uShaka CEO takes top honours at Businesswomen’s Association’s Business Achiever Awards

Stella Khumalo, chief executive of uShaka Marine World, took top honours in the government section of the Durban Businesswomen’s Association Regional Business Achiever Awards 2016, reinforcing her achievements at the helm of Africa’s largest marine theme park.

On accepting her award at a gala dinner on Friday, 29 July 2016 at the Durban International Convention Centre, Mrs Khumalo thanked both her team at uShaka for delivering world class service on the ground and the uShaka Board for their unwavering support.

“As CEO, I aim to continuously make a difference. Being head of uShaka Marine World means ensuring that this ship remains buoyant, continues to sail smoothly and reaches new waters that it has not reached before. I want to ensure that uShaka Marine World continues to grow in stature and further entrenches itself as one of the leading edu-tainment and tourist destinations in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa,” she said.

The Regional Business Achiever Awards 2016 honour KwaZulu-Natal businesswomen who aren’t afraid to use their power for business change, social impact and contributing to the economy.

Finalists and winners are selected by an independent panel based on their individual achievements and commitment to the sustainability of their various projects and initiatives.

Pumla Mzizi, chairperson of the uShaka Marine World Board of Directors, congratulated Khumalo on this significant achievement. “As the chief executive officer, Mrs Khumalo has achieved a great deal since she took over the position in 2014. She has approached the significant responsibility of heading up Durban’s flagship tourist attraction with commitment, professionalism and passion,” she said.

Mrs Khumalo provides strategic management and leadership to a staff complement of 500. Under her tenure, uShaka has displayed a commitment to sound financial management and good corporate governance which resulted in a clean audit during the past financial year.

During her career, Mrs Khumalo has focused on three key areas – education, tourism and assisting the previously disadvantaged.

After matriculating at St. Francis College, Marianhill, she went on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Zululand, majoring in zoology, botany and biochemistry. She followed with a Higher Education Diploma from the University of South Africa, a Bachelor of Education at the University of Zululand and a Diploma in Human Resource Management through the then University of Natal.

She completed a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) at University of Natal, specialising in strategic planning in 2004.

She is currently studying towards a doctorate in Business Administration at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her thesis will explore critical factors that impact on corporate governance and schedule 3 state owned enterprises in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mrs Khumalo took up the position as CEO of uShaka Marine World in June 2014. Prior to that, she was the CEO of the KZN Liquor Authority and head of Department at the Provincial Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism.

Two years spent as Chief Director / General Manager of Tourism and Corporate Strategy was preceded by nearly five years in various positions within the Department of Education as well as various positions in local schools during the early part of her career.

As head of uShaka Marine World, Mrs Khumalo faces a number of challenges, not least of which is growing footfall in the park during tough economic times when people are cutting down their spend on luxuries. This entails dealing with issues such as seasonality, broadening the target market of uShaka, diversification of offerings, encouraging repeat visits and always giving visitors a ‘beyond our expectations’ experience.

uShaka Marine World is about to embark on a programme comprising short, medium and long term projects over the next 20 years to ensure that it remains a must see attraction.

As CEO, Mrs Khumalo is tasked with delivering on this mandate. In addition, she is also charged with aligning the development objectives with those of its major shareholder, the eThekwini Municipality.

“eThekwini sees itself as THE leisure destination of choice and I set out to ensure that uShaka Marine World is central to that. I continuously work with the uShaka Board and align myself with the short and long term strategies that have been put in place. However, these do not get implemented in isolation and must form part of the economic development strategy and plan of eThekwini as the shareholder,” she noted.

Mrs Khumalo remains passionate about improving the culture of learning and teaching in South Africa and dedicates her spare time to a NPO she founded called the Stella Educational Foundation that was set up to empower, support and mentor youth.

She also serves as mentor coordinator in the CDWL programme run by Zen-Africa Academy, to empower potential and current women leaders and is President of the Catholic Women’s League at Mpumalanga Roman Catholic Parish.