Serving communities — from public to private

The transition from government to the private sector has been quite a rollercoaster for Mongezi Mnyani, the current group chief executive for Khato Holdings, which includes three subsidiaries, Khato Civils, Khato Equipment and Khato Materials.

Mnyani started in this position on April 1, 2016 following 19 years of uninterrupted service in government.

During his tenure in the public service, Mnyani worked for various government departments and has been in the public service since 1996 in various capacities.

Mnyani also worked for the Gauteng Provincial Government, where he was the head of department for local government and housing and responsible for the overall management of the department and its entity.

Because of this background, his knowledge and expertise are in the areas of public service management, stakeholder relations and community development. He has also served on several

boards and acts as a trustee for non-governmental organisations involved in developmental issues and is very passionate about empowering and upskilling people from previously disadvantaged communities.

Before joining Khato Holdings — a 100% black-owned company with an annual turnover of more than R3.5-billion — Mnyani was the chief executive for the National Home Builders Registration Council from March 2013.

“The transition has not been easy, but I’ve managed. The private sector is a different ball game in comparison to government, where there are layers upon layers of bureaucracy. In the private sector the decision-making and the turnaround is quicker and things are done differently,” says Mnyani.

“I hit the ground running and I was lucky because at Khato, together with our chairman, Simbi Phiri, we do things differently and we complement each other. He is a seasoned businessman and I have been in the public service for years and know how the government works and [can use] my networks to make strategic decisions. I don’t regret quitting the public service.”

At Khato Holdings, Mnyani is responsible for developing and implementing sound business operations and strategies that will ensure that the company grows its market share both in South Africa and rest of the continent.

His plan also includes making sure that the company develops and implements corporate governance principles across the various divisions.

“We are a wholly 100% black-owned company and we are making headway and competing with the big guns (Basil Read, Group Five and Murray & Roberts, among others). We are big on corporate governance — we have highly skilled safety officers, and quality managers. We have an ISO 9001 certificate, a risk management committee, a company secretary and our CIDB Grading is 9CE and 9GB — this means we can bid for any tenders from R130- million and above. Very few black companies are in this space,” says Mnyani.

“And while we are a competitive business, we don’t just take any job because we don’t want to fail. We are very cautious.”

Mnyani says one of the highlights of his job as chief executive of Khato Holdings was working on the R2.8-billion emergency water and waste water intervention project in the Mopani district, which is scheduled to be completed in June 2018.

“We have surprised everybody with this project. People in Giyani — in over 56 villages — are happy because they now have access to clean water and sanitation,” says Mnyani.

“We employ and manage over 1 300 employees,” he says. “We have also sub-contracted local suppliers in line with the country’s BBBEE codes. Our company’s procurement is biased towards BEE. We have also formed a partnership with the Giyani Business Forum. We have also transferred skills to local suppliers by conducting workshops on safety issues, on how to write a correct invoice, on how to fill out a tax return. We have done this because we expect quality work from them in line with our corporate values.

We have parted ways with companies that have done shoddy jobs. We don’t compromise when it comes to quality.”

Mnyani says his biggest dream as Khato Holdings’ chief executive is to grow its market share in the next financial year — and beyond, and says he has a proud record when it comes to achieving goals.

He points out that during his tenure at the NHBRC, he spearheaded the transformation agenda — protecting housing consumers and establishing, implementing and regulating quality standards within the home building industry. He was also instrumental in ensuring that home builders are provided with the training necessary for them to improve their technical skills.

Under his leadership, the NHBRC continued to provide warranty protection for housing consumers against structural defects for their new homes.

Mnyani says he is also looking forward to growing the company in the rest of the continent. Already, Khato is setting up business operations in Botswana, Malawi and Ghana.

“In the next five years our core business will be in Africa. I am looking forward to this because even our employees are eager to go and conquer the continent. Some come to me to say, ‘If you want me to go to Uganda or Malawi or Ghana, I will go.’

“I am proud of our team spirit and passion. We recruit the best in the industry.” However, he maintains that he is uncompromising when it comes to performance.

“We don’t want ‘wheelbarrows’ in our company. I am not a coward. I have a mandate to achieve and I cannot afford to work with people who don’t deliver.

“I am pretty chuffed to have an understanding chairman whom I have known for more than 15 years. While sometimes we agree to disagree, we remain loyal to each other and always strive to find the common ground,” says Mnyani.

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