Raubex Roads and Earthworks is driving the acceleration of the South African construction industry. We speak to the Managing Directors of the four pillars that have cemented the division as the frontrunner in road construction for nearly 50 years.
CEMENTING ROAD AND CONSTRUCTION EARTHWORKS
Raubex Roads and Earthworks is a division of the wider Raubex Group (Raubex), South Africa’s leading infrastructure development and construction materials supply organisation.
As titans of the South African construction industry, the group operates throughout Southern Africa and Western Australia. Established in 1974, Raubex was listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange (JSE) in March 2007 and is proud to have operated with integrity, professionalism, and quality in all its work.
As a specialised division, Raubex Roads and Earthworks is a global industry leader in road construction and earthworks, whilst similarly excelling in road surfacing and rehabilitation. These services comprise the laying of asphalt, chip and spray, surface dressing, enrichments, and slurry seals.
Following over two decades of strategic acquisitions in the group, the division was finally consolidated in 2021, which allowed it to expertly operate in the roads and earthworks sector and general civil engineering construction space.
A prominent construction company based in Bloemfontein and Pretoria, South Africa, Raubex Construction (RCON) is the oldest and largest entity in the division.
Historically, it has been the core component in the group’s portfolio and was instrumental in its significant growth and success over the last five decades.
“Unlike many other subsidiaries within the wider group, RCON was here from the beginning. Founded in 1974, its initial key areas of expertise focused on road construction and earthworks,” introduces Wouter van der Merwe, Managing Director of RCON.
Subsequently, the company expanded and diversified its repertoire to become one of the cornerstones of Raubex Roads and Earthworks’ offerings.
RCON’s resounding success is a reflection of the culture and the staff’s extensive experience and background in the industry.
Van der Merwe grew up in a family where construction runs in their blood, as WP Construction was founded by his grandfather in 1954. For the subsequent five decades, the company operated in a similar niche market to that of RCON in the 1970s to 1990s.
“The company became part of Raubex in 2008. After graduating from university in 1999, I joined the family business which had been passed on to my father,” recalls van der Merwe.
Today, under his leadership, the company has established itself as a leading player in the national and international construction industry, offering a diversified range of services across a multitude of sectors.
“We are certainly the largest of the four companies in the division in terms of revenue, human resources, and equipment,” he emphasises.
“Due to our considerable size and abundance of highly skilled and experienced professionals, coupled with our established track record of successful execution of projects exceeding ZAR1.5 billion in value, we possess a substantial capacity and fulfil the criteria necessary to competitively bid as the principal contractor for megaprojects.”
RCON specifically specialises in road construction, earthworks, infrastructure development, materials supply, and civil engineering works, amongst other construction-related activities.
The numerous megaprojects the company has undertaken demonstrate its strategic expansion across Southern Africa.
“Our footprint since inception can be found as far up as Zambia where our work often involves government contracts, private sector initiatives, and public-private partnerships,” van der Merwe highlights.
One recent project that RCON is most proud of is the Beitbridge Border Post modernisation in Zimbabwe, which was executed in a 50/50 joint venture with Raubex Building (Pty) Ltd., a company in the infrastructure division. This involved overseeing and implementing the expansion, upgrading, improvement, and overall renovation of the border post.
This project is an integral national milestone in reaching Zimbabwe’s socioeconomic development goals, with the design, finance, and construction conducted on behalf of the Zimbabwean government and was the first public-private partnership (PPP) that was delivered on time without any claims.
The work included a complete re-design of the current border post, with three traffic streams. Each traffic stream includes a terminal building, gatehouses, search and scan facilities, and storage warehouses. The area covered totals an impressive 30,000 square metres (sqm).
Furthermore, concrete hardstand areas for all parking and roads were also conducted, totalling 130,000 sqm, alongside new services addressing water, sewerage, and electricity streams for the border post.
Work outside the border included a 50,000 cubic metre (m3) oxidation dam, 220 staff houses, as well as the building of associated road and water pipeline infrastructure to and from the reservoir, amongst more.
The border post will be managed and maintained by Raubex Facility Management for 17 years, after which ownership will be bestowed to Zimbabwe.
RCON is also currently working on two greatly substantial contracts on the outskirts of Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal, along the National Route 3 (N3) that extends between Cato Ridge and Lynnfield.
The combined valuation of these contracts sits at more than of ZAR2.9 billion, making it the largest operation in RCON’s portfolio.
An adjacent subdivision that is also part of Raubex Roads and Earthworks is Roadmac Surfacing (RMS). Founded in 1997, it specialises in the rehabilitation and surfacing of roads, consisting of predominantly asphalt and chip and spray surfacing.
“I grew up farming, so machinery and construction has always been a part of my life,” says Erik Grové, Managing Director of RMS.
The company has cemented itself as the leading light road rehabilitation contractor in the region, possessing the impressive ability to surface over 10 million sqm of road per year.
RMS tenders and executes work with RCON, alongside completing its own projects.
“Our operational area consists of all the inland provinces as well as Namibia, where we work for South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), N3 Toll Concession (N3TC), TRAC, Bakwena, alongside other provincial departments and municipalities in the local area,” Grové states.
The company currently has a staff base of 300 permanent employees, with a further 200 in reserve for larger operations.
As RMS ventures into 2024, it anticipates working on the R21, a significant north-south provincial route in the Gauteng region. This has become a very high-profile project due to the urgency of the repairs required and its association with the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and electronic tolls.
“We are focused on broadening our client base and therefore looking forward to future projects working with toll concessionaires,” Grove tells us.
ROADMAC SURFACING CAPE
As another adjacent subdivision that is also part of Raubex Roads and Earthworks, Roadmac Surfacing Cape (RMSC) is a key contributor to the wider construction industry, operating in the Eastern, Western, and Northern Cape regions of South Africa.
“The company is dedicated to maintaining high standards, quality work, and ethical business practices,” Grové tells us.
With approximately 500 employees and a substantial construction plant base, RMSC offers a plethora of services including asphalt overlays, major road rehabilitation with in-situ stabilisation, minor road rehabilitation including asphalt patching, road rejuvenation, road reseals, earthworks, and greenfield road construction.
“Our clientele has grown over the years and now includes SANRAL, provincial governments, municipalities, and various private clients,” he adds.
The company covers a wide geographical range, operating across the bulk of the Northern and Eastern Cape provinces, alongside the entire Western Cape province. This ensures that RMSC is well represented in these areas.
RMSC’s major projects include the upgrade of the national route R336 between Kirkwood and Addo. Phase one of this operation takes place in the southern part of the Eastern Cape.
The relevant local authorities overseeing the project are the Sarah Baartman District Municipality and the Sunday’s River Valley Local Municipality, as the entire length of the road falls within the two.
The successful execution of this project will strengthen RMSC’s reputation in the region and the wider construction industry.
To bolster its advantageous position, the company’s key priorities for the coming year include ensuring a safe environment for all stakeholders on its projects, as well as meeting specific targets and timelines.
Meanwhile, RMSC will also continue its ongoing investment in employee training and development, whilst exploring opportunities for growth and diversification within the construction industry.
As the fourth subdivision of Raubex Roads and Earthworks, Raubex KZN (RKZN) operates across KwaZulu-Natal, whilst also working in other provinces simultaneously if needed.
“Our clients and activities have changed to keep up with all the recent growth of our megaprojects,” says AJ Kruger, Managing Director of RKZN.
“Strategically, we try not to have all our eggs in one basket and aim to expand our client base.”
Kruger is deservedly proud of the success RKZN has enjoyed, having first started with Raubex Roads and Earthworks in the mid-1990s after graduating from Technicon Free State CUT in South Africa.
However, he always knew that he would be an influential figure in the industry.
“I grew up in a construction home as my father was a building contractor and my uncle was a civil engineer. Construction is just part of who I am,” he fondly says.
Kruger initially began his time with Raubex as a Construction Surveyor and was keen to gain valuable knowledge from his surroundings and progress through the company as he obtained more experience.
Fast forward to 2021, and Kruger was given the role of Managing Director, having taken the company to new heights for approximately three years.
RKZN’s eclectic team means that the company has the necessary skills and experience across all departments of road construction.
“Our history gives us the advantage as we were formed from four specialist companies, so we can handle just about every possible road construction site there is.”
As such, the company’s repertoire ranges from standard greenfield bulk earthworks and road construction to projects that focus on road rehabilitation, which is becoming more common recently.
Moreover, RKZN’s other key areas include asphalt milling and fine milling, as well as specialising in asphalt paving, seal works, and milling operations.
“We are one of the few companies in the country that can produce in-plant bitumen stabilised materials (BSM) using recovered asphalt (RA) and the placement of BSM with pavers as base course layers on roads,” Kruger elaborates.
Notable projects of RKZN include the upgrade of National Route 2 (N2), spanning the KwaMashu Interchange to the Umdloti River Bridge.
“This is the first megaproject taken on by RKZN, and we are very proud of the progress and the level of execution achieved. We have a very large staff contingent gaining invaluable experience on this project,” Kruger explains.
Moreover, RKZN was responsible for the construction of the civil and electrical infrastructure at Dube Tradeport, specifically working on Agrizone 2. The project is strategically located adjacent to King Shaka International Airport, providing additional support for trade.
“This is a special project for us as it is nearly complete, will be delivered on time, and is within the client’s budget.
“It has so many different aspects and can be seen holistically as an infrastructure project that started from the greenfield zone to an operational trade zone for the agricultural sector.”
This operation included managing the mass earthworks of Agrizone 2 as well as implementing a stormwater management system to harvest ponds.
RKZN also constructed a two-lane main access road, accompanying guardhouses, and an internal roads network. Moreover, the company implemented access control and CCTV surveillance, bulk electrical infrastructure, clear view perimeter fencing, erosion protection for landscaping and signage, and constructed paved walkways for pedestrians and cyclists.
ON THE ROAD TO GREATER SUCCESS
Raubex Roads and Earthworks endeavours to continue to grow and improve through four key, strategic areas.
Firstly, Raubex Roads and Earthworks strives to select projects that align with its values and future direction, supported by a focus on securing contracts that match the division’s trajectory and expanding repertoire.
“This means having a steady stream of work to keep our division strong. While we plan to grow, we’re also mindful of expanding at a measured pace without compromising on having enough skilled people to handle our work effectively,” comments Jaco van der Bijl, Managing Director of the division.
Another important goal for the company is to ensure the diversification of its projects, branching out beyond construction to clients in sectors such as mining. In turn, this will create a more balanced portfolio and make room for emerging opportunities.
Lastly, the division is also delving into the public-private partnership sector.
“We see this as a chance to evolve while also being wary of unmanageable growth. As such, we will explore new avenues and strive for success in the evolving landscape of construction and related industries with Southern Africa,” van der Merwe envisions.
“Our priorities as a team are to execute these contracts to a high standard. We need to focus on profitability and managing the rising costs of materials. We work hard on finding innovative ideas to make processes on-site easier and more profitable,” Kruger affirms.
“People retention is also a great focus for the division going forwards, as it endeavours to cultivate a culture that is welcoming and offers consistent career development and growth,” van der Bijl adds.
UNITING AS ONE DIVISION
Each company is a vital component of the wider division, creating an enterprise that is well supported in not only meeting but exceeding its clients’ expectations.
For example, due to the sheer operational size and abundance of megaprojects, RCON has the capabilities to harness the expertise of the three other affiliated entities, as well as the Infrastructure and Construction Materials divisions, by leveraging their skills and capabilities.
This is endorsed by the likes of RMS, who work closely with RCON by taking care of all the surfacing required of its projects, whilst also assisting across other regions with additional paving, chipping, slurry, and hydro cutting.
“Our specialised skills are used by the whole of the division, and we are providing back up in all departments to have a complete package in terms of execution. This position enables us to grow as a division and increase our skills and ability to take on megaprojects without losing a night’s sleep. Consequently, we are in the right place at the right time,” reflects van der Bijl.
Through the close support of each entity in the division, the overall capabilities of all the companies are strengthened, as van der Bijl elaborates.
“This vision may encompass aspects of quality construction, sustainability, innovation in road infrastructure, and a commitment to meeting the evolving needs of communities and stakeholders.”
As the saying goes, ‘if anyone can, Raubex can!’