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
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.
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”.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
STILL REACHING Moipone Masalesa