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Stella Khumalo - Determination, hard work and passion
Stella Khumalo, Chief Executive Officer of uShaka Marine World says, “I characterise myself by three things, determination, hard work and passion. This is true for everything that I do in my private capacity and in my working life. I believe that when you do something, you don’t do it for the sake of doing something, but you give it your all.”
The truth of this statement is very apparent when one looks at Khumalo’s professional journey. Khumalo started out as a high school teacher specialising in science subjects. She worked her way up to be deputy principal of Luthayi High School and then Head of Department (Science) at Phezulu High School, both in Mpumalanga. She then became a subject advisor in biology and general science for the Zululand region.
After ten years at the coalface, she moved into skills development, working as Director in KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Education between 2002 and 2005. She was appointed as Chief Director for Tourism Development in the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism (2005 – 2007) and become Head of Department (2007 – 2012)
Khumalo has always been a trendsetter and is not afraid to pioneer programmes. During her time as Head of Department she introduced a number of programmes, that she said, “Are still making a difference in people’s lives and of which I am very proud.”
As Chief Executive Officer of the KZN Liquor Authority (2013-2014) Khumalo managed to move the very disorganised entity off the ground and transform it into one that was functioning and comparatively stable
Appointed as the CEO of uShaka Marine World in 2014, she is delighted that the edu-tainment and tourist destination constantly receives accolades. uShaka is a popular relaxation destination as the footfall figures well testify. Khumalo said, “This says something of its facilities, beyond its first 10 years of operation.” uShaka has contributed greatly to the economy of Durban and to promoting the development of the Durban Point area
However, Khumalo added, “We need to continually up our standards. We have a new business strategy, which focuses on providing entertainment for the whole family. We are also placing an effort on holding key events that are respected by the public. Wonderful things are still to come out of uShaka. Our strength is that the public have confidence in uShaka as a place to relax and have fun as well as learn about the conservation of our sea life.”
Pushing upstream is part of her daily job and she has a responsibility to ensure that uShaka Marine World is sustainable. Khumalo said, “At times I have to push the envelope, which does have risks as there may be positive or negative consequences.” She added that she will always push herself before she pushes other people to achieve success. “But I very lucky that the staff are every passionate about at uShaka and some employees have been here since it opened. This includes cleaners to key executive staff,” said Khumalo.
“Our current emphasis at uShaka is a guest first approach. Guest always remember the quality of service of the experience and are being trained to focus on customer care. Management does regular walkabouts to check what guests’ experience. We are seeing results; uShaka is obtaining fewer guest complaints and receiving more compliments,” said Khumalo.
Ushaka is also looking at the contribution that it’s making to society. One of the projects that is close to Khumalo’s heart is Swimanati, which means ‘swim with us’. The programme is targeted at water awareness and swimming lessons for disadvantaged children in order to assist in promoting water safety.
In addition, learning how to swim opens up a world of new work opportunities in the maritime and marine sectors. In the future, Khumalo would really like to see greater investor confidence in South Africa in order to encourage international investment. She added that uShaka models itself on Disney World and that it would be great
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