Velaphi Ratshefola Managing Director, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa Acceptance Speech Recipient of 22nd Top Empowerment Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award

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Thank you very much Master of Ceremonies, Topco Media, esteemed judges, ladies, and gentlemen.

When I received the letter informing me about this award, it was truly an amazing surprise.

Once I composed myself, I took a moment to reflect on what this means, for me, yes – but most importantly, for the organisation and the people I lead.

I am deeply humbled, considering some of the leaders who have also been awarded this honour – Ahmed Kathrada, former President Thabo Mbeki, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, to mention a few celebrated South Africans – who have made such a huge impact in our country.

I would never have imagined myself in the midst of such greatness.

For many of us leaders, when we go about our work, busy crafting visions for our organisations, and rallying our people to support the vision, we do not think about accolades. But rather, we mull over:

  • how we are going to sustainably grow our businesses and make them profitable,
  • how we are going to continue creating meaningful employment that will positively impact the quality of life for our people,
  • and how we can create value for our suppliers, partners, and customers – delight our consumers – while contributing towards our communities.


As you can see, MDs and CEOs have a lot to think about.

Hence the importance of the award for me – It is a recognition that one’s efforts are not in vain.

The award recognises that, all of us are pulling together to help empower and transform those in our sphere of influence – to help create a better, more equal, and more prosperous society.

It is no secret that our country’s challenges are enormous, sometimes seemingly daunting! But they give us an opportunity to step up and co-create solutions that will move us forward, towards a positive growth trajectory.

And for me, transformation has enabled me and our organisation, to be part of the solution.

I am immensely proud to say that – at Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa – empowerment is truly a part of who we are.

It makes any leader’s job very easy, when you are surrounded by like-minded individuals who believe in your vision and share your passion to uplift others. And for some who need encouragement, we remain resolute in our quest to win them over.

We must never cease to highlight how important diversity and economic inclusion is, to the long-term success of our businesses.

I’d like to thank my leadership team for their support and steering CCBSA with me. And I salute the entire CCBSA community whose passion resilience and commitment, continues to motivate me, because ultimately, they are the ones doing the work.

Once again, a massive thank you to Topco Media for the recognition. It serves to make one continue with this important task.

And most importantly, to my wife, Rose, who unfortunately could not be here this evening – my children, Mmamorwa, Junior, and Rebaone, and my beautiful granddaughter, Azania – Thank you for being the wind beneath my wings – for holding me up and inspiring me to always DO and BE better. To work hard to leave a legacy that you can be proud of.

Lastly, empowering others takes commitment, tremendous effort, and courage. Empowerment has to be sustained until we see positive change.

And seeing your vision come alive, witnessing the realisation of hope and dreams, and seeing others rise and succeed, makes the journey truly worthwhile.

Ladies and gentlemen, indeed, South Africa belongs to all its citizens. We need to work hard to give meaning to the promises enshrined in our constitution – to envision and create a South Africa we want to see, which is shared by all, including women and young people.

We have it within us to inspire – and as one amazing Prof Bonang Mohale, said, to “Lift as we Rise”!

Thank you.


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