Thought Leadership

When the Heart and Mind Unite

October 2022

-Transformation with Thatohatsi Mothibe

Ingrain (originally Tongaat Starch) celebrates one hundred years in operation, ranked as the largest producer of unmodified and modified starch and glucose products on the African continent. In 2019, Barloworld acquired a portion of Tongaat Hulett, specifically Tongaat Starch. The successful integration of the four fully operating mills into the Barloworld family on October 31st, 2020, saw the company rebranded as Barloworld Ingrain. The transition included transferring all Tongaat Starch employees and key management members, as laid out in the acquisition contract, according to Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995. 

Barloworld adopted an acquisition strategy similar to Bidvest, which identifies established companies up for sale that aligns with their growth and development. After a prolonged search, Barloworld found their alignment with Tongaat Starch. There was definite beauty in the transition of Tongaat Starch to Barloworld Ingrain. Where they could not align, they sought common ground to achieve a smooth transition and employee satisfaction.

Ingrain manufactures various products (including yellow maize) that are essential ingredients in the manufacturing processes of many South African and African-based food suppliers. Traders in nature, Ingrain either buy maize directly from farmers or utilize agent services to obtain the required amounts of maize from several small-scale farmers. It aids in their survival and allows for growth. In light of transformation, Ingrain aims to achieve a system where small-scale farmers unite to become commercial farmers. To become a commercial farmer, one must have one hundred hectares of land. The merger of two or three small-scale farms would then be classified as commercial, making market access more available. 

Thatohatsi Mothibe, a Specialist highly skilled in the field of transformation, says that personally, transformation is not just a tick-box exercise. It means having the ability to change lives, influence society and influence how businesses think. This statement is very profound! Not every day one comes across a person driven by their passion for making a difference in South Africa.

Transformation with Thato to Achieve an Inclusive Economy.

South African history reveals, in our current situation, the devastating impacts that the results of apartheid have had on the country and its people. Farmers were granted ownership of the land according to race and not merit. In line with our history, white farmers were awarded the rich, fertile lands in prime areas, while black farmers relocated to arid farmlands. Currently, males dominate the agricultural industry, predominantly white males with great insight and knowledge of the best farming practices. That adds that it is a huge task to transform the country into an inclusive economy. To achieve this, Ingrain has joined hands with industry experts to find solutions to the numerous issues in the agricultural sector. “Our business aims to create a diverse and inclusive supplier database that reflects our country's demographics. To onboard black farmers, we are embarking on a project to help support upcoming black farmers to become commercial farmers and thus will have the ability to form part of our supplier database. 

It is heart-warming to witness the positive responses from well-established white farmers to the latest strategy, whereby we encourage them to support small-scale farmers. I can say that about 20% of these farmers are willing to donate up to thirty hectares of their farming land to teach people how to farm. These are small steps as change starts with one step at a time."

She further states that “with the assistance of industry experts, we have identified that in many instances where mines and mills close, the towns surrounding them disintegrate because nothing substantial was ever given to the communities to sustain themselves. In seeking a solution to this, we ask ourselves what the inherent qualities are that the government wants to achieve through BBBEE. One thing we need to understand is that if we are not educated and lack an understanding of how to run a business, there will never be inclusive participation in the economy. Giving someone R10 has no value if they do not have a skill with which to grow that R10. The answer lies here; if every single company in South Africa could award a bursary or several bursaries to educate and upskill their people, then more small businesses, which can employ more people, will be developed. Listen to this: BBBEE is not about black and white, it is about creating a platform that enables development, growth, sustainability and self-respect. Being employed gives a person a sense of self-respect, which means that person has their dignity intact. Thus, BBBEE is about giving dignity back to the people while creating an inclusive economy.” 

In further breaking this statement, Thato says, “an untold truth is that for anyone or any company to fully transform, the heart and mind must unite. Only once the heart and mind are in the correct place will we see change. The mind says yes, it knows South Africa must change, but the heart questions why we must make these transformations. While attending a transformation course directed by a white gentleman, he confirmed that only when his heart and mind were in the right place, was he able to understand why BBBEE has been implemented. He further said that his mind was only looking at the negative impact apartheid had had, but that it all became clear to him once his heart and mind aligned. Now, if every single EME, QSE, and generic aligns their hearts and minds and fully commits themselves, the transformation will automatically take care of itself.” 

As a Transformation Specialist, Thato is clear that every single corporation in this country needs to look at how they can diversify their supplier database. "At Ingrain, we do this by onboarding EMEs, QSEs, and black women-owned and black-owned businesses that in turn create jobs. Remember that employment equals dignity and this is how we fight poverty that causes atrocities in our communities—an 18-year-old girl has to commit sexual favours with older men to feed her unemployed parents. Unfortunately, BBBEE is going nowhere for now as companies are not doing the right thing and they do not fully understand the intentions of BBBEE. It is only when companies start looking at BBBEE and transformation through these eyes that we will see real traction and evidence of the impacts that BBBEE aims to achieve.”

Thato’s passion for transformation shows when she says that transformation in its purest form is evident in Vodacom's relocation from Midrand to Johannesburg Central. The former Vodacom CEO identified the root cause of the decline in customer service that caused clients to transfer their subscriptions to MTN. She explains that the majority of the employees lived in Soweto and Vaal. They would have to leave home at 4 am, whether raining or sunshine. They would then take three or four taxis to get to the call centre in Midrand. In relocating, Vodacom allowed employees to save valuable time and money is a true transformation. By having his heart and mind in the right place, he looked at the company internally and transformed the internal environment, thus, allowing external transformation.

Some companies are willing to change but do not understand the full dynamics of transformation. But it is simple if we look at Vodacom as an example. The questions should be: what are we as a company doing wrong, where do we need to change, and how do we start the transition? South Africa is diverse thus, every company will have a diverse workforce as a natural result. Additionally, a balance of gender is equally important, especially in managerial positions. Transformation knows no excuses. Every division, every level, and every department of the company must change and transform as a unit. If every company had a Siyakhula programme, South Africa would be miles ahead by now in its bid to achieve an inclusive economy. If we can change the landscape and the narrative then, even the power lines will change.

These are the lessons on transformation from Thato. Thato was driven to this field of work by her quest to find a solution to a lingering question in her mind. How do we create a platform where every South African can thrive? Certainly, her experience and vast amounts of knowledge have not gone unnoticed by Barloworld, where she has already managed transformation in various divisions within the company.

In parting, Thato urges all Barloworld employees to embrace the spirit of transformation as well as to understand that they should create a world of difference within the space they operate. Barloworld is a platform for changing lives, Barloworld supports the country's transformation. Every employee should transform themselves to be better representatives of Barloworld and also represent what Barloworld stands for. Transformation in its entirety is taking what was and changing it into something conducive to enabling development and growth. At the end of the day, it is every single person and company’s responsibility to transform South Africa, and until we embrace it, true transformation will never be achieved. 

Diversity and Inclusivity Mathematics with Thatohatsi Mothibe
-This table is an example and is purely used as an illustration

population black population white population   black senior management white senior management
100 82% 8% 60% 40%


If there are 100 people in South Africa and 8% are white (eight people) and senior management must be made up of 60% black people (60 people) and 40% white (40 people), there will not be enough white people to fill the positions and there will still be black people who will not be able to be employed in that position. Therefore, the end conclusion is that diversity and inclusivity is for everyone; black, coloured, Indian and white.

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