Giving jobs to rural youth transformed Ulwazi Development Projects into a company that started off employing nine people in 2006 to employing more than 1 600 today, writes Kalay Chetty
When Bongani and Cindy Mabizela set up civil engineering consulting firm Ulwazi Development Projects in 2006, they occupied a small office in the west wing of a big building, and had three permanent and six contract employees.
Today, they own more than seven businesses, occupy the entire building, employ more than 1 600 people permanently and 249 on a temporary basis. They record an annual turnover of R115 million.
The couple operate in seven South African provinces and recently opened an international office in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Such phenomenal growth is impressive, especially in a country that has experienced sluggish economic growth over the same period.
However, it is the company’s unique and sustainable business model of contributing to skills development and job creation that has helped make Ulwazi Group a success.
Through its flagship corporate social investment programme, the Ulwazi Hammarsdale festival, the winners of the Mr and Miss Ulwazi Hammarsdale pageant titles receive a R100 000 bursary each and an internship at Ulwazi Group.
The first recipient of the Miss title in 2013 was Bafungile Sogiba, who is working as an intern at the company.
“Winning Miss Hammarsdale has made a huge difference in my life. I was able to help with the distribution of food parcels to the community in Hammarsdale. With the bursary, I was able to pay my outstanding fees and complete my honours.
“Winning Miss Hammarsdale also helped me land my first job, gave me an opportunity to gain experience and another opportunity to work for the company that sponsored me,” she explained.
As a graduate trainee tender administrator, Sogiba said the skills she had learnt over the past five months in the role were useful in the workplace and in daily life.
“It’s very important to plan and organise your life. I have now learnt how to prioritise accordingly,” she said.
Her responsibilities in the role include looking for tender opportunities and submitting tender proposals.
“As a tender administrator, you need to be deadline driven, pay attention to detail, be able to work under pressure, be a team player, plan and organise.
“I have learnt all these skills and I have also learnt the importance of communication.
“Ulwazi Group is a family; the culture of
giving is a norm. I do not feel like an employee, but like a child at home.”
The 23-year-old was born in the small town of eNtsizwa near Mount Ayliff in the Eastern Cape and was raised by her mother. Sogiba said one of her biggest goals was to make her mother proud.
“I want to be an example to girls, share values with them about the importance of staying in school and the importance of learning independence at a young age.
“I believe that every young girl should strive for independence and humility,” she added.
Sogiba, who holds an honours degree in supply chain management, would like to further her career in this discipline.
“I would like to explore the different elements of the supply chain, operations and procurement, particularly in the FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] industry. I would also like to join an NGO.”
GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT Bongani and Cindy Mabizela
in their new offices