DESTINY Page 38 – 40
She may be one of the country's most influential and lauded businesswomen, but the National Empowerment Fund's (NEF) CEO, Philisiwe Buthelezi (48), sees herself as a humble civil servant who prefers to beam the spotlight on others
or someone who's turned around a state enterprise from near-ruin to an entity worth billions of rands, Buthelezi is surprisingly calm and in control. Despite her significant mandate and a diary that leaves even her diligent PA breathless, she manages to exercise control and efficiency in everything she does. On the day of the DESTINY photo shoot, the assiduous executive's had to schedule an emergency meeting with a government minister, but her apologetic assistant reassures us of her commitment to our shoot — even if it means pushing it out by a few hours.
It's 3.20pm on one ofJo'burg's coldest days when a smartly dressed Buthelezi arrives at the location with her team, to whom she's known as “Sis Phili': Her day's been draining and she's famished, having been in back-to-back meetings all day, but her spirits are high and she's ready to tackle what she teasingly describes as a “daunting task”. She takes directions graciously and doesn't seem perturbed by the intermittent delays as the photographers set up their equipment at different sections within the venue. When the shoot wraps four hours later, she's fatigued, yet still exudes warmth. I learn from those acquainted with her that she's characterised by humility, a zest for life and determined personal development. And her demanding nature as a businesswoman is generally couched in charming, fair behaviour. Kunyalala Maphisa, President of the Businesswomen's Association, describes Buthelezi (who won the 2011 Businesswoman of the Year award in the Corporate category) as someone whose mind, heart and soul are in the right place. “It was an honour to have a woman of her calibre enter the competition.