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Opportunity Issue 99

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Opportunity magazine is a niche business-to-business publication that explores various investment opportunities within Southern Africa’s economic sectors and looks to provide its readers with first-hand knowledge about South African business. Opportunity also looks to present South African business to international markets that may have interests in investing in South Africa. The publication is endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).

TRANSPORT Starting out

TRANSPORT Starting out Sithole modestly attributes his success to a fortunate start in life and a balanced upbringing. It was his good luck to have a father who worked tirelessly for the benefit of his family and the company he had started from scratch, Zululand Bus Service. “Although my father started with nothing, he had ambition, and he worked day and night to create a better life for us,” says Sithole. Growing up in the Mahlabatini area, Sithole attended the private multiracial boarding schools of Cowan House and Hilton College. “I will be eternally grateful for being afforded this opportunity at this prestigious school as it opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I met very well resourced people with a lot of relevant contacts,” he says. Sithole particularly excelled in rugby, playing wing for the Hilton College first team, and became Victor Ludorum in athletics. He then attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal from 1998 to 2003, graduating with a BSocSci and an Honours degree in industrial, organisational and labour studies. Business entered into the equation while Sithole was still at university. “I was running taxis in the South Beach and Chesterville area. I did it to gain experience and then later ventured into trucking where I did trippers in the Maydon Wharf and then long-distance trucking,” he says. remain firm and practical. As much as we take care of our customers, they must take care of us. It’s a case of one hand washes the other. We will do anything to ensure our customers are happy. In turn they must do everything to keep us in business.” Staff are key to achieving service excellence. “They must be constantly managed and trained to operate at optimum levels,” says Sithole. Sithole says that his leadership style has changed from being “Mr Nice Guy who wanted everybody to be comfortable” to a firmer, more pragmatic approach. “Overall, it’s become more autocratic: my way or the highway, more or less. I have come to understand that the world of business is a shrewd one where only the fittest survive. Margins are tight in business and we have to make it work, so cut your costs and make it work. There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he emphasises. Sithole expects his staff to work hard. “There are statutory obligations that govern the relationship between the business and the staff. We fulfil the statutory obligations. There is no business without staff and by the same token, staff must understand there is no staff without business.” Stepping up In 2005, Mr Sithole Sr told his son that he wanted to retire. He was approaching 75 years of age, his children were schooled and he had had enough of running the company. 24 | www.opportunityonline.co.za

TRANSPORT “It was make or break time for me,” says Sithole. He inherited a company in very good condition. Sithole’s father had acquired contracts with Zululand Anthracite Colliery Mine and the Department of Transport, transporting people in the roughest of conditions. “I will always take my hat off to my father. Here is a man that had started a bus company against all odds in the apartheid regime and stood the test of time,” he reflects. No sooner had he taken up the reins than Sithole saw the opportunity to modernise the business. “As a young, black entrepreneur, my aim was to implement systems such as tracking and revenue management systems on the buses. It was to renew some of the fleet for passenger satisfaction and to minimise breakdowns. The aim was to holistically place the business on the map, get it provincial recognition, and compete against the best in the industry,” Sithole explains. “As challenging as that is, we are making our way there. BBBEE came in and we were able to obtain contacts such as Transnet, so we transformed to a modern business with systems that function optimally. My father had already invested in property, and all that was left was to make it work. We transformed these properties into current optimal depots.” Sithole concedes that the past 14 years have not been without their challenges, from competition to staff, buses, contracts and finances. However, under his leadership, Zululand Bus Service has grown from strength to strength. “It’s all been a worthwhile experience, and I would not change it for anything,” he says. Profile Zululand Bus Services A trusted brand in transport. Description of main activities Transport services. Contracted transport. Buses for hire. Description of other products/services Other services offered by Zululand Bus Services include scholars, factory workers, shoppers, pensioners and clinic and hospital visitors, as well as private-hire for funerals and weddings Geographical area Northern KwaZulu-Natal, including Emangeni, Nongoma, Richards Bay and Ulundi Key facts and figures No of staff: More than 200 Major clients: KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport, ZAC (Zululand Anthracite Colliery) Capacity 80 buses and four depots Ten new buses purchased in 2020 BEE status Level 1 BEE contributor % black ownership: 100% Key contact people Mduduzi Sithole, Managing Director Contact details Physical address: 711 Irvine Bell Drive, Zidedele Village, Richards Bay 3880 KwaZulu-Natal Tel: +27 35 772 1203 and 0865 376 870 Email: admin@zululandbus.co.za Credit: Unsplash www.opportunityonline.co.za | 25

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