Cre­at­ing space to suc­ceed

Moipone Masalesa has come a long way. She has been a teacher, owned a hair sa­lon and has run her suc­cess­ful Leswikaswika Civil Projects com­pany from Pre­to­ria since she reg­is­tered it in 2005. In the process, this sin­gle mother has en­abled her daugh­ter to g

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In the begin­ning

Moipone Masalesa was one of seven sib­lings grow­ing up in a mid­dle class, well-or­gan­ised Chris­tian fam­ily near Bela Bela, Lim­popo. Her fa­ther was lucky to be work­ing for a farmer who gave his labour­ers land. She says: “He owned cat­tle and goats. He grew beans and sweet pota­toes, which we sold on the streets of Bela Bela and to a nearby min­ing com­mu­nity.”

She thinks that as the youngest child, she might have been a lit­tle spoilt. Yet, she says, she’s “turned out to be the hard­est worker in the fam­ily”.

“My par­ents were very strict and we were not al­lowed to mix with chil­dren who were not Chris­tians. We prayed a lot and did Bi­ble stud­ies.”

So when Masalesa fell preg­nant at 17 while still a school­girl her fam­ily was shocked. “I had hoped to be a teacher but needed an in­come so I went to live with my sis­ter and sold clothes and beauty prod­ucts in Bela Bela for five years.”

With the money she saved, she went to the Moretele Teach­ers’ Train­ing Col­lege. “My par­ents were so im­pressed by my de­ter­mi­na­tion they helped me with funds by sell­ing a cow.”

She si­mul­ta­ne­ously stud­ied for ma­tric and be­cause there was no Setswana teacher, she taught her­self and her fel­low class­mates.

Masalesa ended up ma­tric­u­lat­ing with a dis­tinc­tion from Lethabong Se­condary School, which im­pressed her par­ents even more be­cause her fa­ther “didn’t be­lieve that girls should be ed­u­cated”.

The Lethabong prin­ci­pal re­spected Masalesa’s dili­gence so much that he ap­pointed her as the school’s his­tory and ge­og­ra­phy teacher.

“I was there for 12 years and stud­ied at the same time at Vista Univer­sity for my BEd hon­ours,” she says.

Masalesa had hoped to be­come a doc­tor, but the thought of another seven years of study was daunt­ing.

Nonethe­less, she opened a hair sa­lon to in­crease her in­come. “I was a fighter and a real self-starter,” she re­calls with a chuckle.

Get­ting started

Masalesa reg­is­tered Leswikaswika Civil Projects in 2005. She found con­struc­tion work from friends and com­mu­nity mem­bers who wanted their homes ex­tended in Bela Bela, Soshanguve and Ga-Rankuwa.

“I mea­sured and cal­cu­lated the build­ing sites and then I’d find con­trac­tors to build them. I bought the bricks, ce­ment and paint for the con­trac­tors.”

But Masalesa wasn’t sat­is­fied with her in­come and asked her brother, who was build­ing roads, to also in­volve her in that area.

“In 2005, the Tsh­wane pub­lic works de­part­ment asked for fe­male con­trac­tors. I ap­plied and be­gan civil con­struc­tion in Krugers­dorp and Orange Farm. I am still build­ing roads in Van­der­bi­jl­park to­day.

“I do road con­struc­tion, storm wa­ter drainage and wa­ter retic­u­la­tion.”

Masalesa learnt her civil con­struc­tion skills through on-the-job train­ing.

To­day, she hires be­tween 20 and 28 peo­ple to work for her “de­pend­ing on the size of the project”.

Hur­dles

“Start-up cap­i­tal. I needed this be­cause of all the de­lays in pay­ing me. Another prob­lem was that com­mu­ni­ties in­creas­ingly wanted to do their own build­ing in spite of not be­ing qual­i­fied to do so.”

Over­com­ing ob­sta­cles

“I ob­tained cap­i­tal be­cause Absa gave me an over­draft. I over­came the prob­lems in the com­mu­nity by in­volv­ing the mem­bers as stake­hold­ers in the projects. I un­der­stand where they are com­ing from.”

Next step

“I in­tend to con­tinue grow­ing and ex­pand­ing. I am also em­pow­er­ing com­mu­ni­ties. In­vest­ing skills in the lat­ter makes me feel re­ally good.”

Dreams and goals

“I’m com­pet­i­tive and al­ways look for new op­por­tu­ni­ties. I hope to even­tu­ally op­er­ate out­side South Africa’s bor­ders.

“I’m also look­ing at 3-D con­struc­tion. One day I en­vis­age build­ing shop­ping malls in space.”

NHBRC is nec­es­sary…

“It plays an im­por­tant role as a reg­u­la­tory body. I’ve worked with them and they in­sist on qual­ity. I’ve never seen its in­spec­tors com­pro­mis­ing on that.”

PHOTO: EL­IZ­A­BETH SEJAKE

STILL REACH­ING Moipone Masalesa

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