A WDBIH Tribute

A little over a month ago, Faith Khanyile called time her 26-year career with WDB and WDBIH. We thought it only fitting to say ‘thank you’ with a reflection on Faith’s illustrious career and honouring her incredible contribution to women upliftment and empowerment, and the role she played in making WDB the entity it is today.

June 2022

Faith Khanyile

Faith’s early years were so beautifully captured in an article on the IOL platform titled, “It takes a rural KZN village to raise a businesswoman.” Raised in a village outside Empangeni, Faith and her five siblings had to help in the family business, so Faith learnt the ropes early on.

After matriculating in 1985, Khanyile left South Africa for the US on a scholarship to study at the Emma Willard School. She then got a scholarship to attend Wheaton College, where she completed her degree in economics, followed by her MBA at the Bentley University Graduate School of Business in Massachusetts.

On completing her studies in 1994, she returned to South Africa. She met “Ma’am” (Zanele Mbeki) and other members of the WDB team at the beginning of 1995. She loved the ethos of the organisation and approached Ma’am about joining it.

Faith recalls the memory in an interview in WDB’s Mpfuxeto 25th Anniversary magazine: “I introduced myself to Mrs Mbeki and told her I had an MBA and was looking for a job.  She told me I was overqualified for WDB and that I should go and find myself a proper job!”

Faith then worked at Brait, before making her way back to WDB, where she worked for two years, assisting in setting up the financial arm of the WDB business, an investment company called WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) as we know it today.

WDBIH was established to ensure that the poverty upliftment programmes of the WDB Trust would be sustainable, therefore making a big impact in the lives of women in rural South Africa.

At that point, South Africa was still a fledgling democracy, and many changes were taking place. It was a challenging time, in which Faith was able to play a role in redefining what being a woman in business meant in the country.

And what a journey it has been. By the time the company had reached the ripe old age of 20, it had partnered with a number of blue-chip companies and was managing a sizeable portfolio.

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On the announcement of Faith leaving the company, tributes to her poured in from friends and colleagues near and far including a very sincere nod of gratitude from “Ma’am” (Mrs Mbeki):  “In the 26 years that you served as an executive, then board member, and later CEO, with your team, you managed to make WDBIH one of the leading women-led investment companies in the country. This enabled a considerable outreach for the WDB Trust programmes to empower families, create long-term employment and develop various skills.”

 

In the 26 years that you served as an executive, then board member, and later CEO, with your team, you managed to make WDBIH one of the leading women-led investment companies in the country.

 

 

Acting CEO Nicci Gubb summed up Faith’s career in a moving personal message: “Wishing you fun and joy as you start your new career journey after a 26-year innings, which took on various forms, at WDB. From very humble beginnings, working out of a briefcase with co-founder Tania Slabbert, to the Company owning 50% of its own building in the upmarket suburb of Dunkeld! From being ‘price-takers’ and the last on the list of investors called to participate in a new opportunity, to being lead in the consortium and in many cases the sole strategic BEE investor. From a small portfolio of investments with significant lock-ins and only trickle dividends, to a multi-billion-rand portfolio which generates significant cash flow for the shareholder. Thank you for always thinking bigger, longer term and for pushing our boundaries. Thank you for leading the way on gender empowerment and never forgetting about the ‘less privileged ones’ and looking for ways on how we can lift them up. You should be very proud of your legacy, Faith.”

 

Thank you for always thinking bigger, longer term and for pushing our boundaries. Thank you for leading the way on gender empowerment and never forgetting about the ‘less privileged ones’ and looking for ways on how we can lift them up.

Tania Slabbert responded to the news with a heartfelt message to her friend and fellow WDBIH pioneer: “Dear Faith, a tribute to you, my colleague and friend, for the long path walked in building this company – it has been an extraordinary experience and an absolute privilege to work alongside you. Your work ethic, professionalism, and dedication to empowering women, as well as your uncompromising commitment to your values, need to be acknowledged. Thank you! I wish you all the best for the next part of your journey and hope to share it. Respect and love. Tania.”

Faith’s dedication to the empowerment of the youth did not go unnoticed; organisations like the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG); Makola School in Soweto and the team from Primestars all sent their best wishes and thanks for a job well done.

Gugulethu Ndebele, Executive Director of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls wrote: “What an awesome lady she is. Thank you Faith Khanyile for all that you did when you were at WDB. Certainly, many of the girls from OWLAG can testify. Thank you, and best wishes on your journey.”

Faith has also been a mentor to many young women, including entrepreneur and digital strategist Lihle Mgaga, who says: “While I’ve learned a lot from what she (Faith) says, many of the lessons came from how she lives her life and interacts with others. Some of the lessons include maintaining respect for others regardless of the situation, prioritising physical and mental health, being courageous in the face of adversity, and standing up for what you believe in, openly. Faith remains a mentor as well as a voice of reason and clarity for me.”

In an interview a few years back, as WDB celebrated its 25th anniversary, Faith was quoted as saying: “I have been very fortunate in my life, having had educational opportunities and a successful career, and have always felt the need to give back by passing on my skills to others. I want to make a difference, be a catalyst for change and touch people’s lives.”

You have done just that Faith; you have made a difference and touched many lives in meaningful and wonderful ways. May you continue upwards and onwards, knowing that you have made a difference. We thank you.

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