Mekan Group’s Rahab Matebane is driving change in HR through servanthood leadership

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Rahab Matebane is a biker-pageant queen turned CHRO, who serves with integrity and is shaping the future of work.

It was a case of being at the right place at the right time that led to what Rahab Matebane describes as a “divine appointment”

She had a limited knowledge of career options and her father wanted her to become a medical doctor. But in the early 1990s, a friend believed that she would thrive in human resources and introduced her to an educational psychologist who confirmed her suspicions, ending her medical school career early.

“I have never regretted it, and I think this is the best decision. It was a divine appointment,” she says. “I worked in retail, not because I wanted to work in retail. I wanted to professionalise the industry.”

Navigating the retail space, she became a pioneer among black and young managers in the Edcon Group. She also had to juggle studies and school, and she admits striking a balance was challenging. She worked at Accessorize, then returned to Edcon and was promoted to senior learning consultant.

Her proudest achievement is the establishment of Edgars Beauty Academy (EBA) in partnership with TWR Somatology Department, a training programme for Red Square beauty consultants across South Africa. She also worked at IBM as a strategic consultant before moving to Standard Bank as a training manager, and later was appointed as head of delivery and facilitation. She later started her own consulting business.

Philanthropy in the world of work

Having achieved all of that, Rahab embraced her philanthropic side and in 2003, established Mapitsi Foundation, targeted at introducing high school students to careers outside the mainstream.

The foundation, in honour of her father, has been offering practical career guidance to students for the past 20 years. Rahab believes that by exposing students to various career options, they can make informed decisions about their future and have a better chance at success.

Through workshops, internships, and mentoring programs, the foundation has helped countless young individuals discover their passions and pursue their dreams. Rahab is dedicated to giving back to her community and empowering the next generation.

A biker-pageant queen who is shaping the future of work

But Rahab is not your typical HR director, having been crowned Miss Africa International and Face of Africa in 2017 while also dabbling in biking. At her core, she is fiercely passionate about education and the future of work in South Africa, and she wants young people to know that industries can be multi-faceted.

Her foundation also specialises in empowering young people with insights on market demands to avoid an oversupply of qualifications. She believes that education should be practical and relevant to the needs of the job market. By focusing on market demands, she aims to prevent a situation where there is a surplus of qualified individuals without enough job opportunities. Instead, she wants to create a balanced job market that matches the skills and knowledge of young people.

“Children don't know; even the universities don't know what the job market requires. So that's our work,” she says.

When the mother of three is not with her three children and grandchildren, she is at the gym, dancing, singing at church, and, until recently, riding her Harley Davidson. In her present work as director for human resources and facilities management at Mekan Group she wears many hats, including partner. She also serves on several boards of JSE-listed companies.

Making her mark in HR

Rahab is largely driven by her passion for her country. “I am very proud of our country, and I know that I have a responsibility to contribute to it, whether it is by mentoring someone, volunteering in my community, or simply conducting myself in a way that young people can look up to,” she says.

“Human capital is one area where I get to influence everybody in the organisation. Yes, I don't talk to everybody, but I make policies. I’m making processes that would transform people,” Rahab says, adding that she believes she has made her mark in HR.

“I love what I'm doing. I think it's incumbent upon us as human capital people to make sure that we provide a healthy working environment, advise, and make good decisions to transform and sensitise our country to the kind of people that we have everywhere else," she says.

She explains that leadership in HR today means prioritising diversity and inclusion by championing critical conversations such as LGBTQ+ issues, gender career role modelling with solid maturity spiritually (SQ) , emotionally (EQ) and intellectually (IQ). “I want to be in those critical places,” she says.

“As a leader, I am intentional in living through the deep-rooted convictions of our values and abiding in purpose .It’s not about you: we are all a means to the higher purpose, therefore we must serve with integrity. I believe in servanthood leadership, so I have to serve in order that my children are looked after,” she says.

In 2009, Rahab pursued her MBA, but later halted her studies to focus on her bible studies for three years. At present, she is studying for her master's degree. “I need to get my PhD, so my father can get that doctor [he wanted]. That’s the aim for me as well,” she says.

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