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This Is Your Captain Speaking…

Passengers & Baggage - Will that be the challenge?

Flying aeroplanes is not for the faint of heart. But neither is running a racing operator in the current climate.  And it’s been a mildly turbulent start for Fundi Sithebe, the first Chief Executive Officer of 4Racing.

A nominee in the Sporting Post Racing Person Of The Year awards, Miss Sithebe, a qualified pilot from Diepkloof, Soweto, has some stormy weather ahead and it looks like a flight that is going to require deviations and changes of course along the way.

The reality of aeroplanes is that they have passengers and baggage. Captain Sithebe may want to check her manifest after a December of tote mini disasters threatened to ground the brand new jet. The Wolverhampton card on Monday was the latest botch in a month they’d rather forget.

4Racing CEO Fundi Sithebe – aiming for the stars

A large part of Fundi’s responsibilities will be to ensure a successful turnaround, stabilising and the growth and sustainability of the horse racing business whilst managing the day-to-day operations, transformation and modernisation of the various business units.

Fundi was previously the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), in the period between December 2017 and April 2021.

Her area of responsibility at ACSA included directing, planning, and leading the company’s overall business operations (namely overall airports management, infrastructure asset management, technical services and solutions, enterprise security and information technology), ensuring that the business operations were set to achieve the company’s set performance commitments.

She was responsible for the integration and seamless operations across the network of 9 airports. She also assumed the responsibility for the day-to-day overall airport operations. In addition, she led the Commercial Division, which is mainly responsible for non-aeronautical revenue.

As an “Old Boy” of Hilton College – she completed her A-Level studies at Hilton College as one of its few female students at the time in 1996 –  Fundi is currently serving on the Board of the Hiltonian Society, an NPC responsible for oversight on the running of Hilton College, appointed in February 2019.

She started her career as a management consultant, focussing in the areas of strategy and operations in several organisational strategic projects across the African continent.

She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Midrand University, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management (Business Administration) from Wits Business School. Her passion in the aviation industry was sparked in 2003, when she obtained her Private Pilot’s License (PPL).

One of her biggest passions is the inclusivity and growth of female representation in the industries she serves in.

She was previously a member of a few non-profit initiatives within the aviation industry (namely, Southern African Women in Aviation and Aerospace (SAWIA), Women in Aviation (W&A) as well as chairperson of Akani Aviation Leadership Initiative South Africa) that aimed to ensure a larger and a sustainable base of females in the aviation industry, and ensuring greater gender representation in the Horse Racing industry is an important objective for her.

Ten Quick Questions For Fundi 

What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?

Nothing beats human connection, so networking is very important and counts for the greater part of clinching the deal.

What was your first job?

Business analyst for Deloitte Consulting.

How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?

My first pay cheque was R7 500. I recall being overexcited and spending it all on anything and everything. 

What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?

I wish someone had told me to invest, invest, invest. I also wish someone had told me to invest in horse racing then.

What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt?

You do not have to have immediate gain or go into debt to have a particular lifestyle. You do not need to live your life based on someone else’s standards.

If you could fix only one thing in SA, what would it be?

I would fix the culture of mediocrity and complacency. We’ve reached a stage in the country where we accept what we are given. Similarly, in many instances we are satisfied with doing the bare minimum. It’s important that we all strive for the highest of standards, no matter how small the task at hand. 

What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?

I qualified as a private pilot many years ago. I juggled my lessons with my job at Deloitte and managed to obtain my licence at the age of 24. 

If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?

If I were the president of SA, I would focus more on the advancement of black professionals. We are economically significant but ideologically marginalised.

What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?

I trusted a person who presented what seemed like a lucrative investment in an energy-related project. I “invested” money in it without doing the due diligence. Needless to say, the deal did not come through.

What’s the best investment you’ve ever made, and how much of it was due to luck?

Two properties I fully own, as well as co-ownership in a group of properties. I’ve also recently started to buy shares through EasyEquities. My most recent, exciting investment is having fractional ownership in three horses. It also allows me to play a little when I go to the races. The best way for a novice like myself to enjoy the journey of ownership is through partnerships. I’ve partnered with some of the best trainers in SA: Mike de Kock and Sean Tarry.

Questions & answers courtesy of www.businesslive.co.za

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24 comments on “This Is Your Captain Speaking…

  1. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    Flight 8
    Named
    SCR: Nil
    TF:
    Awaiting Race 8 results

    16.56 : It’s disappeared off the radar, no contact for 1 hour

  2. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    7
    Official
    SCR: 5,6
    TF: 1
    1ST 14 Speechmaker
    2ND 15 Kapama
    3RD 4 Anatura
    4TH 2 Secret Is Ours
    WN 14 R12.40
    PL 14 R3.40
    PL 15 R4.30
    PL 4 R4.50
    SW 14-15 R23.90
    SW 4-14 R20.40
    SW 4-15 R56.70
    EX 14-15 R170.90
    TF 14-15-4 R3 269.60
    QT 14-15-4-2 R40 843.70
    DB 8×14 R37.10
    P3 11×7,8×14 R325.90

    8
    Named
    SCR: Nil
    TF:
    Awaiting Race 8 results

    it’s now 16: 40pm

    One of a million examples why racing is almost dead

  3. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    There website @ 16:30 pm

    8
    Named
    SCR: Nil
    TF:
    Awaiting Race 8 results

  4. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    16.27pm

    8
    Named
    SCR: Nil
    TF:
    Awaiting Race 8 results

    Captain, can you read me, Captain ?

    Oh no, they crashed

  5. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    @ 16.24pm…Oh sherbet Captain… this is the Control Tower, Not runway 8 but runway 6….and we forgot to tell you about the severe crosswinds. Apologies, it slipped my mind

  6. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    @16.23pm

  7. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    Captain, you are clear for landing on Runway 8, nothing else to report

  8. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    It’s 16:20 pm now, Captain

    8
    Named
    SCR: Nil
    TF:
    Awaiting Race 8 results

    I can post the result of race 8 for You

  9. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    It’s 16:18 pm

  10. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    Wakey wakey Captain

    8
    Named
    SCR: Nil
    TF:
    Awaiting Race 8 results

    NAMED ? no name brand

    Gold Circle

    Win 3 = R 4.00
    Place 3 = R 1.70
    Place 4 = R 4.10
    Place 6 = R 3.50
    Swinger 3/4 = R 11.20
    Swinger 3/6 = R 9.00
    Swinger 4/6 = R 25.50
    Exacta 3/4 = R 48.60
    Trifecta 3/4/6 = R 481.00
    Quartet 3/4/6/12 = R 2907.30
    Double 14/3 = R 62.00
    Favourite: 3
    Scratchings: 13,14,15

  11. Kenny Masilela says:

    Great post Vinny!
    The younger generation join the punting world daily but they opt for soccer, numbers, games or forex trading. I have never seen anyone from the officialdom asked them why they avoid horse racing.

  12. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    Mr, Vinny Regnath,

    You have done us all, racing enthusiasts’ that is, a solid.

    Good on You, Sir

  13. Vinny Regnath says:

    There is a great level of respect given to Mary Slack, her family and the new board of 4Racing. You have taken on a vessel that has a thousand small (and i use the word small) holes. As the CEO you certainly have a great task on your hands, horseracing is a unique industry. You have inherited some extremely poor staff from Phumelela, you may say it’s not true but over the years we the punters have come to see what goes on and how there is a complete disregard for the punter. Madam the tote is a failed (not failing but failed) product. In any business you sell a product, many of us say in horse racing you are selling a race to the public to bet on. It is partly true, but the real product you selling is entertainment. I have worked for bookmakers and the tote, i have seen for the past 15 years the decline in the product “entertainment” it starts with a very simple question – who are you entertaining? Your product comprises of a few parts (the picture (tellytrack), the presenter (on-course and studio), the information (racecard, computaform, broadcast) facility (on-course and off-course) staff. All these pieces are meant to be of the highest quality to in order to create the best entertainment. Currently with all of the operators there is a complete failure. One simply has to know what you client wants, you need a foundation to bring new and young people to the entertainment. You are not going to be able to grow a business with the current punter base. We all see the manner in which Hong Kong runs their ship (yes we are never going to reach that) but we can look into making strides to get to 60% of how Hong Kong is. You need to ensure the people you have in your executive in senior management roles understand what they are doing and that they are held accountable. A simple example: On tellytrack when the presenter announces the winner of a race, they tell you the trainer, jockey, mare the sire and all those things which does not entertain the new people wanting to coem on board. We have had people doing tips for soccer that have no clue about the punter (they see things from their perspective because they are past players ( Steve Bruce was a great defender but he is a weak manager) football managers get the sack when results are not good, why is it not the same in horse racing? Taking care of the”elite” few in racing is just going to create a bigger hole. You as the CEO will be hung out to dry if the company does not succeed unless you are also part of the protected few. People want entertainment, they want transparency (why does the tellytrack presenters not walk around the parade ring and talk to owners, trainers, grooms and the public? it certainly helps nobody to sit in a studio and read from the computaform, we all can do that at home. If they were more flexable and walked around more people would be attracted to teh racecourse, more of the younger people could be interviewed, we could get more insight from different perspectives. Some of these presenters think they are brilliant because they can tell us the horses last 2 runs, who rode it, it had draw 12 now drawn 4 so it is a runner…..hello we all can read, we all punters we know this…the new brand don’t have a clue what you on about. 95% of the staff don’t know about racing. If you got your staff involved more, made it exciting…..word would spread. Create more initiatives on how racing takes place……. All the operators have done is tried to get people to buy a horse, your product is not only about the horse anymore….its about all the part mentioned and they are like a glove, the fit in together. Madam you certainly have a very strong background, all i can say is don’t be fooled by the saying “why fix whats not broken” your product is broken. it needs fixing, it needs the right people to fix it. Look at your team around you, what is their strength? Have they been part of Phumelela? if they were and they failed, how are they going to improve now (unless they protected) Can they be held accountable? you don’t have 5 years to put a plan together, if there are no drastic improvements in the next 6 months then there is no hope for the tote. Don’t put people on high salaries and waste money, put them on yearly contract, look at performance, set tasks and goals, if they don’t achieve don’t renew the contract or terminate earlier if poor performance. People will come back, young people will love this industry if it is sold in the correct manner with honesty and transparency. This industry does not deserve “yes” men, it needs quality and not quantity.

  14. Selwyn Elk says:

    I am certain that Fundi Sithebe comes with great credentials but the one ingredient that will be sorely missing is the “ psyche “of a gambler ( no fault of hers) as that only comes with years of experience. One of the biggest problems in a multi billion rand industry is that the powers that be have always been lacking in that department, let’s hope she can come to terms quickly in a gambling environment, one thing in her favour is that she has very little to beat, I wish her the best of luck for the future.

  15. Frankie Zackey says:

    Frankie Zackey… Good Luck Mam… I love the energy…

  16. Geoff Van Lear says:

    Selwyn , I am sure Fundi is being expertly coached by the Powers in control of the new set up .
    Also , a new broom sweeps cleanest , bearing in mind the Old Brooms and rogues that controlled racing lined their pockets and virtually collapsed the industry into oblivion .
    Why some of them were never prosecuted ( and some re employed ) is beyond comprehension !!
    I suppose that was part of the deal ?

  17. Kenny Masilela says:

    All the best captain!

    The question should’ve been: If you could fix only one thing in SA racing, what would it be?

  18. George McDonald says:

    You have to feel for this lady.
    Nobody told her to invest in racing?
    Just a few years back if someone had told her to invest in racing she would have been able to pick up shares in Phumelela at a discounted price of R 17 plus.
    Does she really not know what happened to Phumelela shareholders
    Or is she saying–‘
    Once I get you up there
    Where the air is rarefied
    We’ll just glide
    Starry eyed.

  19. Selwyn Elk says:

    My pay in the Airforce in 1967 was R15 a month before deductions ( haircut’s, tomato sauce etc.) I wish 4 Rush and Fundi Sithebe all the best for the future and am sure that she comes highly qualified but in my opinion the person steering the ship should be steeped with all round racing knowledge.

  20. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Impressive CV Ms Sithebe. Good Luck, big upgrade flying a 2 or 4 seater to a Boeing ..

    Hilton College, nogal ????????

    Ja William, Nou praat jy … Trust, Boland, Volkskas en my Army pay van so 100 en iets minus haircuts…

  21. Pieta Louw says:

    Ask her where she can take off from and where she can land…so we are all clear…

  22. M(artin)Gram(matica) says:

    You wish someone told you to invest in horse racing? That statement tells me that you have no idea about the economics of horse ownership. I do hope that you realise that unlike your scenario, real owners pay real money for their horse flesh.

    Fundi we have had many token appointments previously that with respect have contributed little to nothing to racing. I hope that you will be the exception.

  23. Donna Bernhardi says:

    All the best Ms Sithebe, may you bring the change that is needed.

  24. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    I’ll say it… so what ?

    My first paycheck was for R 246.00, a Trust Bank cheque from the firm of Chartered Accountants that I was serving my articles at.

    Do you understand the underbelly of SA Racing horseracing Mrs. Sithebe ?

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