Thebe Investments survived a market crash in 1998 and continues to prosper

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

After 15 years, Thebe Investment Corporation has grown to such an extent that it intends listing at least one of its entities and possibly more on the JSE.

"Within the next three to five years we'll be looking at our portfolio to see which ones are ripe to introduce to the public," said Thebe chief executive officer Vusi Khanyile.

"We have a wide range of business to choose from and we want to make sure that we bring the best possible offer to the public."

As a young boy growing up in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, Khanyile was actively involved in the community. "As a result I became a political activist in University while studying for my commerce degree," he said.

After a stint at Anglo-American, Khanyile decided to start his own company in Soweto, the Siza Finance Trust. However, with the country's state of emergency he had to close shop.

"I couldn't run my business while going in and out of jail," he says. "So I had to rethink my whole approach. We started Thebe with the only shareholder being the Bathu-Bathu Community Trust.

"It is very important to me that the profits we make are available for the empowerment of the community," Khanyile said.

"Although we have restructured our investments to include other shareholders, the Community Trust is still the majority shareholder."

Khanyile has taken the fledgling fully black-owned business from an initial investment of R100000 to total managed assets of R2,2billion today. A market crash in 1998 almost crippled the company for good with the total asset value plummeting by 90 percent due to their high exposure to financial services.

"Since then our strategy has been to very carefully diversify our risk by investing in a range of sectors including tourism, healthcare, media, property and retail," Khanyile said.

"However, we remain bullish about financial services and have remained with that sector."