Lephema cements business empire

Lephema cements business empire

MASERU – LOCAL business magnate Lebona Lephema is expanding his business empire to include cement manufacturing.
Lephema has teamed up with giant cement firm, Lafarge, to form Maluti Mountain Cement (MMC), which will manufacture and supply cement, ready mix concrete as well as bricks.
Lafarge South Africa is a member of the Lafarge Holcim Group.

Maluti Mountain Cement, which was launched last Friday, is setting up a state-of-the-art plant.
The plant has a capacity to produce between 60 and 70 000 tons of ready mix concrete and (bags of cement) per hour.
Currently the company has 15 employees but expects to employ more workers when fully operational.
Lephema described the journey to set up MMC as “difficult”.

Back in 2000 Lephema approached PPC to discuss the possibility of partnering and starting a cement facility in Lesotho but the deal fell through after what he termed “excruciating, lengthy discussions”.

He was disappointed but not discouraged.
“I was passionate about the business and was not only interested in it for financial gain but also for the betterment of Basotho. I wanted to use it to help put food on other people’s tables,” Lephema said.

He said he approached another cement manufacturing company (name withheld), which discouraged him from venturing into cement manufacturing.
Lephema said he was advised to focus only on the transportation side of the business since this was his area of expertise.
He then approached Lafarge.

“I had told myself that if negotiations with Lafarge would fall through the cracks too I would approach another company.”
The tycoon said he was prepared to knock on every door to turn his dream into reality.
Lephema said after lengthy negotiations, Lafarge agreed to a partnership.
“Lafarge never hesitated to bring in its technical experts to ensure that my dream becomes a reality. It has been a long journey but this one was not in vain,” Lephema said.
He said he expected the plant to be operational within six months. However, due to the technical requirements of the project it ended up taking longer.
“I was surprised to see the technical expertise and technological know-how needed in this type of business,” Lephema said.
He said though MMC offers a top range product line, it is a challenge for the company to get its products tested.

“We test every sample that leaves our premises and currently we rely on laboratories in South Africa,” Lephema said, highlighting the need for a functional Bureau of Standards in Lesotho.
“We are taking our product to SABS in South Africa. I have pleaded with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that there is a Bureau of Standards and I am pleased to say within a short period of time with the assistance of SABS we would get accreditation,” Lephema said.

He said the quality of his product will set MMC apart from its competitors.
“We do not compromise on quality. We know that the success of MMC is dependent on the quality of our product and would not drive our customers or potential customers away by compromising the product,” he said.

Lephema, who is also in the luxury transport business, encouraged businesspeople to diversify their portfolios.
“We cannot not remain a consuming economy forever, we need to start producing more. Our people are in need of jobs, especially the youths. I plead with you, do not be comfortable with one taxi simply because it provides for your needs but buy another to create jobs and help someone else to put food on their table,” Lephema said.
He urged banks to support the local business sector.

Lephema said the MMC deal could have collapsed had it not been for his dedicated hard working staff.
Lafarge Chief Executive Officer Rossen Papazov said Lephema’s ability to relate to staff was instrumental in the success of the business.
“He is a man of his word, a man of integrity hence we partnered with him and believe that this is but just the beginning of a successful endeavour,” Henry said.
Samuel Matekane, a renowned businessman, said Lephema will continue to succeed because he puts God first in everything he does.
“He is a man of God, a firm believer, that is why everything he touches prospers,” Matekane said.

He however said businesses are still facing a myriad of challenges.
“The business is facing a lot of challenges and not only in Lesotho but even in countries with big economies like South Africa,” Matekane said.
Standard Lesotho Bank CEO Mpho Vumbukani said his bank has worked with Lephema since 2000, emphasising the importance of trust between banks and clients. He commended the setting up of MMC.

“What is left for us is to support him (Lephema) because it is only through supporting each other that we could change the state of our economy and take it to where we want it,” said Vumbukani.
Speaking at the same occasion, the Minister of Communications, Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, said Basotho should go out and seek partnerships with businesses from other countries to create jobs locally.

He said the government is pushing for a policy for the diversification and industrialisation of Lesotho.
‘Maseribane said the construction industry is registering “noticeable” growth, citing the Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
“It is the right time for other countries beyond South Africa to feel our presence, let them come and consume our cement for building strong world-class roads and houses,” Maseribane said.

Lemohang Rakotsoane & Refiloe Mpobole

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