Farewell Benjamin Mophatlane, BCX chief’s legacy runs deep

Benjamin MophatlaneBy Alec Hogg

Benjamin Mophatlane, who celebrated his 41st birthday exactly a month ago, has passed away. He suffered a heart attack. Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Abbie, twin brother Isaac and the rest of the Mophatlane family.

Ben was one of the good guys. The really good guys. He was a deep thinking, well educated entrepreneur who believed in the ability of business to transform the society by allocating wealth to those who worked for it. Despite his short life he leaves a deep legacy.

He and Isaac grew up in Kimberley where they attended Christian Brothers College. They founded Business Connection on 1 September 1996, six months into doing his chartered accountancy articles at KPMG. Ben was a B Comm accounting graduate from the University of Pretoria, but was offered an opportunity to become the empowerment partner of  then-listed Connection Group which stumped up R4m in seed capital for the new business.

Three years into the partnership, the Connection Group hit financial difficulties so sold its 50% stake to global firm Getronics which itself hit problems. In 2001 the Mophatlanes merged their business with Seattle Solutions to create Microsoft’s largest software licence partner in SA. Two years later the business was merged with Peter Watt’s JSE-listed Comparex, giving birth to the 6 000 person strong Business Connexion or BCX. Mophatlane took over as CEO from Watt in 2007

Over the years I was privileged to engage with Ben both professionally and socially. Apart from his regular radio and television appearances, he was also an enthusiastic member of the Ibandla which I hosted at Moneyweb, a group of around 50 JSE-listed CEOs who met three times a year for dinner and went away for a long weekend conference every year. Despite having to tolerate some difficult interviews when things weren’t going that well at BCX, Ben always carried a smile. And since the early days of Biznews, has never been short of encouragement through a kind word here and a brief chat there.

Last time we heard from him was on May 22nd when Telkom announced it would be making a takeover bid for BCX. The official statement quotes him thus: “According to BCX CEO, Benjamin Mophatlane, this would be a significant step forward for Business Connexion as part of the company’s own convergence strategy. “It will increase our ability to meet our customers’ needs through integrated end-to-end solutions.”

Ben, a staunch Blue Bulls supporter, was his normal jovial, relaxed self during our last in-studio interview in mid April (below) when he joined us to talk through the sale of QLink and BCX’s solid set of interim results. My contextual paragraph concluded with “It has been a long road, but BCX shareholders could be on the verge of reaping some reward for their patience.” Fortunately, the architect of that lengthy turnaround did see some fruits from those labours.

He will be sorely missed by many. The note sent to me by an old pal and Internet pioneer Mac Anamourlis of Absol, typifies the Mophatlane generosity: “Isaac and Benjamin were kind enough to sub-let some of their office space across the passage from Getronics for 18 months after we we’re bought by Softline. They also gave us use of their boardroom on a few occasions when we pitched bigger deals and our “home office” wasn’t presentable enough, all for nothing in return but goodwill and friendship. He leaves the world (and especially South Africa) a poorer place. It’s very very sad. He was a really nice guy… one of the best I’d ever met in this industry.” Quite.  

From the Stock Exchange News Service:

The Business Connexion Group Limited Board announces with profound sadness and deep regret the passing of its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Leetile Benjamin Mophatlane. Benjamin (41) passed away following a cardiac arrest, yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 11 June 2014.

As CEO, he left an indelible mark on the Company, the employees of the group and our clients. Benjamin was instrumental in building BCX into SA’s leading IT company and led BCX business activity in the rest of Africa.

The board and employees of BCX wish to honour Ben for his leadership, vision, integrity and esteemed contribution to the Company. We express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to his wife Abena Saah and their three children, his mother, sister, twin brother Isaac and the entire Mophatlane family. Benjamin will be remembered for his entrepreneurial spirit, enthusiasm and exceptionally warm personality, which are aspiring attributes for us all.

Tony Ruiters, chairman of BCX stated that: “We have lost an irreplaceable brother, colleague, leader, husband and father. Ben was a leader with a big heart and who considered wisely decisions in all facets of his life. He had impeccable judgement and most of all, was a man of deep integrity and honour. His death is a great tragic loss to the Company and the South African business community.”

BCX will make further announcements in due course. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mophatlane family during this difficult time.

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