• a “loss of an industrial giant, a thoughtful voice and a great South African”Minister Ebrahim Patel.

The Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel, today sent his sincere condolences and that of the South African Government to the family, friends and colleagues of the late Dr Johan van Zyl, the Chairman of Toyota SA. The statement follows.
Johan van Zyl passed away on Friday evening, 30 July 2021, from complications associated with Covid-19, at age 63. He is survived by his wife Santie and his daughters, Nadia and Karla.

This is a sad loss to the country. Johan had so much that he still wanted to contribute to building South Africa. My thoughts are with his family and friends and with the Toyota management and workers. We will miss him enormously.

Johan was a real giant among South African industrialists, a committed patriot and a son of the industrial heartland of the East Rand. He was dedicated to the achievement of industrial excellence and was very proud of the local skills that were built and developed within Toyota here in South Africa. I remember walking with him through their factory in eThekwini many years ago and being introduced to South African engineers, black and white, female and male, and Johan pointing to the high global rating of their production lines. He built a strong relationship with workers and led a world-class management team.

Johan joined Toyota SA in September 1993 and helped to build the business locally, before being asked to lead Toyota Motor Europe as President and CEO, based in Brussels and Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation. He retired in 2020 and came back to South Africa as Executive Chairperson of Toyota SA.

He loved South Africa and during his period in Europe, he reached out to us with an offer to bring together business people to drive a public- private growth initiative.  He gave freely of his time and travelled regularly back home to SA to drive the process. He led talks with President Ramaphosa in the early days of the sixth administration on ways the business community could create more jobs and boost investment. His passing away is devastating to his family and deprives the country and the business community of a strong and thoughtful voice.

Johan saw the opportunity to strengthen Toyota’s local footprint and I recall that in 2009, shortly after I was appointed to Cabinet, I met with him and we developed a proposal to bring the production of mini-bus taxis to South Africa. At the time, all taxis were imported into the local market. He was enthusiastic about the idea and presented the proposal at the Global Board of Toyota and today all minibus taxis used on our roads are assembled locally.

In 2011 at our request, he arranged a fleet of hybrid vehicles, combining traditional internal combustion technologies with electric motor technologies to be brought to SA for use in COP-17, the UN Climate Change Conference hosted in Durban. He strongly backed the assembly of a Toyota hybrid vehicle in SA and the first Toyota Corolla hybrid is expected to come off local production lines later this year.

Most recently, Johan agreed to serve as Chairperson of the Green Hydrogen Advisory Panel that I announced in Parliament in May this year, and chaired the Panel’s first meeting at which he set out the work programme to develop the potential of a green energy future for South Africa.

He sadly tested positive for Covid-19 in July this year.

Johan had a deep insight into business and a warm nature, with a delightful sense of humour. He had courage and vision. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Santie and the family.


Bulelani Silangwe – Acting Departmental Spokesperson
Mobile: 082 767 2091
E-mail: BSilangwe@thedtic.gov.za
Issued by: The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)
Follow us on Twitter: @the_dti

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