Mabunda believes that having a sense of humour has increased his success

GOING FOR SOLD: Mabunda is the chief executive of successful auction house, Tirhani Auctioneers.  Unknown.
GOING FOR SOLD: Mabunda is the chief executive of successful auction house, Tirhani Auctioneers. Unknown.

Lihle Mtshali

Lihle Mtshali

"If you want to survive in the auctioneering business, you must have a sense of humour." Humour helps to loosen buyers' grips on their purse strings, says Tirhani Mabunda laughing uproariously.

Mabunda is the chief executive of Tirhani Auctioneers, a 100percent black-owned auction company.

The 44-year-old avid soccer and boxing enthusiast was born in Limpopo. As a child, Mabunda was so intelligent that he started reading when he was only four years old and instead of the customary 12 years in school, he spent only 10 years, having been promoted twice in his schooling career.

After matriculating from Giyani High School in 1980, Mabunda went in search of employment at a finance department where the first person he approached promptly told him there were no jobs.

"She turned her back on me and carried on working. When she turned around again I was still sitting there with tears running down my cheeks," recalls Mabunda.

The tears got him a job. He worked as a clerk and later an assistant personnel officer in the personnel department from 1981 until 1988 when he left to become a teacher. During his time in public service, Mabunda studied part time. In 1984 he obtained a diploma in public administration and in 1987 completed a degree in economics and public administration in a record three years.

When he became a teacher he enrolled for a higher education diploma at Unisa and in 1993 completed his honours degree in business administration, which counted towards the completion of an MBA that he had started in 1991 at Stellenbosch University.

Mabunda, who always aspired to be his own boss, quit formal employment in 1993 and bought a Nando's franchise in Giyani. At the time he had been the administrative registrar at Giyani College.

"My mother was not impressed. She just didn't understand how I could leave the prestigious registrar position to go and cook chicken," chuckles Mabunda.

The Nando's business did so well that in time he bought another franchise - this time with his mother's approval.

Mabunda has been involved in various business ventures since those early Nando's days. In August 2000 Tirhani Auctioneers was born.