BACKSTORY: Sener SA’s Siyabonga Mbanjwa
We question the MD of Sener SA Siyabonga Mbanjwa on his worst purchase, the investment he wishes he’d made earlier and how he’d fix Eskom
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
A deal is not all about you. Make it worthwhile for the other party you are negotiating with.
What was your first job?
While on holiday after writing exams in the 1990s I volunteered to work as an assistant to project managers at the Urban Foundation in Durban to gain experience. When I completed my studies I was employed as junior site engineer at Murray & Roberts Construction.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
R4,100 per month. I spent more of it on household expenses at home where I lived with my parents. I also gave some of the money to my parents. They’d sacrificed a lot to make sure that I had a decent education.
What’s the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
How would you fix Eskom?
Develop a strategy to grow revenue and reduce expenses. It sounds simple but it’s not. A lot of work would also need to be done to ensure that power stations perform better than they do at the moment. I would also ensure that Eskom participates more aggressively in renewable energy.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I enjoy art!
What has been your worst purchase?
I take my time before making a significant purchase, so I don’t have a lot of purchases that are in the bad category.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
It took me five years before I bought my first property. I should have done it sooner.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Being "busy" is always seen as a good thing. What I have learnt over the years is that what is more important is what you are busy doing and to what extent it is adding positively to your goals.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
Completing your studies at school and university is important for opening doors that would not ordinarily be open without this, but it is only the beginning of your educational life. You learn for the rest of your life. Be prepared to absorb new knowledge outside the classroom as though you are a sponge.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And if so, what would that career be?
Being a professional athlete did cross my mind while at school and university.
If you were president, what would you change tomorrow?
Demand urgency in government departments and ministries dealing with the rollout of critical infrastructure such as energy.