Sibongile Mkhabela


Sibongile (Bongi) Mkhabela, a social worker by profession and an activist by orientation, is the current Executive Director, Barloworld Empowerment Foundation. Bongi served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) as well as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust (NMCH Trust). 

On 27 April 2018, she was awarded The Order of Luthuli (Silver) by the President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa. The award was in recognition of her fight against apartheid prior to democracy (1976 student uprising) and for her excellent contribution to the well-being of South Africa’s children. 

Appointed as CEO of NMCF in 2001, she has not only been instrumental in growing the Fund’s endowment but also in captaining the navigation of its strategic direction. 

Her tenure as CEO has seen the organisation position itself as a critical player in issues affecting children, their families and communities. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund footprint has extended beyond the borders of South Africa to encompass Southern Africa. 

In 2009, the Fund’s Board of Trustees seconded Mkhabela to assume the role of CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust. Chaired by Graça Machel, the Trust was tasked with the vision of pioneering the establishment of a second dedicated children’s hospital in Southern Africa. The hospital, which will be a concrete expression of Mr Mandela’s legacy, will seek to improve the quality of paediatric care, research and training in Sub-Saharan Africa.  

Her work in senior positions at the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Education Programme in Southern Africa, and the South African Council of Churches has added to her wealth of experience on development issues. 

Part of that experience saw her serve in the office of then-Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, as Programmes Director responsible for programming with specific reference to civil society government partnerships, as well as ensuring that South Africa implemented United Nations Agreements on the Rights of the Child. 

The roots of her activism can be traced back to her student days. She served on executive councils of the student organisations behind the nationwide June 16, 1976 uprisings credited for the beginning of the end of apartheid. Her personal story of the Soweto uprisings is captured in her book, “Open Earth and Black Roses”. 

Mkhabela is also a Joel L. Fleishman Civil Society Fellow at Duke University in North Carolina, USA, and completed her post-graduate Business Management studies with the University of the Witwatersrand Business School in Johannesburg. In 2017, Mkhabela was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship which included a three-month residency at Bellagio in Italy. She serves, among others, on the boards of Trust Africa, based in Senegal; Global Fund for Community Foundations; Global Philanthropy Alliance; and is former Chairperson and current Trustee of Black Sash. 

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