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Winning women: Making a difference

Aug 20 2017 06:00
Sue Grant-Marshall

Driven: Ntsiki Adonisi-Kgame of ENSafrica. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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Attorney Ntsiki Adonisi-Kgame, who was recently appointed as adirector in the mining practice at ENSafrica, the continent’s largest law firm, has achieved alife goal: to be different and make adifference, writes Sue Grant-Marshall

Ntsiki Adonisi-Kgame has rejoiced at hearing mine workers singing underground, held a drill at the rock face and fought to improve the working conditions of women in the industry.

She’s an attorney, conveyancer and notary public of the High Court of South Africa, working in a field she’s passionate about – mining – and exudes a cheerful confidence that belies her youthful thirtysomething age.

Men predominate, Chinese, Afrikaans, English, black, white and Indian, in the huge ENSafrica office in the heart of the business district in Sandton.

It is here that Adonisi-Kgame, a slip of a woman in a striking black and white outfit, strides across the vast entrance hall, hand held out.

She’s thrilled to be in her current position for, from the moment she left school, she always wanted to work in the field of mining and now she’s “doing it for Africa”.

The century old law firm has over 600 practitioners, “operating as one law firm”, in countries ranging from Tanzania and Uganda to Ghana and Namibia.

“We’re changing negative, Afro-pessimism attitudes. We know we can be African and super-impressive,” says Adonisi-Kgame.

Skype calls and conferencing have reduced the necessity for her to live on a plane.

However, in September she will join, “miners from all over the world at a conference in Perth, Australia. I will be representing my firm there.”

Questions will undoubtedly be asked about South Africa’s controversial 2017 Mining Charter.

“We’re often asked if it is OK to invest here and, while we do need to transform the industry, we should do so only to a point where it does not harm it.”

The lawyer wants to see women own mines without fronting for mine owners, and for her to no longer be, “one of a few women in a room, as I was at the Junior Mining Indaba in June.”

Adonisi-Kgame’s work brings her into contact with engineers, geologists and “anyone involved in mining”, which is why she set out early on to experience every facet she could of the industry.

“I can communicate with someone holding a bucket, discuss the rights of pregnant women and hold my own at board level. I enjoy bridging the gap between shareholders, workers and communities living around mines,” she says.

She was raised in Pimville, Soweto, by her BA-degreed mother, and her father, Mandla Adonisi, who obtained his PhD in 2004.

She decided to do law, “because I wasn’t good at maths”, graduating with her BA LLB from The University of the Witwatersrand in 2002.

From 2007 onwards, she worked and studied simultaneously, gaining certificates from Wits in topics ranging from Mining Tax Law, to Prospecting and Mining Law, Advance Company Law and the Legal Liability – Mine Health and Safety Act.

In July 2009 she started and ran her own law practice, “to see if I could go it alone. I learnt a lot.”

In 2011 she was asked by Otsile Matlou, now chief operating officer (COO) of ENSafrica, to join the firm, and she loved it until her baby girl “made me decide to slow down. I just couldn’t leave her, so I left ENSafrica instead.”

Later on she joined Gold One International and was appointed general counsel. She was responsible for the group’s entire legal function and regulatory compliance. She also managed its mining titles in South Africa and Mozambique.

Early this year she was offered a directorship in ENSafrica’s mining practice.

A few of their mining clients are Chinese, so “they speak Mandarin, but we get by”. She adds with a chuckle: “I speak Sowetan and understand Fanagalo.”

In her first year at Wits, Adonisi-Kgame, along with her siblings and friends, helped create Community Youth Empowerment. “It’s an initiative to make a meaningful and direct contribution to the communities around us.”

She’s also a board member of Project Literacy, a non-profit organisation that helps illiterate and semiliterate adults.

She relaxes with her, “incredibly supportive husband and our four-year-old daughter”.

For fitness she participates in parkrun, which organises free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world.

winning women  |  mining
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