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.


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


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.

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