By Shaun Johnson
When Lieze and I met in the early days of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation (circa 2004 I think it was), we hit it off so strongly it was all but inevitable that we should become the firmest of friends personally, and fellow-adventurers professionally.
What adventures! Together we hatched the plan (with a lot of help from clever colleagues) to make the MRF shareholder-partners in OUP SA (to the immense and lasting benefit of large numbers of young Africans with leadership potential, and I believe to OUP too.) We built a tradition whereby OUP staff from all divisions would visit the Mandela Rhodes Building to find out how their visionary leader (not that Lieze would ever think of herself in that way, let alone say it!) was choosing to meet the unique empowerment challenges of South Africa.
We travelled widely together for work and play (the latter sorties adorned by Shui-Lyn and Stefania); we sat on selection committees; we presented to stern-faced Boards; we entertained important visitors over fine South African food and wine; she talked us into participating in her strange fascination with Dragon Boat racing. We laughed and laughed and still do at the idiosyncrasies of our one-of-a-kind country and its peoples; but with Lieze never, ever, cynically.
What a great soul and giant heart she has. Like Madiba – and I mean the comparison – when she interacts she makes people feel like they want to be better people, and all of this done without the slightest trace of self-awareness, pomposity or superiority (in fact the opposite; perhaps too much self-deprecation). Rare person indeed.
I still can’t quite imagine MRF life without Lieze at OUP since her retirement; it will take some getting used to. A test I often apply to myself to determine what I really think of another person is how you react when you see their name come up on your phone and you have the option of answering, or not. In other words, is this a person who generally lifts your spirits, or dampens them? Well, whenever I see it’s LIEZE KOTZE calling, I press ‘accept’ and wait to hear the treasured words: ‘hello partner!’