Empowerment that actually empowers

BEE can positively change South Africa

Terra Nova

Back in 2002, Cargo Carriers, a JSE-listed logistics company, approached a small group of sugar cane growers in the Malelane/Komatipoort region and established a broad-based empowerment transport company called Buhle Betfu. 

Initially, Cargo Carriers injected 5 vehicles into the Buhle Betfu Carriers fleet with a plan for the empowered company to buy back 60% of company shares over 5 years. Today, Buhle Betfu Carriers is the majority shareholder, owns a fleet of over 60 vehicles and employs over 200 people. And of course, now, they own 60% of the business due to genuine broad-based empowerment involving job creation, skills transfer and increased standards. Now this is real empowerment.

“The key to our success was that Cargo Carriers integrated itself into our business from the very beginning,” says Rocky Smith, Managing Director of Buhle Betfu Carriers. “In five years the Buhe Betfu Trust was able to pay back R7.5 million to Cargo Carriers in order to become a majority shareholder. We are grateful for what Cargo Carriers has done for us, for without them, the dream would still remain a dream.”

Buhle Betfu Carriers has now established itself as a reliable, competitive and professional service provider in the Mpumalanga province. It humbly began in the sugar industry, attached to small-scale growers, and in 2006, expanded into the timber industry by supplying transportation for Sappi with an initial 15 vehicles. The Buhle Betfu timber division has now extended its fleet size to a fully-functional 48 vehicle operation  – operating across the province from various Sappi branches. 

“The most exciting part about this whole initiative is that there are more than 600 small-scale farmers involved in the Buhle Betfu Trust. Because of Cargo Carriers' and our clients' commitment, we are now in the position to buy the remaining 40% of the shares to become completely independent .” 

In the spirit of empowerment and giving back, Buhle Betfu Carriers, as a BBBEE company itself, drives various social responsibility projects in Mpumalanga. In 2011, the company contributed over R150,000 to schools and social upliftment projects, improving the lives of surrounding communities.

“We need to be humble. Cargo Carriers have been good to us and so has Sappi,” says Rocky Smith. “There is a desperate need in South Africa for corporates who really want to make transformation happen on the ground.”

The company has won various awards which include Sappi's 2010 Most Innovative Contractor and 2011 Contractor of the Year. In 2006 Buhle Betfu also won the Logistics Achiever Award’s highest honour – The Platinum Award – the most prestigious award in South African logistics. 

“As transformation and economic empowerment remain big issues in South Africa, it is important to find out what works and what doesn't,” says Murray Bolton, Joint CEO of Cargo Carriers. “Buhle Betfu is a great example of how empowerment can work and how big business can perpetuate small business growth across the board.”
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Issue 66


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