Let’s get it right for SA: Ruli Diseko

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa recently told the Marikana Commission that as a nation, we all failed the miners and their families, and that we share collective responsibility. Ruli Diseko (31), an up-and-coming executive talent at Lonmin PLC agrees

Ruli Diseko, one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans of 2014, relishes the opportunity to contribute to helping repair the tarnished image of South Africa’s mining industry.

While most would rather avoid that daunting job, the 31-year-old up-and-coming Lonmin executive says that if the mining industry can get this right, it would provide a blueprint for how to resolve many other challenges plaguing our society.

Diseko made the paper’s prestigious annual list, in part, for his work as head of the office of the chief executive officer of Lonmin, Ben Magara. He directs the CEO’s strategic work streams, and works with the executive team on strategy development and value optimisation. This role has given him an inside view on how important execution is, and how vital it is to make things happen.

“I need to ensure that we all pull together as a team to get results. This is important work that we have to get right,” he says. “I think it is fantastic to be recognised [by the Mail & Guardian], especially as I am right in the middle of a very challenging industry, which has gotten headwind in the recent past. For people to realise that a lot of effort and resources are going into getting some things right feels very good.”

Diseko says he realises that when people hear the name of Lonmin they immediately think of the tragic events that occurred in August of 2012 during the strike by miners in the platinum belt. “Marikana was a week that changed all of our lives. It happened to all of South Africa. We all went through something heartbreaking that day,” he says.

All of us, not only those at Lonmin, will be judged by how we respond to the wellbeing and living conditions of people. The question is, what are we doing as young people to ensure there is real change?

There has been much positive change at Lonmin since Marikana. While Diseko believes the mining industry should continue to grow, he also thinks it is transforming and that the good work of improving the lives of employees and communities should be accelerated.

The pivotal nature of the mining sector means it remains exciting, despite the inherent challenges of transformation. “I see it as an opportunity. The mining industry gets a lot of bad press but when the lights are on, it is time to perform. We need to get it right for our industry, to continue to create jobs and opportunities for future generations.”

“All of us, not only those at Lonmin, will be judged by how we respond to the wellbeing and living conditions of people. The question is, what are we doing as young people to ensure there is real change?”

Diseko has experienced real change in his lifetime, which gives him the optimism to believe in his future and that of South Africa – and the mining business.

He speaks with determination and conviction, and it is easy to see why he was chosen for the Mail & Guardian list. Editor-in-Chief Chris Roper wrote about those named on the list, “They’re people who can do whatever they put their mind to, using the tools and opportunities granted to us by the technology-driven era we find ourselves inhabiting, and who can switch interests and impetus whenever they see the need. I don’t mean they inspire us to be better people, although I suppose that could happen. I mean they inspire us to do stuff that’s out of the ordinary, even if it’s based on the ordinary.”