Cynthia Thandi Ndlovu not only holds the position of Executive Chairman at Motheo Group (Pty) Ltd., President for Black Business Council and National President at South African Women in Construction but she is also a Council Member at South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors and on the board of 7 other companies.
In the past Dr. Ndlovu held the position of Chairman at South African Wine Industry Trust.
Dr. Ndlov was moulded by South Africa’s apartheid past, tore her way into male-dominated sectors , leading her boldly through a quarter century of democracy.
She was born and raised in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. She grew up as the middle child of 5 kids, in a loving and nurturing household. She was always an avid reader and scholar.
Dr Thandi was subject to one of the most inhumane periods of our times, Apartheid in South Africa. On the 16th June, 1976 there were events which occurred in South Africa which will never be forgotten. What started as a peaceful demonstration of students marching for their educational rights, ended up in barbaric bloodshed during the Soweto uprising.
In the students pathway, they were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition. This resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the government.
The aftermath of the events of June 16 1976 had dire consequences for the Apartheid government. Images of the police firing on peacefully demonstrating students led an international revulsion against South Africa, as it’s brutality was exposed. Figures of those murdered are not clear as the government at the time covered them up, but they are in the region of 575 students. Dr Thandi’s brother, Hastings, was one of them.
The Soweto uprising was a result of the continuum of laws of suppression, of exclusion, of depriving the black people the right to a decent education. It was subjugating the majority to be able to perpetuate the rule of the minority.
These led Dr Thandi to begin her struggle and fight for what was politically and humanely right. She went into exile and wasn’t to return to South Africa for another 14 years….
She, together with 1,000’s of other men and women were part of the liberation movement. They needed to expose what was really going on in South Africa and to plan how to resolve this crisis, with the hope of one day returning to their beloved South Africa, as a totally free person in a democracy.
Most of her exile was spent in Zambia but she was also stationed in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and the USSR. The African National Congress (ANC) had a web of people around the world who were in exile. One of Dr Thandi’s roles was Administrative Secretary of Women’s Secretariat, they were responsible for empowering women both outside and inside, South Africa. She also trained up in Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which was the ANC military wing.
Part of her training was in the USSR where she was sent for a year to attend Communistic and Socialistic school. It was run by the Russians for people from countries who were fighting their own struggles, the ANC, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Saharawi Popular Liberation Army, and other Arab Countries too.
During her time in Zambia, she studied medicine and graduated as Doctor. It was in her last year, when she got the news that the President of South Africa, F.W. De Klerk, had lifted the ban on the political movement and people in exile were allowed to move back, without the fear of being arrested. South Africa had been forced by the underground ANC movement and the international community to make changes.
This conversation, truly is a history lesson. We feel we are writing history too, with stories that are not spoken about enough and for us to learn from. While it is all about South Africa, the lessons are relevant to all of us. We should learn, from ours and others mistakes and let history not repeat itself. As humans, we are greater than this and should take responsibility for how our future unfolds.
In this conversation we hear what it was like growing up in Soweto, the delicious and nutritious food and meals they used to cook with chicken feet and pork knuckles, the innovative street games they played, not being allowed to fill up with petrol because she was black, taking no belongings with her into exile, walking across country borders into exile, the disgraceful act of bantu education, communist training in the USSR, the persistence it took for her to get accepted to study to be a doctor and how the ANC was run in exile.
These days, Dr Thandi or Dr T, as she is more affectionately known by her employees, is the CEO of a multi-billion Rand (South African Currency) construction business, whose primary focus is developing low cost housing. She also runs the Dr Thandi Ndlovu Children’s Foundation.