Building Happy Communities
Operating with a mission to restore people’s dignity through infrastructure development since 2001, Vharanani Properties continues to deliver high-end projects with collaboration and teamwork at heart
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
Despite imperfections and shortcomings, South Africa’s policy of black economic empowerment has helped to shift the dynamics of the country’s post-apartheid socioeconomic backdrop.
Stretching far beyond a moral redress, the policy is also a pragmatic growth strategy to help realise South Africa’s full economic potential by helping to bring the black majority into the economic mainstream.
The process is by no means complete. However, many enterprising black-owned businesses have risen to the forefront of their industries, contributing to the economic development of regions nationwide and helping to uplift the communities they serve.
In the construction arena, Vharanani Properties stands proud as a 100 percent black-owned success story.
Set up in 2001 by David Mabilu, who still serves as CEO to this day, the company has built itself into one of South Africa’s premier infrastructure development specialists, covering roads and bridges, reservoirs, bulk earthworks, water infrastructure, schools, clinics, community centres, office buildings and more.
And despite the well-documented troubles facing the nation’s building industry, Vharanani Properties has continued to stand tall. For instance, in 2018 it was recognised as the best performing black owned and managed construction company in South Africa.
For current Operations Director Chris Mthombeni, the decision to come on board in 2017 represented a perfect marriage of passions.
“I joined Vharanani Properties because I wanted to be part of a growing black owned company,” he says. “I have always been intrigued by beautiful concrete structures around town, and that led to my interest in wanting to know how these structures are constructed, so this was always the profession for me.”
Delivering projects, enabling empowerment
The Operations Director is one of many employees who are vital to the successful delivery of Vharanani Properties’ projects, its cohort of skilled staff identified as its greatest asset.
“Training is important to Vharanani in order to have the right skills for project delivery,” Mthombeni adds. “We employ experts in their field and our people’s development is at the heart of what we do, hence the continuous building up of our staff in all the areas of their specialisation. This is key in delivering all our projects.”
Indeed, Mthombeni has himself witnessed the successful delivery of a number of landmark builds during his tenure.
In Pretoria, for example, Vharanani Properties has constructed a new bus depot in the heart of the City of Tshwane –named Belle Ombre, it is designed to cater for buses on the new Bus Rapid Transit system, commonly known as BRT, and a vital new means of transportation for local citizens.
“The bus depot was a complete project awarded to Vharanani Properties because of its prestige to the city and value it would create in housing the buses and the administration building for the employees of the Riyavaya BRT system,” Mthombeni explains.
“The project consisted of hard stand parking areas for the buses, a state-of-the-art mechanical workshop for servicing and repairing the buses, and an administration building with facilities, canteens, boardrooms and offices.”
Another flagship project, one which Mthombeni cites as particularly demanding and therefore special to the company, was delivered in Polokwane’s central business district (CBD).
It involved the replacement of the AC pipes network –Vharanani Properties was enlisted with the challenging task to install new, fit-for-purpose HDPE pipes without disruption to the water supply of businesses and residents in the area.
To counter the challenge, the company made use of an innovative technique. Mthombeni explains: “This involved some 78 kilometres of pipes ranging from 110 millimetres to 650 millimetres in diameter.
“We adopted a trenchless method called pipe cracking and horizontal directional drilling, where a temporary water bypass had to be created before pipe cracking could take place. The project was special to Vharanani Properties as all the AC pipes were replaced without having to use conventional methods of open trenches.”
As a result of the successful project delivery, the Polokwane CBD now benefits from a long-term, more reliable and safe water supply.
In Limpopo, the company is helping to link local people to vital amenities through the construction of a critical link road.
The community in question is Marulaneng, a village in the Sekhukhune District Municipality of the province which has been disadvantaged by poor connections to larger settlements and facilities. In response, Vharanani Properties is building a 22-kilometre stretch of road with six bridges and several in-situ and pre-cast concrete culverts.
Mthombeni expects the project to be complete ahead of schedule (by September 2021), the initial work beginning in April 2018 and within budget.
“This is important to our company as this road will bring much needed relief to the community which did not have proper roads to access clinics, schools and shops –hence we are helping to improve people’s lives. Vharanani Properties is all about restoring people’s dignity through infrastructure developments.”
Project delivery is not the only way the company is impacting communities for the better, however.
It channels all of its corporate social responsibility efforts through David Mabilu Foundation, the CEO’s philanthropic organisation which aims to uplift the socioeconomic conditions of the most vulnerable people in South African society.
The foundation does this through a variety of activities, including provision of educational services for disadvantaged children, shelter for those in need and support for women aspiring to develop their own careers. More widely, it contributes towards the establishment or enhancement of community training programmes designed to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation.
For example, in February last year the 100 Ekurhuleni Shining Stars programme was showcased at an event sponsored by Vharanani Properties.
Here, accolades were bestowed on the brightest youth under 35 years old in Ekurhuleni in the areas of education, justice and law, health, arts, culture, media and entertainment, science and technology, business and entrepreneurship, environment, civil society and youth activism, philanthropy, politics and governance.
CEO Mabilu commented at the time that “our investment in the youth is an investment in the future”, and it is this forward-thinking, community-driven ethos that will continue to drive the agenda of Vharanani Properties for years to come.
For Mthombeni, his business priorities are simple –to diversify further and focus on positioning the company for what he expects to be an upturn in the South Africa construction industry.
Achieve this, and Vharanani Properties will continue to restore dignity to people’s lives.