As a regular columnist, a director of MTN and a key figure at the Competition Commission for some time, Trudi Makhaya already had some degree of name recognition.
But her appointment as president Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic advisor has catapulted Makhaya into a whole new stratosphere of influence.
Apart from guiding the president on policy, Makhaya will oversee a drive to attract $100 billion in new investment. A group of new investment envoys - former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas, executive chairperson of Afropulse Group Phumzile Langeni, and chairman of Liberty Group Jacko Maree – have been appointed to seek the money abroad. Makhaya will coordinate their efforts, and oversee arrangements for an investment conference later this year.
SA’s new economic advisor grew up in a ‘poor, beautiful and solemn village’ in Hammanskraal, matriculating in 1996 from St Barnabas College in Bosmont. She holds a BCom (Law and Economics) and a Masters degree in Economics from the University of the Witwatersrand. Makhaya received a Rhodes scholarship, and went on to get an MBA and an MSc in Development Economics from Oxford University.
On her return to South Africa, she worked as a consultant at Deloitte, Genesis Analytics and AngloGold Ashanti before joining the Competition Commission in 2010, first as a principal economist and later as a member of the executive committee.
In 2015 she left the commission to start her own firm, Makhaya Advisory. She helps entrepreneurs to establish their businesses and also served as an advisor and angel investors in young companies.
Here are ten things we didn’t know about Makhaya:
1. As deputy commissioner at the Competition Commission, she was instrumental in levying a record fine of R1.46 billion on 15 construction companies who rigged bids for stadiums for the 2010 soccer World Cup.
2. She admires Curro (an “outstanding success in the affordable [education] segment”) and Capitec, which was the subject of an academic paper she wrote.
“It will take some sacrifice from all role-players in the economy. Wages and margins are high in South Africa. We need to transition to a moderate cost, highly productive economy. We have to be unflinching in examining our weakness in education, health, governance and infrastructure and fix that.”
4. She’s a Thomas Piketty fan. “He combines the best of the profession – historical analysis, rigorous data analysis and wicked scepticism. You might not agree with everything he says, and some of his policy advice is hopelessly idealistic, but he presents it all in a very compelling way."
5. In an opinion piece, Makhaya basically predicted former president Jacob Zuma’s axing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in 2014, a year before it happened:
“Five years is a long time in a Zuma cabinet. For now, Nene is considered clever enough to be Finance Minister. But does he run the risk of being as seen too clever as the ambitions of this term unfold?”
6. She writes fiction. Makhaya's recent work has been published in New Contrast and the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IV.
7. She has become an activist to promote the rights of parents at work, particularly when it comes to expressing breastmilk:
"As one who acts as an adviser to organisations in various capacities, I have a vantage point into the diversity of support offered to parents in the workplace. I have had to pump breast milk in bathrooms (would you make a sandwich in a bathroom?), once in a Top 40 CEO’s office suite (a lovely gesture aimed to conceal inadequate facilities) or at the airport clinic en route to an institution I knew would be hopeless on that front."
8. She stood up for Cecil John Rhodes during the Rhodes Must Fall protests. Sort of.
She wrote that Rhodes' will was limited by the sexism and racism of his era, but its scholarship endowments revealed a man who recognised some universal virtues: "These contradictions, Rhodes the pillager and Rhodes the benefactor, are a symbol of our country's evolution towards a yet to be attained just and inclusive order."
9, Makhaya lives by this motto from an Alice Walker poem: ‘Be nobody’s darling".
10. She's an active Twitter user:
Perfect parallel parking this morning. Middle age indeed.— Trudi Makhaya (@trudimakhaya) April 13, 2018
I've always wondered where people find the time for infidelity, esp. on the scale Junot Diaz describes. But I suppose if you are running away from yourself, there's always time to fill.— Trudi Makhaya (@trudimakhaya) April 10, 2018