Image: Aubrey Jonsson / One League

Andile Khumalo leads a charmed life. At just 39, he is the chief investment officer at MSG Afrika Group, the media and communications group he co-owns with businessman Given Mkhari. He is also the managing director of another of their ventures, talk radio station Power FM.

When I meet him, fresh off the business show he hosts, Khumalo is in the dressed-down ensemble of a black a T-shirt and black pants, a far cry from his usual work look of power suits. “I’m a dress by occasion guy,” he says, as we sit down. A couple of years ago, I was one of the guests when Power FM launched the business-show satellite studio at the JSE, a first for a radio station in South Africa. “This year we’re going to be four (years old),” he says of the burgeoning station.

His trajectory from the township of Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal to the top has
been a careful balancing act by a man who describes himself as “deliberate”.
Khumalo, having decided from a young age that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, enrolled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he began his journey towards becoming a charted accountant, courtesy of a bursary from accounting firm Deloitte.

A night out at one of Durban’s then popular clubs, dealt Khumalo a lucky
hand when he unwittingly impressed a manager from Investec who organised
for the young accountant to be interviewed at the bank. Khumalo landed the
job, but with his end goal always to get into business, he left the confines of
a cushy, corporate job to cut his teeth in the world of business. Leaving Investec after two years is a decision, given the chance, he would have reconsidered.

“I don’t look back and think I timed it wrong,” he says. “I just think I could have
timed it better. Given the opportunity, I would have taken more time to learn
how the business world works.”

Learning that lesson has been costly. “I was so keen to get in, that I learnt these
lessons myself, and they were expensive to me,” Khumalo says. “Thankfully,
everything turned out okay.”

Okay is an understatement. MSG Afrika now employs about 800 people
across its several ventures, including popular Limpopo radio station Capricorn
FM. “We’re at a stage in our business where we’re managing growth. It’s the
hardest place to be — there’s stress at the top,” Khumalo says.

Among the many hats he wears, Khumalo is also the founder of Mystartup, an
online portal for budding entrepreneurs. He also writes a column in the Business Times. Mentorship is an important part of his success, and Khumalo pays it forward with entrepreneurial programmes he runs over weekends. Recently the self-confessed overachiever says he has learnt “the power of delegation, not abdication”. “My life is run by my diary. I ensure that everything of mine is scheduled or it won’t happen,” he says. Despite his busy schedule, the father of two says his children are a priority. “I don’t want to wake up one day when I’m 45 or 50 and feel like I’ve missed their development.”

Khumalo knows his team is the key to his success. “A lot of the work behind
the scenes is done by people who don’t get credit because what you see is
Andile in the forefront. The truth is, behind Andile is a whole machine of people
doing things for me to achieve... and that I don’t take for granted,” he says.
At home, Khumalo has left his wife Mandisa, to whom he has been married
since 2004, in charge. “I would say marry for love. It’s the best decision I’ve ever
made,” he says. “Money, intelligence, a good physique… those things fade. You
need someone that when you’re in the trenches, you can just stop and say, eish, but I love them.”

His other love is fixing up classic cars. Khumalo even bought back his first
car after tracing it back, starting at the owner he had sold it to. “It has sentimental value. It kind of reminds me of where I come from, where I started,” he says. Khumalo describes himself as energetic, and he says having fun is important to him. “The older, I’ve become, the more I value that,” he says. “I just think that there are more important things to enjoy in this thing called life than the next deal, the next material acquisition. I like nice things like everybody else.”

Travel is another way he enjoys himself. Khumalo’s favourite city, unsurprisingly, is the heady and exciting New York. He is also athletic, and makes sure to look after his physical and mental well-being: recently, he has picked up cycling. “I try to stay fit as much as I can, because physical fitness and mental fitness will allow you to get so much done,” he says.

Although Khumalo has achieved more than most of his peers, he still feels he
has a way to go. “You need to compete with the established businesses. You’re
no longer zero, but you’re not playing at their level with their balance sheet and
their big marketing budgets; but you’ve still got to compete, you’ve still got to
look cooler,” he says.

Pressure at work is not his only concern. Khumalo, the eldest in his brood of
cousins, says he also feels the pressure at home. “They all look up to me…” he
says. Leaning back, he takes a sip of his drink. “The one person I fear most is that person called Pinky (his mother)... Do you know what, if ever I did something really bad, the person I’m most scared of is my mother.

Disappointing her is probably the biggest fear I would have.” Although he’s a people’s person, Khumalo says that on the “rare occasion” that he does seek time to himself, his go-to solace is golf. “I’m a member at CCJ Woodmead. When I just need me time, I book a four ball with total strangers, people I don’t really have to sustain a relationship or conversation with — they don’t really know who I am, I don’t know who they are.”

Like a parent tasked with picking a favourite child, Khumalo refuses to be
drawn on picking a favourite golf course. “That is a tough question,” he says,
sighing. “I’d have to say CCJ Woodmead. The Links in Fancourt... it’s very
difficult, but it is absolutely beautiful. So I can’t give you one. I like them all for
different reasons. I love Zimbali for the coastal feel — it’s pristine at all times.”
It is this intense consideration that has probably catapulted Khumalo to
where he is. He is looking forward to the future. “I think I enjoy the journey
too much, but there is a destination. We are on the cusp of really changing the
media landscape,” he says, before adding: “I don’t want to be remembered for
the money I’ve made; I want to be remembered for the lives we’ve changed.”

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