Regional Manager for Communities and Corporate
Affairs Tronox South Africa
Nozuko Basson’s role at Tronox, which is based in northern KZN, entails making sure that the mining company honours its responsibility of creating value for its stakeholders, of which, communities take centre stage.
The most significant event in Nozuko’s life is, she says, when she became a mother. “I had my daughter when I was fairly young and from the moment she arrived in this world, I knew that the game had changed. It’s an ambition of mine, that when my daughter is asked who your role model is, she mentions my name.” In ensuring that she is an inspiration to her daughter, Nozuko constantly evaluates how she behaves, how she practices professionalism in the workplace, and how she treats other people.
Nozuko believes that she has got to where she is today through hard work, dedication, a lot of praying and the support from many people who have crossed her path. “I’m somebody who is focused on her religion. I’m a Christian and I’ve always believed that everything that I do is enabled by my faith. I started my career as a journalist, but I realised that was not the life that I wanted to live. I’m not a social and out-there type of person, so I moved into public relations. I was fortunate to work for an agency where I had an amazing mentor who helped me in building the capability to understand how media relations works.”
From there, Nozuko moved onto one of South Africa’s largest medical insurance organisations, Discovery. Here, Nozuko said, she had mentors who helped guide her through her career. “I’ve been fortunate that I had other people lifting me, guiding me, and making sure that I stayed on the right track. My journey has been difficult; it’s always good to be reminded by those who are ahead of you how to remain positive and confident in what you are doing.”
Nozuko says that her decision to move to KwaZulu-Natal has been an amazing journey that has required her to really stretch herself. This meant going into areas where she thought she would never be able to venture. She added, “Just having the courage to really push myself and push the boundaries for my team members so that we all work towards one single vision. This requires that we stay close to the cause and really live our own personal values, as well as the values of the organisation in which I work right now.”
In commenting on the challenges that she has faced, Nozuko says that as a young female professional, the first challenge that she would like to focus on, is the “pull her down syndrome”. “When you, as a female, start rising in your career there are times when other females do everything in their power to pull you down. I have a strong view that if one of us rise, we all rise. It’s hard enough being a young female, let alone being black in the workplace; we need to hold each other up and motivate each other.”
The second challenge she has faced is working in the mining industry, which is a male dominated sector. Over that, working within the community, which is also a male led environment that still subscribes to traditional practices has brought a great deal of learning, that has come with its own difficulties.
Currently, the third challenge has been dealing with unconventional community issues, that pose a serious risk to Tronox’s public reputation. “This is where the company’s values, procedures and policies need to guide you to deal with the challenges in a manner that does not compromise your role or its reputation,” said Nozuko.
“Lastly, I have often found myself feeling not quite welcome around the ‘table’, as if I am a token BEE candidate,” says Nozuko. “I’ve learnt that I shouldn’t wait for somebody to offer me a seat at the table. If there’s no seat for a female in the workplace or in this industry, you bring your own, and that’s something that I have really started being vocal about.”
Leaving behind a legacy
In the future, Nozuko wants to leave behind a legacy that says, “When Nozuko Basson was in that community or was working in that organisation, she made a positive difference.” In terms of her career, she sees herself growing from strength to strength. Right now, she is focused on her work in South Africa, but soon, she wants to share her knowledge and skills with the rest of the world. Nozuko added that she is fortunate to work for an organisation that has the platform that will allow her to do so when the time is right.
On the personal side, Nozuko wants to travel the world. “I want to touch other lives in my own personal space. I want to live my best life and it’s something that I’m making a deliberate effort in doing and I know that I’m on the right track.” In advising others, she says, “It’s important not to be side-tracked by other people’s opinions. It’s important to remain true to yourself. It’s important that when you venture out, you understand that not everybody will be cheering for you, so learn to be your own cheerleader and as you’re cheering yourself, cheer those around you because they may not know the power that they have within themselves.”
Nozuko believes one needs to put their heart into everything that they do. “I always say to people, if you’re not going to give it your all, rather don’t start. I believe in dazzling people. One of Tronox’s values speaks to doing the right work, the right way in every aspect of our business and that’s really what I subscribe to. I don’t take short cuts; it’s about doing something right all the time. It’s behaving in an ethical way and ensuring that everything I touch, doesn’t only represent organisational integrity, but also my own personal integrity.”