Businessman and scientist Xolani Mkhwanazi has died | Fin24
 
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Businessman and scientist Xolani Mkhwanazi has died

Jan 06 2020 10:44

Chairperson of EOH, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, has died, the technology group said in a notice to shareholders issued on Monday morning.

"Dr Mkhwanazi passed away peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning, 4 January 2020 at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Parktown Johannesburg, having been admitted on 14 December 2019," the notice read.

The 65-year old Mkhwanazi also served as an independent non-executive director of mining company South32 as well as at the Public Investment Corporation, having held roles of deputy and acting chairperson at the latter. Mkhwanazi was also chancellor of the Vaal University of Technology. 

Mkhwanazi was appointed as chairperson of EOH in June last year to assist with the turnaround of the embattled IT service provider, one of the largest in Africa.

Earlier in 2019, Microsoft barred EOH from selling software licences, following a complaint from a whistleblower to US market authorities about alleged corruption in a software deal between EOH and the SA department of defence.

An investigation commissioned by the board found R1bn worth of fraudulent contracts between the company and the public sector.

EOH has since blacklisted and suspended payments to 50 implicated enterprise development partners, Fin24 previously reported.

The company has been trying to restore its reputation following allegations of corruption, and several of its board members have resigned due to the reconfiguration.

"I worked closely with Dr Mkhwanazi who played a pivotal role in helping to guide EOH towards a better future," said EOH CEO Stephen van Coller. "Dr Mkhwanazi led the board deliberations on all group matters, but most notably during the tough deliberations around the findings of the ENSafrica investigation commissioned by EOH into public sector contracts.

"During this period Dr Mkhwanazi braved a difficult time always striving to do the right thing. He grasped the issues and dealt with them quickly. He will be sorely missed." 

EOH said Andrew Mthembu, a lead independent non-executive director, has been appointed interim chairperson.

Scientist, business leader

In a separate statement South32 also honoured Mkhwanazi for his contribution to the company. Mkhwanazi joined South32 in July 2015.

"With significant experience in mining and metals and expertise in science, Xolani played a critical role in the establishment of South32 and made a valuable contribution to the Sustainability Committee based on his deep understanding of social and environmental issues," the notice read.

Mkhwanazi had brought with him experience from having served as chairperson of BHP Billiton chairperson and as president and chief operating officer of South Africa Aluminium. He was also previously the CEO National Energy Regulator of South Africa.

"Xolani was greatly admired for his grace and his wisdom. He was a scientist and an esteemed business leader with a passion for South Africa, its people and the resources sector. His contribution was felt throughout the company and we will miss him greatly," said South32 chairperson Karen Wood.

Between 2010 and 2012, Mkhwanazi was also the president of the Chamber of Mines, which is now known as the Minerals Council South Africa. "I had the privilege of getting to know Dr Mkhwanazi back in 2010 and I admired his incredible intellectual capability, his humility and his great sense of humour. South Africa and the mining sector have lost not only a great leader and intellectual but also a man who was passionate about this country. He will be sorely missed," said CEO Roger Baxter.

Mkhwanazi held a PhD in applied Physics from Lancaster University. He was awarded an honorary degree from Lancaster in July 2019.

He started his career as a scientist at the Atomic Energy Corporation, and also worked at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) before becoming CEO of the National Energy Regulator.

"With this firm foundation, he has become an important figure for the rebuilding of South Africa after apartheid and is now a leading global figure in science education and business arenas", Lancaster University said.

The PIC in a statement said that Mkhwanazi's passing comes at a "critical time" in the life of the state asset manager as it is working to restore its reputation. 

"Dr Mkhwanazi was re-appointed to the PIC Board in July 2019, alongside other board members to assist with this process. His experience and skills would no doubt have been valuable during this transitional period. 

"The board appreciates and will solely miss the continuity that he was providing to the board," the PIC said.

A judicial commission of inquiry into the PIC, led by Justice Lex Mpati in December submitted its final report to President Cyril Ramaphosa in December. The commission was appointed by the president to investigate allegations of irregularities in the PIC's investment decisions, among other things. The PIC invests on behalf of the Government Employee Pension Fund and manages R2.1trn in assets.

Compiled by Lameez Omarjee

south32  |  pic  |  eoh  |  business  |  science and technology
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