From domestic worker to construction company owner

Nontembeko Khenku is building sidewalks and running her small business thanks to SANRAL.
Nontembeko Khenku is building sidewalks and running her small business thanks to SANRAL.
Image: Supplied.

Nontembeko Khenku was struggling to make ends meet as a domestic worker when she came across an advert for a learnership by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL) in a newspaper.

She applied and her application was successful, and she underwent a gruelling two-year learnership that helped her make inroads into the tough world of road construction.

“I’ve learnt how to build access roads, sidewalks and general construction skills,” said Khenku.

She is now the owner of Cambeni Construction Company, which is contracted to do work on the R61 near Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape.

“I started in August last year, I am a supervisor and we build sidewalks. They are very important because people are being knocked over by cars but now they will have somewhere to walk on. This will help reduce the number of accidents involving pedestrians walking on, and crossing, the road,” she said.

She now has a level 4 certificate and is proud to own an independent SMME that currently employs eight people.

“In the next five years I’d like to see my company grow from grade 5. It makes me very happy to have these many people in my employ as this gets rid of poverty,” said Kenkhu.

She said while women face unique challenges in cracking it in a previously male-dominated sector like construction, there is absolutely nothing that stops them from making a success in this field.

Being a woman making her mark in this field initially presented challenges in terms of attitudes by some men who doubted she could deliver because of her gender.

“But because I have the skills, I cope very well by using my capabilities. Then they realise that women can indeed do this job,” she said.  

-This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.


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