Vodacom’s incredible legacy of brilliant CEOs

In the three decades since its founding, Vodacom has had excellent leaders who steered the company towards strong revenue and profit growth.

Since 1993, South Africa’s biggest mobile network operator has only had three chief executive officers (CEO).

To put this into perspective, Vodacom’s main rival, MTN, has had seven Group CEOs and is one year younger.

Telkom has had at least eight since its founding in 1991, just two years before Vodacom.

CEOs are ultimately responsible for the overall performance of a company.

The successful leadership of Vodacom’s trio of CEOs is clearly shown in its revenue and profit, which increased 637% and 663% between 2002 and 2023, respectively.

This growth is shown in the graph below. 2002 was chosen as the starting year because it its the oldest Vodacom annual results available online.

Vodacom’s first CEO was Alan Knott-Craig (Senior), who was also one of the company’s founders.

The mobile network operator was established as a joint venture between Telkom and Vodafone.

Knott-Craig’s major achievements include convincing shareholders to spend millions on advertising campaigns to promote Vodacom’s products and services, even before the company was launched in 1994.

He believed that first-mover advantage was essential in establishing a strong brand, allowing them to dominate the South African mobile market.

He served as Vodacom CEO until October 2008, when Pieter Uys succeeded him.

While Knott-Craig only officially became Vodacom CEO in 1996, he was the company’s leader from its founding in his capacity as Telkom South Africa senior general manager.

That means he was Vodacom’s leading man for 15 years.

Alan Knott-Craig, Vodacom co-founder and first CEO

Uys was Vodacom’s chief operating officer (COO) before stepping into the CEO’s shoes and had been with the company since its founding.

He was also a founding member of Vodacom’s engineering management team. He played a significant role in the first phase of planning and rolling out Vodacom’s GSM network, which was claimed to be the fastest in the world.

Before being appointed COO, he was also general manager of Vodacom’s South African operations and managing director of Vodacom South Africa.

“Pieter was an obvious choice — his years of experience and track record of success at Vodacom speaks volumes, and his appointment ensures continuity and a smooth handover,” said Vodacom Group chairman at the time, Oyama Mabandla.

Former Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys, during a recent interview with MyBroadband

Uys served as CEO for four years before handing over the reins to current Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub in 2012.

He went on to join the management team of investment firm Remgro, which owns a majority stake in Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH), the parent company of Vumatel and Dark Fibre Africa (DFA).

Joosub joined Vodacom in March 1994 after completing his articles and held various positions within the company before he was appointed CEO.

Before getting the leading role, he was Vodacom South Africa’s managing director for six years and Vodafone Spain’s CEO for three years.

In the nearly 11 years in the position, Joosub has continued to grow Vodacom’s customer base, revenue, and ventures like its mobile money solution M-Pesa.

Shameel Joosub
Shameel Joosub, Vodacom CEO from 2012

He guided the company to the commercial launch of its LTE network and to become the first operator in South Africa to offer a mobile 5G network.

Joosub won the MyBroadband Telecoms CEO of the Year award in 2023 for his excellent leadership at the operator and the great results the company has produced with him at the helm.

His biggest achievements to date include navigating challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic, load-shedding, and advocating for more radio frequency spectrum availability so mobile operators can improve Internet connectivity in South Africa.

He also recently received an honorary doctorate in Management Sciences (Business Administration) from the Central University of Technology.

The table below lists all the CEOs that South Africa’s three largest mobile networks have had since Vodacom was founded.

CEOs of big 3 South African telecoms companies
Vodacom Group MTN Group Telkom Group (since Vodacom founding)
Alan Knott-Craig — 1993 to 2008

Pieter Uys — 2008 to 2012

Shameel Joosub — 2012 to current

John Beck — 1994 to 1995

Robert Chaphe — 1995 to 2001

Paul Edwards — 2001 to 2002

Phuthuma Nhleko — 2002 to 2011

Sifiso Dabengwa — 2011 to 2017

Rob Shuter — 2017 to 2021

Ralph Mupita — 2021 to current

Danie du Toit — 1991 to 1998

Sizwe Nxasana — 1998 to 2005

Papi Molotsane — 2005 to 2007

Reuben September — 2007 to 2010

Jeffrey Hedberg — 2010 to 2011

Nombulelo Moholi — 2011 to 2013

Sipho Maseko — 2013 to 2022

Serame Taukobong — 2022 to current

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Vodacom’s incredible legacy of brilliant CEOs