South Africa’s leading CHROs celebrated at elegant 2021 CHRO Awards ceremony

The CHRO Awards delivered an evening to remember for a community in need of celebration.

On the night of 18 November, the CHRO Awards recognised five outstanding CHROs for the work that they are doing on the people side of business. The winners received their awards before their peers in an elegant gala dinner held at the prestigious Polo Club at Inanda.

The CHROs were welcomed with a glass of champagne, cocktail steak tacos, tempura prawns and canapés and with sounds of a beautiful violin in the background while mingling with their peers at one of the few in-person CHRO community events that took place this year.


The executives were ushered into a glittering ballroom to tables set with crisp linen, polished silver, and sparkling glassware, where a sumptuous three-course menu was curated by leading Johannesburg caterers, Word of Mouth. The candles were lit, and the HR leaders were treated to a highly entertaining welcome by comedian Riaad Moosa.

CHRO SA’s Community Manager Sungula Nkabinde greeted the guests and thanked the partners who made the event possible, including Momentum Corporate, Deloitte, Dimension Data, SHL, Mercer SA, and Workday.

Sungula said there were no losers when it comes to the CHRO Awards. “Just being nominated is a huge privilege and this year’s 20 nominees are all exceptional leaders in their own right and truly deserve their accolades as nominees and winners.”

He also acknowledged and thanked the panel of judges for their time and effort in making sure the process is fair and has integrity.

Barloworld’s group executive: human capital & transformation, Tantaswa Fubu, the keynote speaker for the night, said leadership in her view transcends company time boundaries, and right now, in our country, people need leaders like they need oxygen.

As she reflected on the goings on in the country, she put forward the idea that, “This nation needs to heal, it must heal and it can heal.”

Tantaswa says in her view, “People need a courageous couple of souls to birth a better country, a better world. I then stretch my imagination and thoughts, and ask what if those couple of souls are among the CHRO community, with us here tonight? Here in this room, we can commit to take the responsibility to lead South Africa,to heal our nation, upon our collective shoulders.

“I believe the responsibility to usher in real justice, fairness and righteousness is ours. I believe it is our responsibility to birth a nation that is at peace. The question that arises, therefore, is how can we as this community nudge, encourage South Africa to use the past and the present pain as the stepping stones to be the best we can be as a nation?”

Dr Adriana Marais, director at the Foundation for Space Development Africa, was the night’s keynote speaker. Adriana founded Proudly Human in 2019 and explained how she is currently leading the organisation’s Off-World Project: a series of off-grid habitation experiments in the most extreme environments on the planet, in preparation for life on the moon, Mars and beyond, as well as a sustainable future on Earth. She also urged the guests of the evening to sign up to join the project, saying that every new civilisation will need HR professionals.

She also shared a quote by Marshall McLuhan which says, “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”

The big winner of the night was Dieter Veldsman, HR thought leader and domain expert at Academy to Innovate HR based in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, (and previously human capital executive at Momentum Metropolitan) who was awarded CHRO of The Year 2021. Dieter also took home the HR & Technology Award and the Strategy & Leadership Award – and was able to travel home to South Africa to accept his three awards at the ceremony.

Dieter said this was a very humbling evening, “Firstly I would like to thank the Momentum Metropolitan team and then CHRO South Africa for all the work that you do for HR professionals and the colleagues and peers around the table for the amazing work and difference you make – it’s really a privilege to call myself a part of the HR community. This award is all for you.”

Candice Watson, the group executive: human capital at AECI, was also a big winner, being declared the Young CHRO of the Year, and taking home the Learning & Development Award as well.

“I am absolutely humbled to be receiving this award. This award represents so many things, but the one thing it represents is that where you start in life is not where you will end up. I went to University without a bursary, with unemployed parents and being raised by my grandparents and just a sheer tenacity to change my circumstances for my generation”.

She said the award goes to her son, “Joshua Watson, because he’s decided to follow my footsteps and study human resource management. I want this to be a beacon to him that with God all things are possible.”

Jasmin Pillay received the Employee Value Proposition Award, for her time as the HR director for Microsoft South Africa. She took on a new role at the technology giant, as director of HR Consulting for Microsoft Middle East & Africa, in July this year.

“Thank you for this award. Behind it is a great team of HR professionals for all their phenomenal work. Congratulations to all my fellow nominees.”

Celiwe Ross, Old Mutual human capital director, took home the Talent Management Award.

“Thank you very much for this acknowledgement. I really want to acknowledge my team which has done an amazing job. Thank you to you as my colleagues for the recognition; I appreciate it so much. And congratulations to all the nominees and my fellow HR professionals” said Celiwe.

Donald Khumalo walked away with the Transformation & Empowerment Award for his work as HR director at the JSE. He joined FNB as human resources executive in October this year.

“Thanks to CHRO SA for this Award. I would like to dedicate this Award to my former colleagues at the JSE who have made this possible,” he said.

While the awards recognise the winners in their various categories, the purpose of the event was to celebrate the hard work and achievements of the CHRO community as a whole, and the event certainly achieved that. All attendees went home with the conviction that the people practice in South Africa is in excellent hands, and that their efforts and achievements are being recognised and rewarded.

Read more about the award winners.