Leetile Benjamin Mophatlane , CEO of Business Connexion (BCX), and co-founder who successfully transformed a South African-based small IT firm into one of the largest ICT companies in Africa, suffered a heart attack and died on Wednesday at the age of 41.
(READ MORE: Business Connexion CEO passes away)
Mophatlane is survived by his wife Abena Saah and their three children.
Condolences have been pouring in for his family, mother, sister, twin brother Isaac
and the entire Mophatlane and BCX family.
In a sombre statement BCX said: “We have lost an irreplaceable brother, colleague, leader, husband and father. Ben was a leader with a big heart and who considered wisely decisions in all facets of his life. He had impeccable judgement and most of all, was a man of deep integrity and honour. His death is a great tragic loss to the Company and the South African business community."
During his time as a CEO of BCX, Mophatlane helped the company revitalised itself after it suffered serious financial setbacks.
The first time he stood up to present financial earnings as the boss of BCX, he was met by hostile institutional investors. They even questioned his competency.
But a humble and unfazed Mophatlane took the punches and it seemed his entrepreneurial spirit kicked-in.
He kept his cool and focus on turning around the business. He did and earned his integrity, and use the nasty experience to make himself a better CEO.
In 1998 Telkom, South Africa’s fixed-line telephone group, awarded BCX a 100 million rand contract to supply it with all its Microsoft requirements.
(READ MORE: Telkom looks to acquire BCX issued shares)
Today, the company’s operations spanned countries such as Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
It is a leading IT service provider in South Africa, provides strong presence in East and West Africa, and continues to grow through aggressive acquisitions.
This is a great achievement from a company that is regarded a small entity compared to its listed rival Datatec, which has a global footprint, and Dimension Data – South Africa’s biggest ICT firm.
Mophatlane and his executive team spearheaded an Africa strategy in order to create a true Pan-African ICT company.
He succeeded where big South African corporates have failed to make inroads into the rest of Africa through earnings enhancing acquisitions.
One of the respectable CEOs of technology firms, Mophatlane has managed to build a formidable footprint for BCX in Africa. His record could only be comparable to the growth of MTN Group across the continent led by its former CEO Phuthuma Nhleko.
BCX became a respectable company across the continent due to their investment on building IT skills.
The company is now the largest employer of ICT skills in Africa with vast experience in delivering large projects throughout the continent.
Mophatlane turned BCX into an African leader in cloud services offerings. He also helped the company become a market leader in key African industry verticals such as wholesale, retail, manufacturing and resources, mining and natural resources, etc.
What really has made Mophatlane an astute executive and able to create the right platform for BCX’s growth seems to lie in a 2011 interview with Brainstorm Magazine.
“Our view has always been that even if we win big contracts, we don’t spend it but reinvest it to build skills,” said Mophatlane at the time.
“A friend reinforced that with the memorable advice that every apartment block has a penthouse at the top. But you have to work yourself up. Don’t just get into the lift and press the top button. Life is a continuous learning experience and I’ll never say I have done it all. I’m always interested in learning about new things.”
True to this dictum, Mophatlane managed to build BCX into company that is worth close to three billion rand.
Furthermore, what has distinguished BCX’s foray into the rest of Africa is ethical leadership under Mophatlane.
The company won the hearts of its customers through good service delivery and by putting the voice of the customer at the centre of everything it does.
This is best described by Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko, who was in a process of buying BCX for close to three billion rand.
“Benjamin was one of those larger than life people; a man who embraced life with passion and enthusiasm. His deep humanity shone through in the way he interacted with people, be it colleagues, staff, business associates, family or friends. It was always a pleasure to meet him,” said Maseko.
As a business leader, Mophatlane’s will to succeed and his astute insight into business complexities enabled him to grow BCX into a formidable organisation.
“The story of BCX, Ben and Isaac, his brother, represents one of the most remarkable South African stories of success, resilience and the will to win,” said Maseko.
“His passing is a great loss, not only for BCX, but for business in South Africa, the Africa region and the world. His zest for life and energising presence will be deeply missed.”
BCX was formed in September 1996 by Mophatlane and his twin brother Isaac after getting four million rand worth of seed capital from their employer Connection Group to establish a new computer reseller start-up targeting government departments and parastatals.
The company was really borne from a South African time that could be best described as “living the moment” ushered by our first democratic elections.
He leaves a company behind that’s key to Africa’s growth.
* LOURIE IS THE EDITOR OF TECHFINANCIALS.CO.ZA.