Bridgette Radebe: The First Black Female Mining Entrepreneur


Bridgette Radebe is a South African businesswoman and the visionary leader behind Mmakau Mining (Pty) Ltd. She is the Founder, Executive Chairperson, and CEO, making her the first black female mining entrepreneur. She claimed the Businessperson of the Year award in 2008 and is currently the richest woman in South Africa. With worth is estimated to be around 809 million US dollars. She also happens to be the sister of the first lady, Patrice Motsepe. An icon in the mining sector with over three decades of experience, she has numerous achievements to her name. However, her rise to dominance was far from smooth. Let’s explore her life.

Early Life Background

Bridgette Motsepe was born on February 26, 1960, in Apartheid South Africa. Her parents were Chief Augustine Butana Chaane Motsepe and Key Motsepe, a Tswana family with like-minded siblings, Tshepo Motsepe and Patrice Motsepe. Patrice Motsepe is also a businesswoman, and Tshepo Motsepe is the First Lady of South Africa. She attended the University of Botswana between 1973 and 1977. Radebe confronted a challenging environment where black individuals were denied mining licenses and ownership rights. Her parents’ activism against oppressive regulations laid the foundation for her unwavering commitment to economic change. In 1976, she and her tribe, who were robbed of royalty payments for mineral rights leased to a Canadian company, marched to the mine seeking justice. They were met with tear gas, dogs, police, and guns. Bridgette vowed to become a lawyer to fight the injustice, but the racist apartheid regime policy denied her the opportunity to study.

Despite being accepted at Wits University, she was sent to a racist Bantu University of the North. conseqently, where she would also get expelled for protesting together with her colleagues, ending her pursuit of a career in law.
Bridgette Motsepe is married to Jeff Radebe, hence taking on his first name and becoming Bridgette Radebe. Together, they have three children, namely Vukani Radebe, Malaika Radebe, and Mandisa Radebe. Her nephews are Kgosi Motsepe, Thlopie Motsepe, and Kabelo Motsepe.

Bridgette Radebe and husband

Early Career in Mining

In the 1980s, Radebe commenced her career as a common miner, overseeing individual shaft mining operations and contributing to larger mine operations in South Africa under contract. She founded Mmakau Mining, a company specializing in explorations and the production of platinum, gold, and chrome. She entered the mining industry 23 years ago, challenging legislation that restricted women from owning mining rights. Operating as a contract miner, her company managed shafts for major mining houses, acquiring crucial skills to establish her business. Today, Mmakau Mining holds equity in platinum, coal, chrome, and gold mines. Also with a stake in Shaft Sinkers, specializing in global shaft sinking and mining construction.
Bridgette Radebe and her husband, a former South African Minister, advocated for change and challenged racist legislation in the country. As a member of the New Africa Mining Fund and Sappi Board, she used her influence to criticize the “capitalist mining model. She emphasized its negative impact on land, exports, and job migration.

In the past, 83% of South Africa’s natural resources belonged to the racial minority. But today, 91% are owned by corporate monopolies largely due to her efforts. Radebe proposes solutions, including complete nationalization of mining operations, state buyouts for black empowerment. And also suggested a collaborative approach between public and private sectors in managing South Africa’s mines.


Bridgette Radebe’s leadership prioritizes sustainable mining ventures with community-driven involvement, promoting equity participation in rural communities. As the President of the South African Mining Development Association (SAMDA), she played a crucial role in advocating for essential mining bills addressing royalties, empowerment, and development. The Bridgette Radebe Integrated Resource Management model, embraced globally, addresses poverty and challenges related to the “resource curse syndrome.”
As the founder and board member of the New Africa Mining Fund, Bridgette Radebe provides financial and skill support to junior mining companies. Her influence extends to her past role as Vice Chairman of the Minerals and Mining Development Board. She also contributed to the soccer development in South Africa. Additionally, she is a founding member and the inaugural chairperson of the International Women’s Forum South Africa. Hence, her impact resonated across various boards, including Sappi Limited, the world’s largest paper and pulp company.
In 2008, Bridgette Radebe ap on Forbes Africa’s Most of Women and also recognized among the “20 Most Powerful Women in Africa” by Forbes Magazine. Bridgette Radebe actively participates in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Conferences, symbolizing her enduring influence and commitment to positive change. In May 2008, she received the “International Businessperson of the Year Award” from the Global Foundation for Democracy.
In 2012, Bridgette Radebe received the Pioneer in Mining Award, recognizing her contribution and influence in the sector. Her other notable awards include the Renaissance Woman Award and the University of Durban-Westville’s Onkgopotse Tiro Excellence Awards in 2010. Radebe is a member of the BRICS Business Council in 2019.


Bridgette Radebe’s journey embodies resilience, activism, and entrepreneurial spirit, leaving an enduring imprint on the mining industry and inspiring a new generation of leaders.

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