Members of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange team gather for a photo at the 7th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge. "It is," says Company Captain Ashraf Stemmet, "one of the highlights of our year." Photos:
Peter Morey Photographic
Largest gathering ever in Johannesburg
celebrates camaraderie, fast times
Results | Photo Gallery
John Coulter, CEO of J.P. Morgan in Johannesburg, shares a smile with Cyril Ramaphosa, founder of race beneficiary Adopt-A-School.
JOHANNESBURG, March 4, 2010 — Ashraf Stemmet goes by the title of Operations Manager for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, but carries another job description close to his heart.
“I'm the jack of all trades for everything sports,” Stemmet laughed. “I'm the center point for all activities we do that are sporting.”
At the JSE, that includes clubs for indoor soccer, golf, pilates, yoga, even cricket. And, yes, running. So he has had the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge circled on his calendar for months.
“It is one of the highlights of our year,” Stemmet said. “It is a major focus of the Human Resources division and each of our employees is briefed on the importance of the Corporate Challenge. We feel that if you have a fit body, you will have a healthy mind.”
Stemmet and 92 of his JSE colleagues were part of the sold-out crowd of 12,862 racers, joggers and walkers from 405 companies at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Johannesburg. It was the largest gathering in the seven-year history of this 3.5-mile race, with the event footprint at the historic Wanderers Club increasing by more than 4,800 square feet. And the growth may not be done.
“Our numbers will double next year,” Stemmet promised.
Such is the appeal of a company outing that niftily combines strong competition, unmatched camaraderie, and a must-see post-race concert (this year featured Jesse Clegg).
“We registered 42 people, got a marquee for hospitality, raced and then really looked forward to Jesse Clegg,” said Sam Pearson, company captain for SAB Miller Africa & Asia, the world's second largest brewing company.
“Jesse Clegg is very well known,” Pearson continued. “He is a great performer himself, and his father was extremely well known playing music for the people of Africa. The concert does complete the night with a real sense of community.”
The high notes on the race course were achieved by Sibusiso Nzima of Bolt & Tool Africa and Puselefso Maema of Goldfields, who earned the men's and women's individual titles, respectively.
Nzima beat his teammate, Enoch Manyandi, by three seconds with a time of 17:20 over the 3.5-mile course. Maema also won a 1-2 duel against a colleague, besting Puseletso Tieane by just two ticks with a clocking of 21:30.
Olebogeng Masire (Goldfields), Lucky Miya (Bolt & Tool Africa) and George Mofokeng (Transnet Rail Engineering) took the 3-5 spots in the men's race. Michelle Jean Williams (Grayston Preparatory School), Annah Watkinson (Absa Capital) and Dianne Emery (Intelleca) were the 3-5 finishers for the women.
For the corner office set, Errol Shear, representing Absa Investments, and Madelise Grobler of Bytes People Solutions were the respective men's and women's Most Senior Executive champs.
A night of camaraderie and fitness in Johannesburg featured, clockwise from top: members of the SAB Miller team gathering for a group photo, Sibusiso Nzima of Bolt & Tool Africa winning the men's title in 17:20, and RMB Asset Management CEO Deon Gouws and team captain Suleni Pather taking time out for a photo.
The Corporate Challenge debuted in South Africa in March, 2004, with 6,144 entrants from 211 companies. The field has increased by 109 percent since and attracts huge turnouts from some of South Africa's largest companies, including KPMG (347 entrants), Liberty (278), Absa Capital (272), AngloGold Ashanti (262), Ernst & Young (261), Stanlib (243), Deloitte (239) and Alexander Forbes (210).
The rapid success of the event — no other city in the 34-year history of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series has drawn more participants in its first seven years — is big reason why Johannesburg was chosen as the first overseas city to host the Corporate Challenge Championship. That competition, featuring the 36 fastest teams in the 12-city Series, began five minutes prior to this race, utilizing the same course.
The sell-out crowd was inspired by the presence of Cyril Ramaphosa, one of the men most responsible for today's vibrant and growing South Africa. He is best known for building the National Union of Mineworkers — South Africa's most powerful trade union — as well as the key role he played in steering the country toward its first democratic elections in 1994.
Mr. Ramaphosa was on hand to accept a beneficiary donation from the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge to Adopt-A-School, the not-for-profit Foundation he founded in 2002 with other concerned South Africans. Adopt-A-School strives to improve the education infrastructure and skills development in order to create equal access learning opportunities for all South African children.
Deon Gouws, the CEO of RMB Asset Management, sent an email to all of his colleagues encouraging them to take part in the Corporate Challenge. With the help of company captain Suleni Pather, 54 RMBers signed up.
“As an investment company, we typically employ individuals with very competitive natures,” Gouws said. “Against this background, many of our employees are therefore also quite sporty and do various kinds of strenuous exercise in their free time. The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge is a perfect opportunity for colleagues, who are used to training on their own, to build up a bit of a sweat together and have a drink or two afterwards.
“It also proves,” he smiled. “that investing is not the only painful activity we enjoy!”
Esortfranki and FirstRand win T-Shirt competition
Esorfranki (most creative) and FirstRand (most environmentally-aware) were the winners in the T-Shirt competition, each earning a US$1,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
On the green theme, the Corporate Challenge joined forces with EnviroServ Waste Management to spread awareness about the importance of reducing environmental impacts, part of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series' Teaming Up For A Greener Tomorrow® initiative.
EnviroServ provided the necessary support to introduce waste recycling at the race, including easily identifiable recycling bins to promote and encourage the recycling of plastic, paper and general food waste. EnviroServ will also provide a sustainability report on which to base future recycling targets.
This continues a positive trend that began in 2008 when the Corporate Challenge was saluted as being South Africa 's “first fully green sporting event.”
The irrepressible Stemmet added his own unique green flavor to the event.
“It usually takes about 10 minutes to get from my office to the race site,” he said. “But on race day it can be well over an hour with traffic. So I called a friend who had a Vespa scooter, asked him to pick me up, and just closed my eyes as he weaved through the traffic on the way here. It was well worth it.”
The Corporate Challenge makes its next stop in Asia with the seventh annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Singapore on Thursday, May 6.