Ubuntu: Brelko pays it forward

South Africans have an innate competitive streak and the resilience to back it up, which is what sets us apart – be it on the playing field or in business, says Brelko MD Kenny Padayachee, who likens the fortitude of local business to the heroics of the Springboks. By Nelendhre Moodley

On the road to victory, the Springboks displayed nothing less than dogged determination to edge out New Zealand 12-11 to win the Rugby World Cup and claim the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time.

“From the onset we played tough teams and with every match there was a great possibility of losing, yet we persevered to triumph over our opponents, some at the very last second. This is reflective of most business mindset operating in this tough environment, with many displaying the same type of grit to face down the challenges. In fact, several businesses in South Africa go beyond the call of duty to rise above circumstances to pay it forward.”

Paying it forward

Brelko is one such example of paying it forward, investing in the youth, the disabled and in local communities.

Although businesses and, the mining sector in particular, invest heavily in community upliftment initiatives, Padayachee says that ‘if everyone is able to share their dollar to uplift the less fortunate, our society will be richer in so many ways.”

According to Rudolf van Rensburg, Director at Carve Consulting, Brelko’s philanthropy extends beyond government’s requirements to fulfil the BEE scorecard – the equipment supplier invests millions of rands each year in skills development programmes for the industry, providing a helping hand to struggling SMME’s as well as bursaries and learnerships for both its employees and communities.

Carve Consulting is a financial solutions provider that aids Brelko with its tax compliance, social labour plan and guides the company to retain its level 1 BEE certification.

“Over the past seven to eight years, Brelko has invested heavily in previously disadvantaged youth, women and the disabled, providing them with access to skills development and experiential training. The company upskills roughly 18 people per annum. This year, we have concentrated on previously disadvantaged women and the disabled, offering learnerships related to different career paths, including administration, accounting, IT, marketing, finance, sales as well as training for skills related to the manufacturing process which is undertaken at Brelko’s manufacturing facility,” explains Van Rensburg.

For the duration of the 18-month programme Brelko provides learners with a monthly stipend to tide them over.

“On the completion of the training programme, we determine which students are a fit with the company and these we employ. In fact, among the learners that have come through the programme, we employed Dimetreou Booysen who now works in the marketing department,” says Van Rensburg.

“Dimetreou is an example of what Brelko makes possible for youngsters, who would otherwise not have had such an opportunity presented to them. Although we are unable to employ the majority of people that come through our programmes, we invest in them such that they are able to confidently go out into the world well equipped with skills and experience that they didn’t have prior to entering the programme 18 months ago,” notes Padayachee.

Further to this, given the strong demand for experiential training, Brelko offers internship programmes, with learners attending vocational training and mentorship programmes twice a week.

“The learner effectively shadows personnel in the identified line of work, picking up the nuances and workplace requirements. Over the past two years, over a dozen learners have gone through Brelko’s internship programme,” explains Van Rensburg.

The conveyor belt cleaning equipment supplier also aids small SMME’s stay in business and grow by ensuring that it pays its suppliers on time so that they remain cashflow positive and sustainable.

Padayachee says that the late payment culture in South Africa continues to have a negative impact on the success and sustainability of SMMEs often leading to bankruptcy, which is why Brelko ensures that it pays its suppliers timeously – in fact, payments are made on a weekly basis.

“Aside from financial advice, we offer SMME’s assistance by making our vehicles available to transport product to them and even go so far as to offer office space and related services, where required.”

Further to this, the company backs its own employee’s educational strides and makes time and training facilities available to ensure a successful outcome.
“If our employees do well, they are promoted and thereby financially rewarded for their efforts. Importantly, given that we are constantly improving the business, their improved knowledge is an asset to the company.”

Padayachee explains that Brelko has its eye firmly set on the bigger picture. “By investing in the youth and in communities, we help to uplift not only our society but also our business, which relies on advanced skills sets.”

Brelko uses cutting edge technology to produce its range of conveyor belt spillage control equipment for the mining industry, which is supplied across the globe to key destinations in North America, South America, Europe, United Kingdom, Australia and the Middle East, amongst others.

“As we invest in multi-million-rand state-of-the-art equipment to produce highly technical products, we require well skilled employees who are equipped to handle robotics technology and be innovative solutions providers.”

To date, Brelko, which itself employs 240 people, has over the past five years upskilled over a 100 people.

For 2024, Brelko has already identified 20 learners for its programme.

“Giving back to society and the community is a personal interest – it is not just to meet the pre-requisites set out by government – I see it as an important part of service to society. We receive numerous testimonials from learners who have subsequently found employment in various sectors. We also try to aid learners that are not integral to our sector and in fact, recently invested in two brilliant young females – one graduated as a chemical engineer who is now employed by petrochemicals giant, Sasol, while the other, graduated as a doctor from the University of Pretoria.”

Park pride

The company, located in Booysens, south of Johannesburg, recently established a park adjacent to its property which it has equipped with the necessary amenities to afford children in the area a safe space to play.

“The area next door was derelict with many squatters making it home which meant that it became a security risk. We applied for permission from City Parks to establish the land as a park and subsequently cleaned it up, installed children’s play equipment, benches, beautified it with trees and grass and enclosed the area. It is now extremely safe and user-friendly and importantly, has uplifted the area. I must admit that it is really heartwarming to see children making use of the park. In fact, every Friday primary school children, accompanied by their teachers, come to play in the park.”

Modern Mining
By Nelendhre Moodley – DECEMBER 2023

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