Civil construction pays off for PE man

Luyolo Mkentane

KEEPING his ear to the ground has paid off for a Port Elizabeth entrepreneur who chose to invest in infrastructure development six years ago. Thandile Petshwa, a married father of two from Sherwood, is sole owner and managing director of Constructable Constructors, which he started in 2006.

“This is one of the few companies that specialise in civil works, that is your sidewalks, water reticulation and anything that goes underneath the ground. We are also trained in sinking boreholes,” he said. The company is currently working on a R3.6-million project building sidewalks for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in Port Elizabeth.

The former regional treasurer and acting secretary-general of the South African Youth Council said: “What inspired me to start the business is that I saw which direction the country was taking with regard to infrastructure development. We are a developing country, so I invested in undergoing a two-year construction management course. But I was doing consulting work before, I was in business development, drawing business plans. Entrepreneurs should always keep their ears to the ground and read newspapers and watch the budget speech in order to see what the government is planning to do.”

President Jacob Zuma announced massive funding for infrastructure development for the Eastern Cape during his State of the Nation Address in Parliament last month.

“As a developing country, I knew that in the coming years the government will invest more on infrastructure development,” said Petshwa, who is also full-time manager for Afro-Jazz group Take Note.

Constructable Constructors is rated Grade 4 by the Construction Industry Development Board [CIDB] regulating the industry, he said.

Companies on Grade 4 can tender for projects costing about R3-million.

“In the next five years I want the company to grow big to Grade 6. Civil works is still white, they [whites] own the industry. Civil works is a specialised job,” said Petshwa, who employs three permanent staff. “But during projects I can employ about 15 to 20 general staff for the duration of the contract.” Grade 9 was the last grade of the CIDB, he said.

Regarding his role as manager of Take Note, Petshwa said: “I got into music by accident. I’m the kind of person who always identifies projects. I approached Take Note about three years ago and volunteered to manage them for free for six months. I wanted to equip the band on how to manage the business side of music. But after two years I decided that I will be their manager on a full-time basis. Looking back, at first it was all an issue of social responsibility for me,” said Petshwa, chuckling.

Under Petshwa’s management Take Note performed at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg and shared the stage with renowned musicians including Hugh Masekela, Sibongile Khumalo, the legendary Wynton Marsalis, a ninth-time Grammy Award winner, and the African Jazz Pioneers. “We will perform at the Grahamstown Arts Festival for five days this year,” Petshwa said.

Asked how he juggled his personal life with his businesses, Petshwa said: “The best thing is to ensure that your family takes part in your plans. To me that’s what has made me balance business with my personal life. My wife also assists me with management, we brainstorm together all the future prospects of business.”

He warned however that “not everyone can be an entrepreneur. Business is all about character. What’s important is not a business plan but a businessman with a strong character.”

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