The former GM of PPC Cement’s Hercules and Jupiter operations in Gauteng, Bheki Mthembu, has been appointed CEO of Cimerwa, PPC’s Rwandan partner.

The appointment, announced on Tuesday, comes as PPC readies for an eventful 2017 after a troubled 2016. PPC’s share price almost halved in 2016 after it raised R4bn in a rights offer to service debt.

But in 2017, PPC plans to start production at plants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia to establish it in sub-Saharan Africa.

"PPC’s African operations are dealing with near-term macro headwinds across the region.

"Cement prices are under pressure due to overcapacity and demand weakness, especially in regions that rely heavily on hard commodities," said Gareth Visser, cement and construction analyst at Avior Capital Markets.

The region needed substantial infrastructure investment due to a growing urban population, which underpinned long-term growth fundamentals for the region, Visser said.

He said recent personnel movements across the group put the business in a position to weather the short-term head-winds and benefit from the long-term growth potential.

Mthembu has been at the helm of Cimerwa since December. He is being guided by Njombo Lekula, MD of PPC’s international operations.

PPC, SA’s biggest cement maker, acquired a 51% stake in Cimerwa in January 2013.

Visser said the Cimerwa plant, the first plant outside southern Africa to come on stream, would be a litmus test of PPC’s ability to operate cement plants outside its core region.

Mthembu, a development chemist, started his career at PPC Cement in April 1995.

He said that while PPC’s well-established presence in Botswana and Zimbabwe had positioned it as an African brand, Cimerwa would spearhead the next phase of the company’s expansion on the continent.

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