Empowerment spin-off from aluminium project

26th March 2004 By: candice haase

Richards Bay steel-fabrication, construction and erection company Mechgen received the Nosa award for best audit results for 2003 last month.

It has maintained its Nosa five-star status for the last three years. The black-empowered company last year completed three contracts for the Hillside 3 Expansion project.

These included the baking furnace flue walls, peephole covers and sundry tools, the pot-room tools and accessories and the waste bins and cast-house structural-steel modifications.

Mechgen was established in 1998 when former Hillside Aluminium employee Thami Nene identified the opportunity to start the company when the aluminium producer adopted a policy to focus on its core business and outsource some of its services.

Since then, the empowered company has worked for companies including Hillside, Foskor, Mondi Felixton and Ticor.

“For Ticor, we manufactured staircases, platforms and erected some small buildings,” Nene informs.

Nene, who began his career as a fitter and turner at Hillside, now employs about 58 people from Richards Bay and the surrounding areas.

Seven of these people work in administration, 19 are artisans, including fitters, welders, boilermakers and turners, and semi- and unskilled workers making up the total.

Most of the staff at Mechgen were unemployed previously, Nene notes.

“As a black economic empowerment (BEE) company, I believe we add value to the local com-munity and to the lives of our employees and their families,” he comments.

Although the company has no formal training facility available to its staff, Nene emphasises that if a person’s skills are recognised, he will assist that person to develop them.

At the same time as managing his own company, Nene is in his second year of studies towards a Bachelor of Commerce in management at the University of Zululand.

Commenting on the climate for BEE, Nene notes that there are advantages and disadvantages to being a BEE company. He maintains that there is still a stigma attached to the concept of BEE.

“They are seen as only being able to undertake small projects,” Nene states.

However, he maintains that where large companies adhere to and pursue BEE policies, there are opportunities for small, medium and micro-enterprises and BEE companies to develop.