The South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) is about bringing about positive change to people, communities and businesses through the upkeep of the national road network.
Monica Stemela is one of the products of the roads agency’s commitment to creating inclusive opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs.
This is in line with the government’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and the advancement of small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs).
SANRAL requires main contractors working on its projects to utilise small businesses, particularly those owned by women.
Stemela, owner and founder of HLS Building and Civil Construction, is currently subcontracted by main contractor Penny-Farthing Engineering for routine road maintenance (RRM) on four SANRAL projects.
Through Penny-Farthing’s mentorship programme, HLS received six subcontracting opportunities amounting to a total of R38.8-million from 2005 to date.
This includes the ongoing RRM work on SANRAL roads in the North West between Wolmaransstad and Bloemhof, from Lichtenburg to Biesiesvlei and Coligny, as well as Aliwal North in Eastern Cape and Upington in Northern Cape.
RRM is essential to keep roads in good condition to ensure the safety of all who use them. From closing of potholes and patching the road surface to replacing traffic signs, guardrails and fencing, ongoing road maintenance on the 2 598km of SANRAL roads in the North West is effectively being managed by eight contractors.
Stemela said: “Penny-Farthing has mentored our company and has been pivotal to our growth and development, particularly within the RRM space.”
Challenges along the way
Her journey in the built environment has not been without challenges since she established the business in 2005.
“Pursuing opportunities in other parts of the country has been one of the main challenges as the focus of government procurement is on local SMMEs, coupled with the procurement model which favours the lowest bidder in terms of price,” said Stemela.
Other stumbling blocks she mentioned include securing finance from banks getting accounts from suppliers. “These institutions are not confident about doing business with SMMEs.”
However, Stemela is proud her company has secured 13 contracts over the past 12 years. Starting out with a R2.9-million low-cost housing development for the Emalahleni municipality in 2005, the company has since focused on RRM because of the job opportunities in this field.
Re-invest in the business
The self-taught entrepreneur said: “Start-ups and emerging entrepreneurs should invest in their business by buying assets they can use to sustain its growth.
“Compliance in terms of tax affairs and National Treasury regulations are also important when it comes to securing projects.”
HLS’s headquarters are in Port Elizabeth and it employs five full-time workers. For its RRM work, it employs local labour, of which 50 locals are currently employed on its two North West projects.
HLS is recognised as a Grade 5 contractor by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) which means the company can pursue construction projects up to the value of R6.5-million.
Looking ahead, Stemela would like to reach CIDB Grade 7 in order to be pursue projects up to R40-million and compete as a principal contractor.