Petite, pretty and powerful in Polokwane

Last Thursday evening I attended the closing ceremony of a two-year long construction skills development programme that formed part of a public private training partnership between Limpopo’s Department of Public Works, Roads and Infrastructure and construction group Stefanutti Stocks.

The skills development programme was developed to enhance the pool of construction skills within the province, specifically to improve the volumes and standards of industry professionals, skilled workers and medium-sized construction enterprises within the industry. 

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Tshimangi delivering her speech at  closing ceremony.

The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 18:00 and the provincial government guests and speakers, including key note speaker MEC Jeremiah Ndou,  were patiently waiting in the holding room from 17:30 onwards. Although the event did not kick off on time, my preconception that late starts of public events are always the fault of officials, was nicely dealt with, as the blame here could only be placed at the feet of the ordinary folk, who seemed to take their time milling in. 

Apart from that little insight, two things in particular struck a chord with me that night. Firstly, the real sense of a common purpose the partnership had created, and with that the clearly evident and genuine bonding that had taken place between everyone involved. Secondly, amidst about ten speeches, there was one particularly eloquent and powerful one, that I’m sure must have touched each and every guest there.

It was delivered by 26-year old Tshimangadzo Jubilation Kutama, one of 12 young engineers who had interned through the programme. This pretty, petite woman from Polokwane who is now a site engineer at Kusile has joined the growing base of women who are entering the construction environment. I’m coming across more and more ladies in the sector and I often jest with my mostly male clients in the industry, that soon they will be reporting to their lady bosses. Soon, I say. Soon…

Around the middle of last year I interviewed Tshimangi for an article for the Sizimisele and remember her telling me about her first visit to the Kusile Power Station. She shared her awe and excitement upon first seeing the massive concrete structures up close-and-personal. She also said that a year later, when Stefanutti Stocks offered her a permanent position she had experienced the same array of emotions in anticipation of the opportunity that now lay ahead.

But back to Thursday evening… It was wonderful to witness the fruits of something that has worked so well and that has met its original objectives. I’m surprised that there are not more programmes like this in the country but hopefully this will be the benchmark for future partnerships, as Public and Private really do not need to be enemies. 

In conclusion I’d like to précis some of Tshimangi’s words from the event. 

She started by expressing gratitude for “the opportunities to develop our skills and gain practical knowledge. During this journey we took nothing for granted, and to those who today find themselves where we were before our internships, I’d like to remind you that though you may still be students now, tomorrow you will become employees and even employers – so strive towards that goal!” 

She ended by thanking the partnership saying “On behalf of all the interns, thank you for partnering with one another. For us, it has been a great and amazing programme, even more so because our generation, the generation of today, needs this type of thing in order to build a better South Africa.”

Soon, I say. Soon.

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