When you're tasked with getting an entire municipality ready for the biggest sporting event on the planet, you need to think fast. You need to have guile, cunning, the skill to work your way around a massive bureaucracy and get things done. Fortunately, Lesiba Johannes 'Joe' Mojapelo has all of that - he was responsible for getting the entire Ekurhuleni Municipality ready for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and came through it unscathed.

"As much as planning is important, sometimes one is confronted with a situation where quick thinking and implementation must be done on the spot," he says. "This is where every bit of experience and expertise has to be summoned."

Mojapelo, currently the CEO of Senapelo Consulting Engineers and a guest Mamba in the Mamba Mentors program, comes from a government background. In his municipality, he was head of Infrastructure Services and later 2010 & Special Projects (where the World Cup fell under his remit). A civil engineer by trade, he's also served on a staggering number of committees in government, including work on the Gautrain rail system. He moved to the private sector after feeling he'd contributed the most he could to government: "As the Head of the Department I had reached the summit, and also felt I had made my contribution towards serving the community and the underprivileged."

Government's loss, the Mamba's gain. Mojapelo personifies quick, proactive thinking, and will be quick to spot a business that's movements are too sluggish for investment.

Quick Strikes

  • Born: 17 April 1971
  • Scariest thing he's ever done: Jumping off the highest bungee in the world, the Bloukrans.
  • Business achievement he's most proud of: Founder of a successful civil engineering consulting firm in 2000
  • Person he most admires: Nelson Mandela. He is simply one of those unique and beautiful souls. He has taught me that embracing the ones who have wronged you makes one a better person and that humility commands respect.
  • Best piece of business advice he's ever been given: You have to first be a big fish in your own pond before you venture into unfamiliar waters. Do not confuse losing focus with diversifying.
  • When he's off the job, what does he enjoy doing? Relaxing with family, because nothing keeps you grounded more than being around the ones you love. The centre must hold.
  • What's the biggest business setback he's ever faced? How did he overcome it? I haven't as yet had a major setback, but however the nature of business is such that there will certainly be pitfalls along the way and the question is how well prepared you will be when that happens.
  • What's the most unexpectedly successful business idea he's ever seen? Why did it succeed? The implementation of the Gautrain rapid rail link which, relative to challenges facing South Africa, was considered not feasible. It succeeded primarily due to a strong political will and an appointed project champion.
  • What piece of advice would he give to prospective entrepreneurs in the program? Never be afraid of failing. Failure is but a step closer to your set objective; it's like a process of elimination.