Monica Stemela is what Sanral is about – bringing about positive change to people, communities and businesses through the upkeep of the national road network. She is one of the products of the roads agency’s commitment to creating inclusive opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs.
This is in line with the government’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and the advancement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) requires main contractors working on its projects to utilise small enterprises, particularly including those owned by women.
One such entrepreneur is Monica Stemela, owner and founder of HLS Building and Civil Construction. Her company is currently subcontracted by main contractor Penny-Farthing Engineering for routine road maintenance (RRM) on four Sanral projects.
Through Penny-Farthing’s mentorship programme, HLS received six subcontracting opportunities amounting to a total of R38.8m from 2005 to date. This includes the ongoing RRM work on Sanral roads in the North West between Wolmaransstad and Bloemhof, from Lichtenburg to Biesiesvlei and Coligny, as well as Aliwal North (Eastern Cape) and Upington (Northern Cape).
RRM is essential to keep roads in good condition to ensure the safety of all who use them. From the closing of potholes and patching the road surface to replacing traffic signs, guardrails and fencing, ongoing road maintenance on the 2 598km of Sanral roads in the North West is effectively being managed by eight contractors.
“Penny-Farthing has mentored our company and has been pivotal to our growth and development, particularly within the RRM space,” Stemela says.
Her journey in the built environment has not been without challenges since she established the business in 2005. “Pursuing opportunities in other parts of the country has been one of the main challenges as the focus of government procurement is on local SMEs, coupled with the procurement model which favours the lowest bidder in terms of price.
“Other stumbling blocks have been securing finance from banks to purchase a bigger plant and getting accounts from suppliers as these institutions are not confident about doing business with SMEs.”
However, Stemela is proud her company has secured 13 contracts over the past 12 years. Starting out with a R2.9 million low-cost housing development for the Emalahleni municipality in 2005, the company has since focused on RRM because of the job opportunities in this field.
The self-taught entrepreneur says: “Start-ups and emerging entrepreneurs should invest in their business by buying assets they can use to sustain its growth.
“Compliance in terms of tax affairs and National Treasury regulations are also important when it comes to securing projects.”
Its headquarters are in Port Elizabeth and it employs five full-time workers. For its RRM work, it employs local labour, of which 50 locals are currently employed on its two North West projects.
HLS is recognised as a Grade 5 contractor by the Construction Industry Development Board, which means the company can pursue construction projects up to the value of R6.5 million. Looking ahead, Stemela would like to reach CIDB Grade 7 in order to pursue projects up to R40 million and compete as a principal contractor.