By Phephile Motau
Tibiyo Taka Ngwane Managing Director Dr Absalom Themba Dlamini has challenged new Ubombo Sugar CEO Muzi Siyaya to come up with innovative ideas to address recent challenges faced by the industry. Dr Dlamini was speaking when he and the organisation’s management team met the new Chief Executive Officer. Tibiyo Taka Ngwane holds 40 per cent shares at Ubombo Sugar Limited, a subsidiary of Illovo Sugar Africa.
He said Siyaya took over at a time when the industry was facing some of its worst challenges. “The industry and the economy are slowly recovering from the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, which had far-reaching implications on production and markets. It also affected food prices and supplies, pushing our people to the margins. And, as if that was not enough, last year the country experienced violent nationwide riots which have so far cost the sugar industry at least E250 million,” Dr. Dlamini added.
He further cited other challenges faced by the sugar sector, naming in particular changes within SACU, Eswatini’s key export market, the South African sugarcane Value Chain Sugar Master Plan, climate change, and increasing production costs. He stated, however, that he had confidence that Siyaya would hit the ground running, and that Ubombo Sugar and the industry would benefit from his wealth of experience. He then challenged Siyaya to come up with innovative and fresh ideas to address these challenges.
Dr Dlamini also congratulated Illovo Sugar for appointing Siyaya into the position, and expressed confidence in him, citing his extensive experience in business leadership. “We always get encouraged when we see young leaders raising their hands to take the baton, especially at a time like this,” he said, stressing that Siyaya took over at a difficult time for the sugar industry and the entire economy.
Siyaya, a seasoned corporate executive, has an illustrious career spanning several industries – construction, finance, retail, and ICT, among others – conceded that he was facing a mammoth task for which he had adequately prepared himself. He assured Dr Dlamini that he had already started consultative engagements with key stakeholders in the sector, stating that had identified some pressing industry issues and had started conversations on them. He cited shareholder value, maximising business opportunities, harmonising interests between growers and millers, as well as looking after communities as some fundamental talking points. In his view, he continued, no shareholder was too small to receive attention, emphasising that it was his considered view that a minority shareholder was still a shareholder.
Outgoing Ubombo Sugar Limited CEO, Oswald Magwenzi, who represented the Illovo Group, said that Siyaya was fortunate to inherit a company that had proven to be resilient against a range of business and industry challenges, and expressed confidence that Siyaya was the right man to take it to the next level.
“The company is getting stronger. It is ready to look for new opportunities to diversify and grow, particularly in the energy sector. I have no doubt that Siyaya will do well. But for him to do well, he will need the support of everyone in this room,” said Magwenzi, adding that Eswatini, in particular Dr Dlamini, had moulded him into the corporate executive that he had become. He said that he wished Siyaya would receive the same kind of support and mentorship.
Siyaya, a business strategist, is not new to Eswatini, having been born and bred in the Kingdom, before relocating to South Africa 20 years ago. He holds an MSc degree in Finance and Banking as well as an MBA obtained from Kings College (London) and the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) respectively, as well as other qualifications. He has been at the helm of several South African companies across many sectors, including some JSE-listed entities.