In the “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group highlights the sustainable contribution made by a wide range of people in the company – and the motivation that inspires them. Today: Mbasa Kepe.
Sustainability has many facets at the BMW Group because we are using this term to harmonise business, the environment and society. If we are to successfully put these high standards into practice, we need our employees’ commitment. Everyone can play their part in making the BMW Group sustainable.
So, who are all these colleagues who make sustainability part of their everyday work? What drives them to roll up their sleeves throughout the company? In its “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group introduces employees who play their daily part in the broad and responsible further development of our company.
In this edition of our series, Mbasa Kepe, Manager Government and External Affairs in South Africa, talks about hospital bed capacity, his own COVID 19 illness and true gratitude.
Mbasa Kepe, BMW South Africa has made a huge commitment to local hospitals concerning COVID 19 and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the German and South African governments. So, what is it all about?
Mbasa Kepe: First of all, it was about enabling hospitals in the Tshwane region, where the BMW Group Rosslyn plant is located, to make a suitable response to the COVID 19 pandemic. This involves a network of nine hospitals and four community clinics in the Gauteng province. Together with the German government, the BMW Group has secured an additional 800 beds to expand capacity in South Africa and provide sufficient protective equipment for the staff. There are also two COVID 19 screening and testing centres, a fully equipped ambulance and a fleet for patient transport. We have also built an additional admission ward with 150 beds, including oxygen supply, at Bronkhorstspruit Hospital. All these initiatives are intended to meet society’s needs in a sustainable way. Our goal is for communities to be able to respond to the pandemic, to COVID 19 infections. Beyond that, however, we also think it is important for these facilities to continue to be used prudently after the pandemic. We want to actively help – and show that the BMW Group is serious about social responsibility, especially around its own locations.
You combine urgently needed aid with long-term investment. How is this help accepted and what are the biggest obstacles?
Kepe: For the most part, our project is implemented in underdeveloped, economically weak communities. However, the communities would like to actively participate in the projects, so this is where the biggest challenges lie. It’s not always easy to satisfy everyone’s wishes.
Asked the other way round: who is helping to drive the project forward and what are the successes?
Kepe: We have set up an internal project team to coordinate all activities and are working closely with the Ministry of Health. As we speak, we have already achieved 90 per cent of our goals. The 800 beds have already been delivered to the hospitals. The screening and testing facilities are up and running and many colleagues have volunteered to help distribute the protective equipment. The admission ward with its 150 beds is also ready. We have been able to provide valuable support to the affected communities with all these activities. And whenever the time comes when COVID 19 is no longer the predominant issue, some of the acquisitions will be able to be integrated into normal hospital operations.
Has this work also had an impact on you personally?
I have seen a lot of suffering around me, a lot of people who died and are dying from COVID 19. I just felt the need to help. I was also hospitalised myself with the virus for almost two weeks. That was a very dramatic experience. Ever since then, I have been even more determined to help and push the project forward. Furthermore, as project leader, I have the privilege to see the joy in the faces of those who have benefited directly from our aid. That, in turn, made me very happy. I have seen how valuable these initiatives are. That’s why I want to get involved in other internal and external activities in the future. I want to keep on helping. I have also learned through this project that sometimes you won’t properly understand what society really needs until you take part in social activities yourself. Personal commitment changes your own perspective – and your own behaviour too.
You have really achieved a lot with your team. Is there any one thing you are particularly proud of?
Kepe: I am particularly proud of the 150-bed facility we built at one of the sites. It is already an enormous help for the people, but it will become so much more, because this area will be transformed into normal wards in the future. This gives the community a valuable long-term facility. And due to the additional capacity we have created, the hospital is now classified as a regional hospital.
In a single sentence: what keeps you motivated every day?
Kepe: We build so much more than cars. We get involved and provide sustainable help in the communities where we are based – that motivates me.
So, when is it good enough?
Kepe: Every single time I see the smile on the faces of the people we have helped.
In the upcoming portraits from our “WEffect” sustainability series, committed colleagues will also describe their motivation and explain the contribution they are making to sustainability within the BMW Group.