One of the concrete mixers being used by Mafate Business Enterprises. Picture: SUPPLIED
One of the concrete mixers being used by Mafate Business Enterprises. Picture: SUPPLIED

An astute businessman by any measure, modest in nature but highly enterprising — this is Mahlaka Lukas Makuwa, owner and MD of Mafate Business Enterprises, primarily a mining supply company.

It supplies ready-mix concrete, premix concrete, shortcrete, sand, stone and plaster mix to mines and con-tractors in Sekhukhune district including Steelpoort, Burgersdorp, Jane Furse and Phalaborwa areas.

Makuwa started his career and businesses from an unlikely background. He first obtained a degree in IT at Tshwane University of Technology and went on to work for a number of years as an IT technician at Eskom.

His vision, however, was to develop his own community and this drove him to grab an opportunity to bid for and obtain the canteen contracts for Vantec Mine and later Tubatse Ferrochrome Mine.

It was from here that he saw opportunities working with the mines, first as a contractor to the mines in removing stones to crush and sell on to other businesses in the area and later setting up the batch plant for ready-mix and aggregate supply to the Lion mining plant. More recently he started concentrating on also supplying asphalt to Lion Mine II.

Today Mafate Enterprises is the holding company for a number of other businesses including a laundry and cleaning business and a Supa Quick tyre franchise.

The holding company also owns 50% of ML Phadima Construction and Projects which loads and hauls chrome slag, does dust suppression and grades roads at the Lion smelter belonging to Xstrata Alloys.

A FAW 33.330 FC concrete mixer in operation. Picture: SUPPLIED
A FAW 33.330 FC concrete mixer in operation. Picture: SUPPLIED

Helping him achieve his overall vision is FAW trucks, which he took on to test in September 2014. Convinced that FAW were the trucks best suited to his operations and needs, he started purchasing various models for his fleet since then.

Today Makuwa runs nine FAW vehicles — four tippers of varying capacity and two mixers, one 6m³ and the other eight cubic metres capacity.

He monitors his transport operations on a cost-per-hour basis and ensures wherever possible that they run at full capacity or capability.

The models in the Mafate fleet includes three FAW 35.340FC 8m³ mixers, two FAW 33.330FC 8m³ mixers, two 35.340FD 15m³ tippers and one each of the FAW 33.340FD 18m³ and 20m³ tippers.

"I like the FAW trucks because they are strong, no-nonsense trucks. They are tough and work hard, like me," says Makuwa.

His first big break came when he landed the first three-year contract with a Glencore mine, with a specially structured deal including ring-fencing and the surety of R4.8m to buy capital equipment. His first work was to move ferrochrome with an articulated dump truck.

Careful planning and a very hands-on approach ensured that Makuwa subsequently landed another three-year contract, followed by a third for four years.

With the concrete batch plant in full swing, Makuwa and his employees continued landing contracts which included supplying the Lion Mine’s building Phase II, a Maraisburg Mine project, the Burgersfort Shopping Mall and Magareng Mine projects.

Asked what makes him successful, he says that it’s all about keeping your finger on the pulse,

"I work long hours overseeing all the enterprises, but I have reliable supervisors in place also. I routinely [everyday] check in with each business and if anything needs changing I rectify and correct the process.

"Regarding new business, I have my ear to the ground and I don’t hesitate if I believe something presents a worthwhile opportunity
to explore."

"FAW trucks are reliable and I can trust them to do their job. That’s why I’ve planned to purchase another five 10m³ tippers for my asphalt operations," he says.

"My drivers keep log sheets which are monitored for efficiencies," he says.

"As everyone knows, concrete is a perishable material. I certainly do not like dumping a load because of timing which goes wrong."

Loading the FAW to legal capacity and up to 35 tonnes on shorter stretches, he commends the FAW trucks on their torque and power.

"Lastly, but very importantly, the support in service – on-site or wherever I need it, which I get from FAW Pretoria West and specifically Pieter Gerber, is unmatched. He’s a stalwart who is prepared to go the distance for me. That’s another reason I trust the FAW brand of trucks. Pieter and FAW work as hard as I do."

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