Sandile Zungu ('Gwabs')
Date of Birth: 10/02/1967
Place of Birth: Durban
Commentary: The leader of a new wave of politically influential business people, Sandile 'Gwabs' Zungu has emerged as a key figure in Jacob Zuma's presidency. An important fundraiser for his many legal battles and then for the African National Congress election campaign, Zungu works with business figures in the President's camp such as Robert Gumede, Executive Chairman of GijimaAst, who donated 10 million rand (US$ 1.24mn.) of his fortune at an ANC fundraising meeting last year, and Vivian Reddy, Chairman of Edison Corporation.
More businessman than politician, Zungu lobbied for the Director General's post in the presidency. Instead, Zuma chose Vusi Mavimbela of the National Intelligence Agency, in the belief (which he shares with his rival, ex-President Thabo Mbeki) that a successful president needs an intelligence-gathering capacity that is independent of the national apparatus. Zungu, who would have been ill-suited to that covert role, will find other ways to work with Zuma. Although a strident businessman, Zungu lines up with the radical nationalist wing of the Zuma team and has criticised Planning Minister Trevor Manuel for lacking policies to deal with the unemployment crisis.
Born on 10 February 1967 in Durban's Umlazi township, Sandile Zungu went to school in KwaZulu-Natal, attending the prestigious Hilton College, the most expensive boarding school in South Africa, before graduating from the University of Cape Town in 1988 with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering.
A brief career as an engineer followed. with various positions at Richards Bay Minerals, Engen Refinery, National Sorghum Breweries and SA Breweries between 1989 and 1994. His career changed direction in 1995 when he attained an MBA in marketing and finance from the UCT.
His move into business saw considerable success. He founded Sarhwu Investment Holdings Limited, now Zungu Investments Company (Zico) in 1997, and by 2000 it had grown from a zero asset base to a net asset value of more than R400 mn. In may 2001-June 2005, he was Chairman of Denel, the youngest-ever head of a parastatal in SA. He remains a prominent business figure, chairing the boards of companies such as Aflease Gold and Spectrum Shipping.
The financial downturn has weakened mining companies and unsettled Zungu's business empire. The Micawber Black Economic Empowerment consortium, of which Zico is the leader, made a bad investment in the now defunct Dominium uranium venture under Uranium One. Zico also ran into problems with its stake in Rockwell Diamonds, which has been badly hit by declining diamond demand.