From poverty to business tycoon
Entrepreneur Lita Mbokotho tells DRUM about how he went from humble beginnings in the Eastern Cape to become a business tycoon
THERE were bones in his lunch box, not meat, as that was all his family could afford. His parents advised him to let others take the lead in lunches while he focused on becoming number one in academics. It may not have made much sense at the time, but now Lita Mbokotho knows what it means to be at the top and be envied by his peers.
Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Tsori Capital, a Pan-African advisory, mechanical engineering, water and sanitation, and general supply services company, the 34-year-old is a heavyweight in the business world. His company secures multi-million-rand tenders from Government and provides employment to a number of people from previously disadvantaged communities.
The days of travelling long distances, sometimes barefoot, to school in pursuit of education are long gone. Today, Lita holds a BCom accounting degree from the University of Pretoria, an Honours in Finance from the University of South Africa, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Manchester in the UK, where he topped the global class in corporate finance.
“It’s been quite a journey for me and Iamproudofmyacademicachievements,” he says, making himself comfortable in his plush Pretoria office.
Lita tells us his passion for business started at university with Pastel Accounting. His gift for the program motivated him to consult for businesses that wanted to improve their accounting systems.
“At that time, most black-owned businesses in the construction industry were relying on bookkeepers and had no accounting systems in place,” he explains.
“Most of them used to pay heavy penalties to Sars due to the fact that their books were not in order.
“As a consultant, I had to negotiate with Sars to cancel the penalties and only charge interest.
“The businesses were not trying to evade tax – they had capacity constraints in their bookkeeping. The harsh penalties would have forced the businesses to shed a significant number of jobs.”
It was a win-win situation for both the companies and Sars.
I N 2010, Lita co-founded Tsori Capital, which is currently involved in a R25-million project to support and benefit 64 co-operatives and communities within the Dr Kenneth Kaunda Municipality. The initiative is set to create 328 direct jobs and another 200 indirect positions.
Job creation is a big deal for Lita. He notes that the global downturn in the mining industry has significantly affected employment.
“It became clear that it can’ t be business as usual anymore,” he tells us. “In response to this, Tsori Capital developed a co-operatives programme that seeks to industrialise and diversify the economies of the municipalities where we are providing our service.”
The company also has a focus on women. Lita says he believes women have real value to add to the business world, and that empowering women will make communities prosper, thus helping to end the socio-economic ills that plague our country.
He prides himself on the fact that Tsori Capital has a 70 % female majority shareholding.
“Tsori Capital’s Chief Executive Officer, Hombisa Mbokotho, is a woman, and the office manager, Niza Nobaza, is female and partially deaf,” he adds.
Lita’s company may be riding the crest of the wave right now, but he’s not shy to admit that there’ve been disappointments along the way. He says one of his biggest failures has been investing a lot of time and effort into entering what
‘It is not a curse to start small, but it is a curse to stay small‘
ended up as dysfunctional partnerships.
“I felt the partnerships were dysfunctional in the sense that some people want quick results. Our visions were not aligned and I decided it was best to just fly solo.”
However, lessons have been learnt. “This taught me not to rush into any partnership and to conduct a proper due diligence on people,” he says.
“Unfortunately, this was as an expensive learning process, as I lost money.”
ORIGINALLY from Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape, Lita is grateful to his parents for raising him and his siblings to value education.
“They encouraged us from a young age to go through life with an attitude of gratitude,” he recalls. “The Bible tells us to never despise small beginnings. It is not a curse to start small, but it is a curse to stay small. So even if you go to school without shoes, don’t be discouraged – you are doing something to change your situation.”
Lita has been married to the company’s CEO, Hombisa, for eight years. “We have been together for 12 years altogether,” he says. “She was my university sweetheart.”
The couple has two children, Likhanye (9) and Elihle (4), and there’s nothing the businessman likes more than spending some quality time with his family.
“I love spending time in the bush at game reserves with my wife,” he says. “We often take time off and disappear into the tranquillity and beauty of the African wilderness. Doing game drives in the morning and evening relaxes our minds.”
Lita is also passionate about youth development.
“I don’t believe our Government has done enough in the past,” he says. “But it’s currently doing a lot through its own initiatives and supporting initiatives like ours. The private sector also has to work with Government to create new industries, thereby increasing the country’s tax base and creating jobs.”
Lita does his bit by raising funds through his business partners to help young people start their own businesses.
They, in turn, must employ other young people and women.
Clearly, another Lita-inspired win- win situation.
MAIN PICTURE: Businessman Lita Mbokotho is the founding partner and director of Tsori Capital.
ABOVE: Lita and his CEO wife, Hombisa, at one of the many events that their successful business hosts.
LEFT: Lita (centre) is passionate about youth development in South Africa. Here the chairman is pictured at one of his community development programmes at an Eastern Cape School.
LEFT: It’s not all work for the mogul, he also loves holidaying in prime locations like Cape Town.