Sharing the wealth
Khosi Jeffrey Ramovha’s business acumen defies the stereotype of traditional leaders as bureaucrats stuck in a hopeless time warp
Law graduate Ramovha had only R50 000 when he embarked on a mission to create wealth for his people and change the course of the retail landscape and history in rural Venda a decade ago.
Today his company, Thavhani Property Investments, co-owns the R1 billion Thavhani Mall in Thohoyandou. The 50 000m² mall, which boasts 137 shops, opened late last year and is set for further development.
Ramovha – who’s the traditional leader of
Mulenzhe, a vast cluster of rural villages in Limpopo – says it will be not just a mall, but a self-contained city.
His dream started with the development of a shopping centre in Elim, some 40km south of Thohoyandou, in 2005. He followed this up with the development of the Nzhelele Valley Shopping Centre three years later and the Phangami Shopping Centre in 2009.
But this wasn’t enough to satisfy the needs of people in the area, who still had to travel long distances to shop for basic goods. “I realised there was still a huge demand for retail in Thohoyandou,” he says.
In 2009 he began planning the Thavhani Mall, but it was only in 2014 that everything fell into place. Through his company, he partnered with Flanagan & Gerard Property Development & Investment. After approaching Rand Merchant Bank, the company received a R1 billion loan to start construction on the mall.
The JSE-listed REIT Vukile Property Fund joined the party, securing a 33% stake in the mall. It’s now set for phases two and three development and is earmarked for completion in 2020.
Ramovha says it will contain an office park, a motor city, a 300-bed private hospital, a gym and a hotel.
While many start-up businesses experience challenges getting investors on board, Ramovha says this hasn’t been the case with the Thavhani project. “We packaged the development in such a way that investors were interested, because this is going to be a lot more than just a shopping mall. They were really attracted to that,” he says.
The Thulamela Municipality has also come on board to provide basic services such as lights, water and sanitation. Ramovha’s bid for the land on which the mall now stands got the nod ahead of 15 other prospective developers.
“I wanted to bring retailers in who previously weren’t present in Thohoyandou. People used to travel as far as Polokwane [about 180km away] just to shop because the stores they wanted weren’t here,” he says. One of them was American fast-food giant Burger King, which will now have its only Limpopo outlet in Thavhani Mall. Others include Foschini, Edcon and Polo.
“This has brought back a lot of money to Thohoyandou. People won’t have to carry groceries from far away. They also won’t need to take leave to have their cars serviced, thanks to the motor city,” says Ramovha.
“With tenders, you can create six jobs, but once the contract ends, only one person remains rich. I want to create lasting wealth for my people.”
So far, he adds, Thavhani Mall has created at least 2 000 jobs and the target is to increase this to 5 000 in the next two years.
“Black people haven’t been given an opportunity to do things without relying on government tenders. With tenders, you can create six jobs, but once the contract ends, only one person remains rich. I want to create lasting wealth for my people,” explains Ramovha.
His long-term plans involve spreading his wings to other provinces. However, the next project on his list is accomplishing something unique in Mulenzhe. Through the Mulenzhe Community
Trust, which owns the entire 519ha of land in the area, he’s planning to build a golf estate around the picturesque Nandoni Dam. It will include private schools, a hospital, shopping centres, townhouses and clubhouses in a public-private partnership that includes the local community.
“I want to empower my people – and the only way to do that is by creating wealth for them,” he says. “Nobody in Mulenzhe should be unemployed.”
The Venda area has a huge number of small-scale farmers who sell their produce at informal markets on roadsides and on pavements outside shopping centres. Ramovha wants to create a platform where these farmers can supply hotels and retail supermarkets. He’s also planning to build an abattoir.
“I want to urge my colleagues to work hard for the community. We must use the land that we have to create jobs for our people. We need to do away with dependency,” he says.
FROM MOTHERWELL TO THE WORLD
Lutshaba says he’s first and foremost a creative, which sounds a little strange coming from someone who founded one of the Eastern Cape’s leading consumer goods manufacturing concerns – unless you understand his background.
Born to an impoverished household headed by his domestic worker mother in Motherwell township near Port Elizabeth, Lutshaba says he was a naturally curious youngster who pursued a variety of interests, from sport and drama to music and video games. In fact, it was the latter that was his first love and led to him studying computer science at college.
However, he soon abandoned his studies to find a job and help his mother. While working at General Motors, he began to develop an interest in business. With the aid of the car manufacturer, he studied business administration at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and then struck out on his own.
After launching a hardware enterprise which failed, Lutshaba – encouraged by his mentor, local entrepreneur Danny Jacobs – founded Lungisupreme Brands in 2012.
Established with just R26 000 in start-up capital, the household food and cleaning agent producer offered flavoured bottled water, soap and its flagship Sunpheka cooking oil range, packaged in small bottles and sachets, which has been a raging success in the province.
Over the six years of its existence, the business has ramped up production to thousands of litres per month, upgraded its facilities to meet SABS standards and attracted interest from the likes of Transnet, Eskom and SABMiller, along with a young, vibrant workforce. Its annual turnover has shown a steady increase, with the R1,5 million mark now in its sights.
A devoted father of two who credits his hardworking mother as a constant source of inspiration, Lutshaba maintains that manufacturing can be a creative pursuit. “I always had an interest in retail products and the range of possibilities they present. At the same time, there was a lack of black manufacturers in the industry. My team and I are constantly seeking innovative ways to add to our range. I believe that training and networking can help a company diversify its offering. We’re currently looking at supplying Sun International with our products, but who’s to say we won’t open our own hotel in the future?” he asks.
The Eastern Cape is often depicted as a rural backwater devoid of opportunities and development, but Lutshaba believes it’s a province bursting with potential.
“There are 6,1 million people in the Eastern Cape – that’s a massive under-served market. Gauteng might have more partnership opportunities, but it also has stiff competition. We have a chance to serve people in dire need of products and services, and for these home-grown offerings to become part of the communities themselves,” he explains, adding that the Eastern Cape could do with an “incubator” aimed at developing the talents of the province’s youth.
However, Lutshaba’s ultimate ambitions extend beyond this region of SA: his eyes are firmly set on developing a global presence, with expansion in both distribution and product offerings top of mind.
“We’re focused on expanding our reach into other provinces and currently have agents in Cape Town and Gauteng’s East Rand. We also have a continental presence in Nairobi, Kenya, and I’ll soon be travelling to France, Ghana and the USA on trade missions. In 2019, we hope to introduce a revolutionary line of flavoured margarine. I want to see Lungisupreme Brands deliver products that are the equal of those produced by massive manufacturers like Unilever. We can truly go from Motherwell to the world,” he smiles. Lungisa Lutshaba (35) is attracting global attention with his Eastern Cape-based manufacturing powerhouse, Lungisupreme Brands
A PASSION FOR PROPERTY
Skhulile Ndlovu aspires to make property markets more accessible and encourage young professionals to invest in this sector
When Ndlovu first started working, he wanted to find a property which he could either buy or rent, but he encountered innumerable problems doing so due to his lack of knowledge of the ins and outs of the property market.
Instead of accepting defeat, however, he resolved to educate himself about property and realised that he could teach young professionals looking for space how the process works.
While working as an investment banker for
UBS, a global firm providing financial services to corporate and institutional clients, he enrolled for a short business course in property investment at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Ndlovu then joined an international real estate agency, where he worked for five months. During that period, he realised that properties in high-end areas like Sandton, Johannesburg, are unaffordable to most people and that they needed an organisation that could help them achieve realistic ambitions.
“Property isn’t just about buildings: it has everything to do with dignity. I want to give people an opportunity to have decent and affordable homes.”
He’s since founded Encore Real Estate, a boutique brokerage firm which provides property solutions for clients wanting to buy, sell, rent and manage properties. It focuses mainly on properties in Johannesburg and Durban.
Now more than a year old, the company’s managed several projects to the collective value of R35 million. Ndlovu’s now partnered with another agency to market new developments. The partnership started when the other agency gave him the opportunity to market some of its developments. Seeing Ndlovu’s progress, it eventually agreed to restructure its business to focus more on property development, marketing and consulting.
“The agency felt that my skills were important to its business. So Encore Real Estate bought into it.
This will see me running both real estate agencies, where we offer a team of experts including architects, engineers, environment specialists and contractors when it’s time to develop.”
Pietermaritzburg-born Ndlovu, who began studying for a BCom at the University of KwaZulu-Natal at the age of 16, wants to work with government and other agencies in terms of rehabilitating and developing properties, while making them more affordable.
“Property isn’t just about buildings: it has everything to do with dignity. My vision for the company is to give people an opportunity to have decent and affordable homes. I want to inspire and influence young people to start investing in property,” he says.
He adds that a common stumbling block in the sector is a lack of access to resources, as the industry traditionally operates within a closed market. Aspirant property-owners have to knock on many doors before entering the right one. However, he’s building a concrete foundation for them. “It’s all about working in the process and accepting the journey until you have that major breakthrough,” he says.
His business venture isn’t limited to property. He’s co-founded Ilitha Agricultural Engineering & Business with a close friend. The multi-disciplinary firm focuses on agricultural engineering projects, infrastructure planning and development. It’s also established a partnership with a Taiwanese company to be its sole distributor in SA of innovative grain and food dryers.
In addition, Ndlovu facilitates international trade transactions at Africa Trade Advisory, a company which aims to help youth become active in this sector by partnering with key stakeholders.