by Tia

South Africa is replete with sad anecdotes of thriving communities that have seen their neighbourhoods turn into desolate ghost towns when a mining operation, which is the economic anchor of mining towns, closes.

The one million-strong community of Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, particularly Matlosana Local known as Klerksdorp in the North West province, were facing this grim reality when the mines that sustained it was facing closures over ten years ago. The imminent closure of the mines exerted immense pressure on the Dr KK Kaunda municipalities, which like many municipalities across South Africa, lacks the resources and capacity to provide basic services to tens of thousands of unemployed households which often don’t have any means of income outside of the social grants.

“As a social entrepreneur and someone who is passionate about education, I saw an opportunity to utilise the legacy infrastructure left behind by one the mining companies to create a hub that would enhance educational outcomes for the high schools in this community and create sustainable and viable entrepreneurial and work opportunities for the community,” says Daddy Khuselo, Founder and Managing Director of Mbuso Management Solutions.

To that end, Khuselo proposed to the mine to donate a 11 hectares site that was derelict and in dire need of repairs to his company to be repurposed into an education, skills development and manufacturing centre. The site was an eyesore that was crawling with illegal miners who were stripping off the building and the underground copper.  Though the structural integrity of the building was still sound, the buildings in the site had no electricity or water supply, the plumbing and electricity system required a complete overhaul, and the windows, doors and other amenities needed to be replaced at a cost of R50 million according to the quantity surveyor’s report.

Undeterred, Khuselo invested part of his savings in refurbishing some of the buildings in the site, and roped in fellow engineer friends to assist in fixing the electricity and plumbing issues. Khuselo even cashed his savings in a money market investment and borrowed R1 million from his mortgage which he ploughed into the refurbishment of this facility.

Additional funds were still required to fund the refurbishment of the facility, Khuselo engaged with some of his close friends to assist with some funding to advance more development.

“There is nothing in my life that I started with resources at hand. Being a spiritual person, I believed that God will help me to conquer this Goliath. What also gave me the edge is that I am a qualified engineer and therefore have the technical know-how to make this facility habitable. I took a staggered approach and sought to fix the facility in stages,” says Khuselo.

The investment that sacrifices that Khuselo made were not in vain – after he completed the refurbishment of one residential block, one of the school principals in the area proposed that the facility host Grade 12 learners for the final year examination camp. The request was soon followed up by nine other principals in the area, which led to the hub hosting 1,300 Grade 12 learners for a school camp.

“The learners achieved great results when the results were published in 2020, and they pushed North West to third position in the national results. The positive publicity we received was overwhelming,” says Khuselo.

The success of the facility as an examination hub earned it a strong reputation from the Department of Education as one of the preferred venues for Grade 12 camps. 

The Covid-19 outbreak also opened a gateway for the centre to diversify its operations. The economic devastation precipitated by Covid-19 compelled the hub to live up to its original name: Itireleng, which is a Setswana word for: Do it yourself.

In 2020 Khuselo started a textile hub using his own capital to diversify its operations by starting a factory which would absorb local women in the sector, he applied for additional grant funding from the Industrial Development Corporation, which was subsequently granted after a rigorous screening process. Over time the North West Department of Economic Development also bought the factory additional specialized machines and even took Khuselo for an international benchmarking tour in Istanbul, Turkey in 2022.

The factory has grown exponentially since its inception and is starting to enjoy support of local mining operations and now employs over 100 women who produce protective clothing for surrounding firms.

The hub has also teamed up with the Energy and Water SETA to train 50 young people across the City in cable jointing and termination in 2021. In addition, the hub has also established an asphalt factory that provides material for road building and pothole filling to municipalities. Plans are in place to finalise a foundry and fabrication factory at the facility as well.

Khuselo says Mbuso Management Solutions has  signed up 150 learners from five  municipalities across the North West in partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), on a one year water treatment and reticulation learnership.

“South Africa is a water scarce country, and some provinces like the North West are the hardest hit. We believe that imparting these critical skills to these young people will also give them the tools to treat underground water from mining operations to alleviate the water shortages the country is currently experiencing,” says Khuselo.

He says Mbuso is driven by the need to equip young people with the skills that will make them employable and to create their own enterprises. This in turn, will help to stimulate the local economy and grow the small and micro enterprises in the area.

“We are working with government to ensure that we provide eligible students with Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) skills to future-proof their skills base and ensure that they contribute meaningfully to the district development model. As we move into the future, it is important that young people from townships and rural areas are not left behind. We have an opportunity to give them the tools to change their lives and the fortunes of their families. I am proud that I am part of the social entrepreneurs doing just that,” Khuselo concludes.

Recently, Itireleng Learning and Manufacturing Hub will be celebrating its five year anniversary since Mbuso Management Solutions took over the reins. The event was attended by senior and executive officials in all spheres of government, mining houses, small and medium size businesses Including organized labour.

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