I have considered a lot of things in life and have come to the conclusion that while the sun shines for everyone and the dew on every plant regardless of colour and specie; success comes to only those who earnestly seek it and work to achieve it.
Cheryl Carolus is one that has sought and gained great success. This African leading lady as I love to call her, has broken boundaries and achieved the uncommon. Her unbeatable passion for politics was the force that propelled her to the right direction. She became involved in politics as a student and became a thorough activist after joining the United Democratic Front in 1983 and in May 1990, Cheryl was elected to be part of the African National Congress delegation which held talks with the apartheid government; in July 1991, she was elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee. In 1998, she became South Africa’s High Commissioner in London. Between 2001 and 2004, she was the chief executive officer of SA Tourism (SATOUR) and was also the Board Chairperson for South African National Parks (SANPARKS). In 2009 she assumed this position at South African Airways. She is also chairperson of Peotona Holdings, an investment company that deals with business development.
Although Cheryl didn’t have everything sweet and easy, yet with determination and focus, she strove for excellence and made her mark in the world. She was born on 20 April 1959 in Silvertown, on the Cape Flats, Cape Town. At the time, her father was a printer’s assistant while her mother was a nurse aid. Cheryl attended local schools and was selected as head prefect. She was also a member of the South African Black Students Association; she chaired a campaign to supplant the conventional prefect system with democratic elections for a Student’s Representative Council. Her distinguishing features were determination, integrity and an exceptional leadership skill. These same features led her to the peak of her career. After her matriculation, Cheryl registered for a BA degree and a teacher’s diploma at the University of the Western Cape. She was also a very active force in the Black Consciousness Group, and the South African Student’s Organisation (SASO). Her insistence on the rights of her people led to her arrest and five months detention in 1976. From 1982-1983, she worked for the churches Urban Planning Commission.
The leading lady was part of the ANC elections team who prepared the organization to fight the first democratic election. She also led the consultative process to develop policy for a post-apartheid South Africa. This involved active engagement with stakeholders including business through the Brenthurst Group and one of the first major initiatives by the private sector and the then liberation movements, the Joint Education Trust of which she was a founding trustee. She gave the diplomatic missions abroad a better and brighter view and also reformed how they function through her work as SA High Commissioner (Ambassador) to the UK. Cheryl also played a pivotal role in women’s organizations, she was the founding member of the United Women’s Organisation(UWO), an organization that later became the United Women’s Congress, in the Western Cape. She also served as the general secretary for the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) from 1987.
The action lady has led several reforms and occupies numerous leadership positions. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Crisis Group and also serves as the Chairperson of IQ Business (Pty) Ltd. She served as the Chairperson of South African Airways (Pty) Ltd for a period of three years and has also been Independent Non-Executive Director of Investec PLC and Investec Ltd since March 18, 2005. Cheryl has been an Independent Non-Executive Director of Gold Fields Ltd. since March 10, 2009. She serves as a Director at South African Technology and Innovation Agency, De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (Pty) Ltd, WWF South Africa. She has been a Director of Investec Asset Management (Pty) Limited since May 17, 2005. She also serves as a Director of PG Glass Ltd, The Constitution Hill Trust, and Technology Innovation Agency.
This great woman’s resume cannot be summarized in a few lines or words; she was clearly born to lead. She serves as a Director and Executive Member of the International Crisis Group and Director of WWF International and WWF South Africa. Her Board positions include DBCM Ltd, DBCM Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Bargenel Investments Ltd, Sinako Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Lafarge Industries SA (Pty) Ltd, Lafarge Mining SA (Pty) Ltd, Lafarge Education Trust, and Lafarge Community Trust. Other Board positions include Rebatona Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd., Rebatona Educational Trust, Western Areas Prospecting (Pty) Ltd, Macsteel Service Centres SA (Pty) Ltd, Ponahalo Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Ponahalo Investments (Pty) Ltd, Ponahalo Capital (Pty) Ltd, Trinitas Private Equity (Pty) Ltd, Peotona Marang (Pty) Ltd., Mercedez Benz SA, and Fenner Conveyor Belting (SA) (Pty) Ltd. Cheryl is a Board Member of Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Soul City Institute for Health & Development Communication, and Bridgetown Senior Secondary School Alumnus Society and has been the Chairman of Gold Fields Ltd. since February 2013. She holds a B.A. in Law and B.Ed. from the University of the Western Cape and is married to her friend and soul mate Graham Bloch; a lecturer at the university of the Western Cape and a member of the United Democratic Front’s executive in the Western Cape.
A writer once said; “whether you say you can or cannot, you are right. For in the end, the decision is yours to make”. But if you ask me, I would say YOU CAN. So get up and get going, and while you at it always say “I can, I can, I can…”
© 2013, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.