Local Heroes 2023: Mining mogul paying it back to his beloved community
Mxolisi Hoboyi embodies the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.
Born in Mbutho village on the dusty outskirts of Tsolo 47 years ago, the former mineworker-turned-mining mogul has made it his mission to help the community which raised him as a young boy by ploughing back through several community initiatives.
Hoboyi, the youngest of 10 children, was only nine years old when his father, Nani, a retired schoolteacher, died in 1985.
“It was the community of Mbutho, elderly men who played the role of a father figure, disciplining me if I went astray, instilling moral values and respect, and applauding me on my achievements,” he said.
“In an African context, your child is my child.
“Teachers also instilled discipline in me and shaped me for the future, hence now I am ploughing back to the community that raised me.”
Hoboyi has also partnered with traditional leaders in developing their communities.
“I am sharing the little I have with the needy,” he said.
Since both his parents were schoolteachers, he could have attended a top school.
But his mother, Margaret, 88, insisted he attend school in his birth village.
“My parents had all the means, but while children of other teachers were schooling in town, my mother decided I should school in Mbutho so that I could feel and understand the suffering of Mbutho.
I am sharing the little I have with the needy,
“I know and experienced poverty and suffering,” Hoboyi said.
His father retired in 1976, the year he was born, and became a traditional leader until his death.
Despite spending most of his time in Mpumalanga and Johannesburg, Hoboyi and his wife, Simanye, were back in Mbutho in May, donating 126 blankets to elderly people.
Tsolo and Qumbu leaders including AmaMpondomise King Luzuko Matiwane, Nkosi Pakamisa Tyali, Nkosi Mnoneleli Ranuga, Bhisho chief whip Loyiso Magqasela, Mhlontlo mayor Mbulelo Jara and Rev Vusi Mabo joined Mbutho villagers to celebrate their hero and lauded his efforts to assist in the development of the Mhlontlo area for the past 15 years.
As part of his philanthropic work, he has donated sporting kit and equipment, flushing toilets and computers for schools, as well as school uniforms.
He has also offered study bursaries to young people to further their education.
In 2013, he established the Mhlontlo Education Trust Fund which gives bursaries to top pupils from schools in the region.
It was officially launched by higher education minister Blade Ndzimande.
Hoboyi said it was his way of thanking the village elders for having always “showered him with blessings”.
“My parents taught us the values of giving and serving and looking after one another irrespective of status,” he said.
In February, he donated R500,000 for flushing toilets at Leppan Junior Senior Primary School, where he passed Grade 9 in 1996, and at which his mother was a teacher.
The 126 blanket donations were handed over at the school.
Hoboyi said among the beneficiaries were Linah Ndevu, 94, who has since died, Nzongwana Mthengi, 90, and his former schoolteacher, Thozama Goso, 67, who were overcome with emotion.
“I am where I am because of the prayers of the elderly people in my village. I will never forsake them,” he said.
“I will continue sharing the little I have with those less fortunate.
“We must never forsake our communities, never forget the sacrifices they made for us.”
The idea of an annual winter blanket drive started in 2016.
Despite the respect he has gained countrywide as a businessman, as well as becoming a hero in Mbutho, Hoboyi, a married father of four, considers himself an ordinary resident of Mbutho.
In the mining industry, including in Mpumalanga, he has proved to be an adept leader who commands the respect of both mine owners and workers as a ground-breaking mine boss, unionist and skilled negotiator.
In 2022, his foundation also partnered with former Bafana Bafana star and PSL legend Fabian McCarthy in unearthing the next generation of soccer talent in schools around Tsolo.
The partnership is set to last until 2024.
Hoboyi said it was important to invest in young people to produce better leaders.
Every December, he donates goodies to the elderly.
“These donations are to restore their dignity and appreciate their wisdom and contribution they made to me and the community.”
His mother said she was extremely proud of her son, whom she described as a beacon of hope for Mbutho village.
With no prospect of a tertiary education, Hoboyi, who dropped out of Dilizintaba High School in Grade 12, left Mbutho in 1999 for Mpumalanga, looking for a job.
At first, he worked as a stock controller. From 2004, he worked as an underground machine operator at the Arnot coal mine.
From 2008, he was elected National Union of Mineworkers branch secretary for three consecutive terms and served on the board of the Mineworkers Provident Fund, managing assets worth more than R28bn.
However, his world came tumbling down in 2016 when he was retrenched.
But along with seven other colleagues, they invested their pensions into setting up their own company, Innovators Resources, which later became part owners of the coal mine where he once worked.
The company owns 25%, with another 25% owned by 1,200 employees and 50% by Wescoal.
Hoboyi is the founding chair of the Arnot Opco Coal Mine and a board member at Innovators Resources.
King Matiwane said Hoboyi was a living testament to the phrase “home is where the heart is”.
“His good deeds confirm him as our community builder and hero and his inspirational story from being a general worker to now co-owning the business that retrenched him, makes him our proud ambassador,” the king said.