern Africa – development is about people”, way back in 2005 and it is still in use, but I have also developed the Greater Tubatse’s as “South Africa’s first democratic platinum city” which my friend endowed with graphic design wizardry incorporated it into the municipality’s corporate logo that he developed on behalf of Bruce Kgapane’s Ziyaphenduka marketing and Events Logistics in the mid-2000s – this brand positioning statement is still being used today.

We have covered in this edition the development of the Fetakgomo Special Economic Zone as a catalyst for economic and enterprise development in the province. The mining industry – as the district is God’s geological gift to South Africa – has to boost the economic fortunes of this district by prioritising both local econonic and community development even if the sector is a national competence by developing responsive and empowering supply chain mechanisms that will support local beneficiation and manufacturing. This will ensure a few decades from now we will be celebrating trailblazing entrepreneurs from this part of the country.

This SEZ, in addition to the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone, will indeed capacitate Limpopo to meet its brand promise of being “the heartland” of the SADC. Do remember the basic definition of a brand: “A promise made, and a promise kept.”

The week that was 

Before signing off, let me pass my heartfelt gratefulness for an invitation to conduct a masterclass on brand development and management on Thursday from Common Purpose for women managers from the NGO sector. Founded in 1989, the not-for-profit company, Common Purpose, is a  leadership development organization that specializes in cross-boundary leadership through programmes in 100 cities worldwide and right now boasts well over 100 000 alumni. Their leadership 

development programmes inspire and equip people to work across boundaries, enabling them to solve  complex problems in organizations and in society. 

The programmed is project managed by Common Purpose on behalf of the American Express Leadership Academy in Southern Africa in Johannesburg. This Academy is one of many such Academies offered by American Express Foundation  (AMEX) in global cities on all continents. AMEX have elected for this Academy to focus on the development of women leaders exclusively. The aim of the Academy is to address the needs of leaders in the not-for-profit sector through collaboration with fellow participants, workshops, keynote presentations and one-on-one executive coaching. 

In attendance were such reputable institutions as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Soul City Institute, Africa Check, Earthlife Africa, Media Monitoring Africa, Joburg Ballet , National Business Initiative and many others such as a Chapter Nine institution, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

My presentation was provocatively based on a definition by a renowned marketing scholar scholar,  Phillip Kotler, that reads: “The science and art of exploring, creating and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market AT A PROFIT…” The emphasis in bold and uppercase phrases are mine. The provocation is on “AT  A PROFIT” because I was addressing institutions that are legally defined as “not-for-profit”. This is a fallacy that I needed to address. For every institution’s sustainability, it has to be make a profit. But the critical difference between private sector companies and the NGOs is that while the former then pay out percentages of their profit to shareholders as dividends, the latter have to re-invest such profit into the organisation’s sustainability. If they don’t, they will perpetually be dependent on donor agencies.

Another point of provocation was encouraging them to moving from abolishing the word “sponsorship” from their vocabulary to embracing SELLING VALUE as part of their revenue generation – to the private sector funders as part of their corporate social investment (CSI); government as social security services; or their general clients purchasing their services and products. They should use their brand assets as a revenue generation mechanism.

Perhaps on the issue of the vocabulary we could gain counsel from T.S. Elliot in his seminal poem, “the four quartets”, when he mused:

And every phase

And sentence that is right (where every word is at home

Taking its place to support the others

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,

An easy commerce of the old and the new,

The common word exact without vulgarity,

The formal word precise but not pendantic,

The complete consort dancing together)

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning

Every poem an epitath.

But while doing so, they should heed to the warning given by Irvin “The Iron Duke” Khoza, writing a tribute to his late daughter, Zodwa, in the 17 February 2006 edition of the Sowetan:  “The quickest way to kill a brand is to communicate something that falls short of the brand promise… ”

Enjoy your weekend.

Saul Molobi


Tel: +27 759 4297

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