It was around 5.30 am, the morning of my birthday on 19 March 2020 when I received a distraught WhatsApp message announcing the passing of Teboho Shai: a friend, a brother and a gentle soul that crossed my life journey in 2011 when we met and became “family friends” through our daughters (Mbali Sebokedi and Azile Mdleleni) who studied together at Pretoria High School for Girls.
And up to the time of his passing – after four years of a protracted yet courageous battle with cancer – I will forever cherish the amazing moments that I spent in his company. A company in the presence of this great, unassuming and humble “gentle giant of our times”, who was gifted with one of the most amazing “intellectual and entrepreneurial minds” the world will ever know.
Had he not been born ten years after the advent of the Apartheid system in 1948, and six years after the promulgation of the Bantu Education Act in 1953, there is no doubt that this intellectually gifted son of the soil – born and bred in the hinterland of Qhemega Village in Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape – would have been one of the most distinguished scholars in our academic fraternity, with more academic accolades than what he accumulated in his lifetime.
At the time of his untimely death, he was a Doctor of Business Leadership (DBL) candidate at the University of South Africa (UNISA). His doctoral thesis focussed on the research topic “Modelling Successful Intelligence: Multiple Mediation Strategy”.
In 2000 he successfully completed a Masters of Business Administration in Entrepreneurial Studies at Bond University. He achieved the academic accolade after acquiring a Bachelor of Business Administration from the US-based University of Newport in 1996.
Teboho Shai also completed a European Certified Board of Logistics qualification in 1999. He also acquired a Certificate in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance from the University of South Africa and an Advanced Certificate in Road Transport Management from the University of Johannesburg.
For the past 30 years or so, Teboho Shai established an indelible footprint in the South African business fraternity having worked in high leadership positions for international and local corporate conglomerates like Woolworths, South African Breweries and Transnet Freight. During his tenure at Transnet Freight (2001-2003), he managed a staff complement of 950 at a Senior Executive level capacity. He provided strategic direction for the entire road and freight division with 650 truck trailers combination for about 135 to 150 clients. He led a team of five Divisional Senior Managers and a total staff of 635 within four South Africa regions.
In the last two decades (2000 – 2020), Teboho Shai established his own entrepreneurial business ventures that paved his path from formal employment to an independent business entrepreneur in the fields of business research and strategy, business advisory and consultancy, freight and logistics, supply chain management, business performance management systems, manufacturing in the energy and mining sectors as well as other strategic business interventions in the business sector.
These business ventures were undertaken through his suite of business entities that included Logility Business Solutions (Director), Kguthatso Consultingworx Services (Chief Executive Officer), Kguthatso Research Academy (Research Director), Plato Holdings 360° Fleet and Freight Solutions (Executive Director).
In 2015 he established the current flagship project: SHAI Photovoltaic Industrial Solutions Pty Ltd for which he was the Executive President. The company sought to establish a complete sizable fully integrated Polysilicon to Solar Panel manufacturing facility in South Africa and to supply consumers in the Africa continent and export market by 2021.
But sadly, it was almost a year after he had embarked on his most ambitious project in 2015, a ground-breaking project that could have catapulted or launched him as one of the most successful black industrialists in the African continent, that he was diagnosed with a life-threatening and life-changing cancer in April 2016. The debilitating cancer consequently rendered him paralysed and wheelchair-bound. And despite his paralysis and limitation of physical movement, Teboho Shai poured all his entrepreneurial acumen and intellectual prowess towards the realization of his innovative flagship project. The Polysilicon to Solar Panel manufacturing facility had the potential to create hundreds of jobs for the people of the Nelson Mandela Bay.
And it is such a pity that your untimely demise struck at a time when the world is faced with the Covid-19 pandemic that resulted in the declaration of the national State of Disaster followed by the national lockdown on 26 March 2020 to 16 April 2020. And the restriction of movement prescribed by the lockdown prevented many of us who loved and admired you so deeply – who would have wanted to attend your funeral at your ancestral home of Qhemega Village in Sterkpruit – from paying our final respects and eulogy in person.
Rest in eternal peace, my brother and my friend. You have run your race gallantly with unremitting courage and resilience. Even in the midst of unbearable and unimaginable pain in the last four years, you remained a faithful husband to your loyal wife Veliswa and an amazing father and provider to your wonderful children. Many of us – including your family, friends and colleagues – have been touched eternally by your generosity of spirit, your boundless humanity, your sense of wisdom and counsel, and your pleasant sense of humour and hearty laughter. Rest in eternal peace, Ntate Shai, Robala ka Kgotso, until we meet again.
FOOTNOTE: A Private Family Service will be hosted at 08h00 on 26 March 2020 in Qhemega Village in Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape Province. A Private Cremation Ceremony will be held at 11h30 at a Crematorium in Bloemfontein in the Free State Province.