“The Power of Relationships”
Alex van den Heever
Alex spent his formative years growing up on a cattle farm in the Western Cape, South Africa. After completing studies in Marketing and Business Management, he joined the world renowned Londolozi game reserve in 1995, as a game ranger. Alex worked as the environmental manager, presented for the marketing team and conducted specialised safaris. Alex’s greatest fascination is traditional skills of wildlife tracking. He has dedicated much of his life to learning the ancient skill, eventually qualifying as one of a handful of tracker assessors in 2004 – the youngest ever to achieve this feat. Over the last two decades Alex has tracked jaguars in the Amazon jungle, bears in California, grizzlies and wolves in Montana and the famous black-mane lions of the Kalahari.
Alex is the general manager of the Tracker Academy, a NGO which trains unemployed people in traditional skills of tracking.
In addition to his conservation work, Alex has worked as a facilitator for Vulindlela Transformational Services conducting diversity training. Here he led courses aimed at facilitating a better understanding between black and white people working in corporate South Africa.
Alex is the founder of Power Supply, a company which produces fortified foods for rural markets and bulk feeding. The company distributes over a million meals per year of its vitamin enriched products.
Alex and Renias continue to work together in the bushveld, as well as to conduct motivational presentations in South Africa and abroad. Their inspirational presentation, The Power of Relationships, has relevance for both local South African as well as international audiences.
Alex is the co-author of bestselling animal tracking book called the Tracker Manual.
Renias Mhlongo was born in a mud hut in what is today the greater Kruger National Park. The Mhlongo family sustained themselves on the land by growing vegetables, tending cattle and hunting small game. Renias, almost as soon as he could walk, was sent out to tend the family’s cattle herd. He is one of the last people to be raised in the original traditions of a Shangaan hunter-gatherer.
During forced removals of Apartheid regime, Renias and his family were sent to a settlement called Dixie. Without any formal education, he was forced to seek work at a game reserve as a labourer. In 1984 he became a tracker at Londolozi – thereby putting to use his exceptional skills as a naturalist. Over the last 34 years Renias played a pivotal role in habituating the world-famous leopards of Londolozi.
Renias has conducted tracker training workshops in South Africa, Brazil, Kenya and North America – teaching people the traditional skills of trailing animals. In addition to his extensive experience with African animals he, with Alex, has tracked animals all over the world.
Using his tracking skills Renias has also conducted small mammal surveys for game reserve owners in South Africa. In 2010, Renias became a principle trainer of the Tracker Academy.
Renias is also a co-author of the Tracker Manual published by Struik Nature.
Renias has travelled internationally, and in so doing has touched many by the gracious manner with which he teaches people about African wildlife, culture and philosophy. He is a natural storyteller. He taught Alex the art of humorous storytelling, which comes out strongly in their motivational presentation, “The Power of Relationships”. During their inspirational presentation, Renias provides personal insights to relationship building and the power of diversity.
Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo’s
Cultural Diversity Presentation told against the backdrop of the South African bushveld
The two speakers from very different backgrounds share their motivational talk, The Power of Relationships.
About Alex and Renias
Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo have worked together for 23 years, conducting safaris and training wildlife trackers around the world. Their work has taken them all over Africa, including Australia, England, South America and North America, and they have been featured in several TV news documentaries, most notably CNN International. Their long friendship and working relationship represents an inspirational model for a multicultural South Africa. The presentation is ideal for businesses struggling with issues of diversity and transformation in South Africa, particularly considering its unique cultural landscape.
Though the system of Apartheid ended in the early 1990s, its impact can still be felt in modern South Africa, where racial, cultural and class differences are still often perceived as barriers between people. Two friends and colleagues who have utterly broken down those barriers, Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo are now sharing their story, “The Power of Relationships,” with the goal of helping others overcome obstacles to communication and forge the power of diversity.
The presentation tells the true story of Alex, a white game ranger, and Renias, a black tracker and inheritor of the Shangaan pastoralist tradition. In working side by side and sharing a love of wildlife and animal tracking for the last 23 years, a relationship developed between them despite their racial and cultural differences. In order to get to know each other well, they taught each other their own languages. “Learning Shangaan has made significant a difference in my ability to understand Renias and his approach to life,” Alex commented.
The presentation also details the two men’s encounters with each other’s cultures. First, Alex visited Renias’s village, Dixie, where he was treated as a VIP guest. “In the 1990’s I thought that the villages were no place for a white person,” Alex commented, “but I experienced a level of generosity I had never experienced anywhere else before.” Renias then joined Alex for a trip to London, his first trip out of Kruger Park and his first encounter with a large European city. The two share a thrilling story about how Renias saved Alex from a leopard attack – a momentous occasion which caused trust to develop between the two men.
“Our goal in sharing our story,” says Alex, “is to inspire others to open their minds and to learn how to actively participate in diverse teams. We want to show that it’s possible to build deep trust and a productive relationship with someone from a different culture. We show that diversity can be a source of strength.” The speakers emphasize that their story is not meant only for South Africans, but for international audiences.
In addition, they offer simple steps to get rid of prejudice behaviour and meet others on an equal footing. According to Alex, simply being willing to listen to and try to understand another person’s experiences is the first step in creating productive intercultural relationships.
You will gain the following from the presentation:
• How to build trust in difficult circumstances
• How to create an environment conducive to mutual understanding across cultures
• How to get to know your colleague from another culture
• How strong culture creates big benefits
• How to realise the power of diversity in the workplace
Deloitte Africa had the pleasure of securing Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo to present at the 2014 Deloitte Africa Leadership Summit on 18 September 2014.
‘Outstanding’ simply does not do justice to their presentation. Alex and Renias enlightened our senior audience of partners and directors to the power of relationships – in nature, society and business.
This inspiring talk was authentic, a real-life example and proof that many great things are possible and you can create a distinct advantage and make an impact that matters when you dig a little deeper and discover the enormous power of connecting!
Kerry Naidoo, Deloitte
In an extremely entertaining presentation Alex tells how people from vastly different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs can forge powerful relationships. Crucially he clearly demonstrates how cohesion, supremacy, and pure bottom line profit flow from the quality of the relationships within any team, organisation, and country.”
Ian Thomas, Top South African motivational speaker
“…van den Heever’s leopard tale was about more than just trackers, neophyte guides and pleasing the tourists. It was, as he titled it, about “The Power of Relationships.” And, clearly, the two friends had told this story before – it was so inspirational, you could imagine them speaking before a suited group of Forbes 400 businesspeople.”
North Coast Journal, California, USA
“Relationships are universal – “The Power of Relationships” captures the essential ingredients, the intangibles and the essence of relationships.”
David Varty, Founder of Londolozi game reserve
Alex. The presentation you gave to our Group in May was truly excellent – wonderfully delivered with much passion, excellent knowledge of your subject and with great humour. It was an inspiring and motivating talk with important messages for us all in the management of our business. There is no doubt that everyone in our organisation was absolutely enthralled by your presentation and we are most grateful for your outstanding contribution to our planning seminar.”
Jeff Carter – CEO, Lester Group. Perth, Australia
“Alex van den Heever’s stage presence can in short be described as motivating and thought provoking. His ability to bring to life the awe-inspiring tale of friendship encapsulates the very essence of South African diversity and culture. He manages to touch people in a very real and relevant way and specifically within the context of our (client) event he was able to take a very personal experience and apply it to the corporate world. The ultimate touch was of course in bringing his friend onto stage in a powerful conclusion, which could be felt throughout the audience. We would definitely consider using Alex in future motivational talks for our clients.”
Harshna Kanaye, Organisation and Change Management, Deloitte Consulting
“The art of storytelling has been mastered by Alex, and his profound message about relationships in an African context will stay with me for a long time. Excellent! thank you.”
James Crawford, Regional Manager KZN, Spar Build-It