Most people know Herman Mashaba as the fierce politician who’s heading ActionSA but believe it or not, the politician you see today, didn’t start out as a politician, he actually hated politics.
He started out as an entrepreneur and made a success of himself during the harsh times of apartheid, a time when it was near impossible for a black person to achieve success, especially in business.
Herman Samtseu Philip Mashaba was born and bred in Hammanskraal, near a poverty striken Ga-Ramotse in the northern parts of Pretoria, with his brother(Pobane) and sisters(Esther, Flora and Constance)
During this time, his mother was staying in small backroom in Johannesburg, working hard as a domestic worker to provide for her family.
Because of this, Herman didn’t get to see his mother, Mapula, that much as he would have liked. His father passed away when he was still young.
At a young age of 15, his older brother, Pobane, dropped out of school in order to provide for the family, he was job hopping from one to another.
Seeing his brother’s dire situation, Herman realized from that point on that getting education would be crucial for him to break out of the poverty cycle that had crippled so many families.
He matriculated from Ratshepo High School in 1978. He enrolled for a BA degree at the University Of The North but unfortunately, he couldn’t complete his tertiary education due to protests that resulted in the University being closed down in 1980.
This forced him to suppress his reservations about working for whites. His first two jobs (as a clerk at Spar and then at a furniture manufacturer) gave him an entrance into the wider job market.
He got a job as a salesperson at SuperKurl hair care products and in less than a year, became their top consultant in the company.
According to Mashaba, although he was satisfied with the money he was making at the company, deep down he wasn’t happy with being just an employee and taking orders, he wanted more.
While working as a sales rep for SuperKurl, he found in one of his colleagues a potential partner. Ironically, he was white Afrikaner chemist, Johan Kriel.
Black Like Me
He saw a window of opportunity when he noticed that Johan Kriel, a top chemist for SuperKurl, was sort of undervalued in the company and because of that, he was ripe for the picking.
Moving against his political beliefs, Mashaba approached Kriel at SuperKurl’s year end party and proposed that they work together.
In 1984, blacks and whites rarely had any kind of social interaction and it was certainly unheard of for a black man to approach a white man to join him in business.
Although Kriel took his time to think about Mashaba’s offer, he finally agreed after SuperKurl’s boss went against his word that he’d be a manager at the company.
Kriel came up with a perm solution that substantially reduced the normal production, this perm solution proved they could produce quality products in a factory that was 20 times smaller than SuperKurl’s factory.
With this knowledge at hand, Mashaba alongside Kriel and an old workmate, Joseph Molwanta, decided to launch Black Like Me on Valentine’s day in 1985, with a R30 000 Loan from Mashaba’s friend, Walter Dube, who’s a businessman too.
Within seven months of being in business, the debt was repaid to Dube and all the partners were earning well.
The rest as the say, is history….
Herman Mashaba went on to diversify his investments, launch other businesses, travel the world, sit on the boards of many companies, win multiple awards, lectured on business leadership both locally and abroad, mentored young entrepreneurial hopefuls and so much more.