With only two years under his belt as the first Motswana Managing Director of PPC Botswana, 43-year-old Tuelo Botlhole believes there is still a lot to achieve.
Sitting down for an interview with him in his office at the Gaborone West Industrial site, Botlhole speaks about his journey of becoming the first Motswana MD at PPC Botswana and his future plans for the company. The proud father of two said that his 13-year-old journey with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed entity has been nothing but exciting.
“It has been an exciting and eventful journey,” he adds excitedly.
The once Sales Manager for Retail of Materials (cement and aggregates (stone and sand) also has extensive experience in the Concrete Product Manufacturers (CPM) forte, an arm of the business that deals with PPC product users who manufacture concrete products. These include bricks and pavers.
He says though being at the helm of such a multinational company is enough to excite anyone, it brings with it a lot of responsibilities.
On the dynamics of the company, Botlhole revealed that the company structure has been changed such that the two main components that make up PPC Botswana’s core business, Cement and Aggregates divisions, are now being headed by one principal chief, himself, instead of two as was previously done.
This, he avowed, makes for a challenging situation but hastily states that, that however, does not faze him as he is tackling the challenge head on.
Doing well selling sand
On the issue of manufactured sand, another product that falls under the business’ portfolio, he said the company is doing very well. He says the moratorium by Government to ban illegal river sand mining from rivers opened a new market for the company.
“We were not producing it at the quantities that we currently are because sand was still freely available from the rivers,” he said.
In 2016, the department of Mines stopped issuing sand mining licenses in the Southern region because rivers in the area had degraded due to over-mining of the hot commodity fuelling the construction boom in the country. The government had realised that rivers around the greater Gaborone area virtually had no river sand deposits, forcing commercial sand miners to source sand from as far as the central district.
The company had to tweak their machinery to ensure that they get sand out of their production line.
Contrary to skeptical views that manufactured sand is not half as good as natural occurring sand that has been conditioned by flowing water in rivers, Botlhole said the ‘new’ sand had many good qualities over the natural occurring one.
“River sand contains a lot of impurities and debris washed up by water and these are bad for construction,” he disclosed, highlighting that the task of producing manufactured sand brought about prospects of having different sized grains of sand produced in a controlled manner.
“We have specifications for making our sand and the dust equivalent has to fall on a certain envelope, from 9.5 mm up to 0.03 and the sand we produce has a closely monitored particle size distribution,” he enthused.
He also said the move to get into the ‘sand storm’ was also heavily influenced by the environmental degradation caused by river sand mining. “It had gotten to a situation where there were rivers within rivers,” said the visibly concerned Botlhole.
Speaking to the opportunities availed by the company to enterprising Batswana, Botlhole said PPC is on the 11th month of the 18 Month Business Plan where they empower small local retailers.
“We have actually identified a segment within a segment through the Local Enterprise Development (LED) and have assisted 13 enterprises in various parts of the country,” he said, adding that the LED initiative gives local suppliers the opportunity to supply materials to clients that they would otherwise never get to work with.
He shared that as the head of the company, his passion lies in encouraging and supporting the growth of local companies. Continuing, Botlhole said through the LED, PPC is working with small enterprises around the Orapa Letlhakane Mine and the Jwaneng Mine, helping them with supply contracts to the mines.
“We could easily supply the orders but we would rather have locals take up the jobs, especially if they have the capability to do so,” he said, adding that the move is aimed at getting the small enterprises to contribute to the economy and its diversification.
Botlhole said PPC is capacitating industry by using local businesses for some of the company’s operations such as cement packaging bags, pallets, plastic wrappers, loading and hauling product from the quarries, which are in Kgale Hill in Gaborone, Mmokolodi, Francistown and Selibe-Phikwe. He excitedly shared that the current construction of the Boatle-Game City road uses material from the Mmokolodi outfit.
Questioned on what legacy he wants to leave behind at the end of his contract, the passionate MD said his interests lie in providing support to local businesses so that they become major players in their respective industries.
“I would like people to remember me as a leader who brought a difference to their lives and it is not something that can be calculated quantitatively but by visible growth of the companies we get to work with,” he declared.