The deal between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Clicks/Unilever has been cut, the shattered glass swept up, the protest suspended, and business magnate and politician Herman Mashaba remains stunned by the actions of big business which led to this week's violence. A self-made millionaire, Mashaba was born to a domestic worker mother on 22 August 1959, and raised by his sisters in GaRamotse in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. Successful businessman-turned-politician Herman Mashaba made a huge success of his hair product Black Like Me and is equally making waveson the political front. Pictures: Tracy Lee Stark...
The deal between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Clicks/Unilever has been cut, the shattered glass swept up, the protest suspended, and business magnate and politician Herman Mashaba remains stunned by the actions of big business which led to this week's violence.

A self-made millionaire, Mashaba was born to a domestic worker mother on 22 August 1959, and raised by his sisters in GaRamotse in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria.

Herman Mashaba is putting in the hard yards


Successful businessman-turned-politician Herman Mashaba made a huge success of his hair product Black Like Me and is equally making waves/\r\n/on the political front. Pictures: Tracy Lee Stark

Years later, having led the Joburg municipality, he caused an uproar of his own by leaving the Democratic Alliance under controversial circumstances and – as expected – formed his own political party, ActionSA. Having been judged harshly for his views on illegal immigrants, Mashaba was left shaking his head at what he deemed unnecessary actions on both sides of the hair furore.

Known as the founder of Black Like Me, Mashaba has featured on this page before, but times have changed rapidly since then, as has the man – and he believes the situation should have been handled better by both the Clicks group and the EFF.

"At a time when our country is facing these massive job losses, the economy contracting at 51%, and we are in the midst of Covid-19, which is affecting the entire world, we want to subject more and more of our people to poverty?" Mashaba said, questioning the sanity of closing stores.

"The majority would view the necessary recourse to those adverts as residing with institutions like the SAHRC [South African Human Rights Commission] and Equality Court, both of which have considerable powers and a good track record for holding offenders to account."

Mashaba believes President Cyril Ramaphosa has been painfully absent from discussions about the Clicks incident and EFF's response.

Herman Mashaba is putting in the hard yards


South African entrepreneur, politician Herman Mashaba is photographed in his home in Sandton, 8 September 2020. Mashaba recently launched his new political party ACTIONSA, a party he founded in August 202. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

However, as active as he is in South African politics, it's hard for him not to return to his business roots. Mashaba is familiar with the intricacies of doing business with big corporates. He welcomed the decision by Clicks to give shelf space to local hair and beauty product manufacturers as part of its remedial measures.

Unilever also removed TRESemmé products, the manufacturer behind the offensive product marketing material from the shelves of business, while Clicks has pledged to punt more local products. Which is where Mashaba's warning to small businesses comes in: they should learn to "walk before they run".

"I see a lot of entrepreneurs tend to really make a mistake of wanting to go for national distribution when there is no demand for a product," he says.

"So you've got to be very careful for Clicks to list your products when there's no demand for it."

Drawing on his own history of breaking into a market, he says business owners must put in the work to grow demand for their product before venturing into a national supply chain.

"We were going from township to village to establish black distributors," says Mashaba.

"Over years, because of the demand, it was easy. All these big companies started contacting and calling on us. We had that advantage because we created the demand. If your product doesn't move, unfortunately no business anywhere in the world will keep it.

"Build the base, like we did. Go from one place to the other, create a demand for the product. Once you've got the demand, then it becomes easy for you."

With South Africa's two biggest parties facing internal struggles, leaving more voters disenchanted than ever, and new legislation in the offing which will allow people to run for office without the backing of a party, the question is, is a new party adding to the local scene, or simply cluttering it. Either way, you can expect business – and political – entrepreneur Mashaba to be in the thick of it.

news@citizen.co.za

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