Delakazi Mokebe: the ordinary woman who achieved the extraordinary

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Bereng Mpaki

NEWLY appointed First National Bank of Lesotho (FNB Lesotho) chief executive officer, Delekazi Mokebe, describes herself as an ordinary Mosotho woman. There is however nothing ordinary about her achievements.

At age 40, Ms Mokebe has broke new ground by becoming the first Mosotho woman to head a commercial bank in the country. Her achievement takes on an even greater significance considering that with her 8 June 2020 appointment, she becomes only the second Mosotho to head a commercial bank.

Nkau Matete, who was appointed Nedbank managing director on 1 June 2019, is the first Mosotho to head a commercial bank. Ms Mokebe and Mr Matete’s are therefore lofty positions. In Ms Mokebe’s case, her phenomenal rise at a relatively tender age can only be a source of inspiration to young and upcoming Basotho girls and young women.

A seasoned banker with 16 years’ experience, she has worked her way to the top after serving in different roles in the global markets and treasury departments at different banks.

Born and bred in Ha-Tšosane, Maseru, Ms Mokebe rose from humble beginnings in a household headed by her police officer father and her primary school teacher mother.

Hers and her three siblings’ upbringing was very ordinary without any special privileges.

Her education, which set up a good foundation for her glittering career, started in 1986 at St Bernadette Primary School in Maseru and later ‘Mabathoana High School. Both are ordinary public schools.

She even suffered the heartache of failing to obtain good grades to enroll in university immediately after high school. Rather than wallow in her misery she accepted her parents’ decision to enroll her for matric at the Calculus College in Bloemfontein.

She was subsequently accepted for a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance, Marketing and Management at the prestigious University of Witwatersrand and graduated in 2004. Upon completing her degree, she returned to Lesotho and immediately got employed by a local bank until 2017 when she joined FNB Lesotho to set up the institution’s treasury division. By that time, she had also graduated with a Master’s in Business Leadership degree from the University of South Africa.

The mother of two attributes her success to her parents for their steady support during her formative years.

In her typically self-effacing manner, she does not claim any of the credit for her meteoric rise but chooses to credit her parents and husband instead.

“It is an absolute honour for me to be the first female Mosotho to lead First National Bank Lesotho,” Ms Mokebe said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

“I am humbled and privileged to be in this position and hope to inspire others. There’s the extraordinary in the ordinary. I am an ordinary Mosotho woman born and bred right here in Lesotho. I am ordinary in that I was raised by two parents who are still alive, thankfully.

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“My mother was a primary school teacher, my father a policeman and I had an ordinary life. When you look at my situation, you can see that there is extraordinary in the ordinary. I didn’t have any special privileges growing up. I was a normal kid.

“When I went to study at Wits University, my father paid for my first-year fees with his pension money. That’s significant because not every Mosotho man would have done that. You can imagine at that time how much a first year B-Com degree would have cost at Wits University and for a Mosotho to then use part of his pension to take his girl child there, it is significant. That’s just how my family has always been. My parents have always supported all their four children.”

She said she has been fortunate that the strong family support structure continued even after getting married.

“My second child was nine months old when I decided to pursue my Master’s in Business Leadership. My husband was also doing his final year of the same programme and he encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. Family support was crucial on this journey because I spent several hours either studying or working including during weekends.

“I was also raising a young family. Luckily, I had both sets of parents to count on, including my in-laws.”

She also acknowledged the assistance of house helpers who assisted her in raising her children while she concentrated on her career and studies.

For Ms Mokebe, setbacks are an integral part of life and should not discourage people from achieving their goals. It is that resolve that helped her continue working hard even after failing her Form E.

“One must have the resolve deep within to say life might throw lemons my way but what is important is what I make out of them. The reason I bring this up is that when I did my Form E, I did not automatically qualify to go to university.

“It was such a blow seeing my friends going to university while I had to go for matric. My parents took me to a school in Bloemfontein, South Africa… I then got my university exemption and went to one of the biggest universities in Africa, Wits University. So, for me, when you look at that and if I was to look back then, obviously at that time I was 16-years-old and crying. Nut in the end proves that hard work pays.

“What I want to say to every child currently in that situation is that you should pick yourself and keep trying. And those doors will open.”

She advises young girls and women to pursue their dreams instead of conforming to societal pressures.

“To women and girl children, my advice is that you have dreams, you want to accomplish things and those dreams are valid. No one should tell you otherwise. You will fall along the way it’s a fact of life. What matters is how you decide to react when that happens.

“You should be able to learn the lessons that come with the falls, be able to pick yourself up, keep trying and the doors will open for you. You may be a girl or a woman and you may not be viewed as being as capable as a boy or a man, but when you showcase your abilities, they will get recognised.

“You just have to continue working hard, showing up and raising your hand to say you are there and capable. Women should also support each other. That is absolutely critical. Men are very good at that. They support and stand up for each other and so should we,” Ms Mokebe says.

 

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