Friday, December 14, 2018
Themba Mkhwanazi

Themba Mkhwanazi

Kumba Iron Ore

LIFE as CEO of Kumba Iron Ore, the listed Anglo American subsidiary, became a whole lot sunnier during 2017 owing to the improvement in the iron ore price. As for company news flow, all the action was in the first eight months. In February, for instance, Kumba settled a tax dispute with SARS promising to pay it R2.5bn. By July, Kumba became a dividend darling again, paying out R5.1bn, having amassed net cash of R13.5bn. It also concluded a new, three-year wage agreement with lower earning employees getting a 10% lift. As for Mkhwanazi, his reputation as a solid operator has only been bolstered. Following process optimisation and painful restructuring in 2016, production was upgraded in October to between 42m to 44m tonnes. All in all pretty peachy and a far cry from the distress of 2016 when Anglo boss Mark Cutifani contemplated selling Kumba – possibly through a spin-off – which would have spelled uncertainty for Mkhwanazi’s career. So, thanks to the iron ore price – up more than a fifth in July year-on-year – Kumba was one of the best-performing shares on the JSE, up 132% over 12 months at the end December. What goes up, however… Spot iron ore is 15% weaker at the time of writing on fears it will return to historic averages once the Chinese winter-warming cycle is over.


Themba’s senior executive career began at Richards Bay Minerals where he was COO for three years until 2010. Thereafter he worked in Brisbane for Rio Tinto’s coal division before being deployed in the Anglo-Australian firm’s Americas division where he was regional GM. He was appointed CEO of Anglo Coal before taking up the CEO position at Kumba in September 2016. Born in Swaziland, he has a BEng from the UK’s Teeside University.