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Raymond Ackerman

The Order of the Baobab in

Raymond Ackerman Awarded for:
His commitment to uplifting the lives of South Africans by providing scholarships to young people and conducting socially responsible retail business.
Profile of Raymond Ackerman

Raymond Ackerman was one of the first retailers to fight on behalf of the South African consumers against the apartheid state’s monopoly on basic goods. He drastically reduced the cost of essentials such as bread, milk and chicken. Ackerman also spoke against the inclusion of value-added tax (VAT) on basic food lines, a course that they fought and won on behalf of the poor. 

Since the 1970s, the Ackerman Family Trust has supported and produced 600 university graduates, including 50 educators, 80 doctors, 70 accountants, 25 lawyers, 15 engineers, 12 veterinarians and 10 dentists. In 1984 Ackerman founded the Zama Dance School in Gugulethu, which has since provided hundreds of children with their first step towards dancing on the international stage. 

Aside from teaching the art, discipline and techniques of classical ballet, Zama Dance School provides children with access to isiXhosa-speaking social workers who provide emotional support, as well as school and homework assistance. Success stories include Mamela Nyazama, who joined Zama Dance School when he was eight years old and went on to dance the lead role in the international production of The Lion King, and Alvin Ailey, who won a coveted scholarship to New York. After a successful career in Europe and the United States of America, Nyazama has returned to Zama to teach the next generation of dancers. 

Ackerman was one of the first executives to promote black South Africans to senior positions and to acknowledge black trade unions. This was at the period when such unions were banned from operating in this country. He also abolished race classification on the company’s human resources payroll. He always appointed the right person to the position regardless of skin colour. 

Ackerman fought constantly against the Group Areas Act, stating that it was unjust, unfair and inhumane. He issued housing loans to staff as government refused to grant housing loans to black South Africans during apartheid. He implemented educational grants to staff and their children to encourage tertiary education at major universities, at a time when equal education for all did not exist.

He is committed to raising the next generation of entrepreneurs. He has established two academies of entrepreneurial development. This is a six-month full-time programme offered at no cost to 18 to 30-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds, and running at both the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and the University of Johannesburg. The programmes teach the same principles that the Ackermans used to build their company. The Academy of Entrepreneurial Development has produced more than 100 new business owners, many of them offering employment to others; more than 400 of its graduates are now gainfully employed while 111 are furthering their studies.