Thandeka Nombanjinji-Nzama has the cranes and concrete of construction in her blood. She might as well have been born in a hardhat.
Her late father Ligwa Nombanjinji founded a construction firm in 1981, a business Nombanjinji-Nzama went on to successfully run for many years when Mr Nombanjinji became ill and her groomed-to-lead-the-business brother passed away, while still in her 20s.
That experience taught the PR and marketing-trained Nombanjinji-Nzama a lot about what it takes to run a big operation like Nombanjinji Family Property, but also instilled in her a burning desire to challenge what she considered an unhealthy male hegemony entrenched in the South African construction game.
A 2018 survey by the country’s Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) found just 11% of sector professionals were women. About a quarter of the biggest construction firms are at least 51% or more female-owned; 34% are black owned.
“When I got into the construction sector, I realised the immense patriarchal challenges and unsolicited red tape for females within the industry,” Nombanjinji-Nzama tells us.