Train manufacturer Gibela is deeply committed to ensuring South Africa’s socio-economic success, and particularly to setting the seal on the economic and social advancement of the communities nearby its main plant, in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.
It’s an attitude that has won the company praise from Mkhuleko Hlengwa, chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), who described Gibela as “the North Star of the excellence of what the future” could be.
Hlengwa was speaking after a SCOPA visit to Gibela’s headquarters in Dunnottar, Ekurhuleni, in January 2022.
“[SCOPA] would like to, first and foremost, thank the employers and workers of Gibela, at every level, for the good work you are doing, fully understanding that the operations of Gibela at this point in time, and for the future, are the prosperity of this country,” Hlengwa said.
Since January 2018, Gibela, which manufactures train sets on a contract to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, has recruited more than 400 of its employees from the local communities of Tsakane, Duduza, KwaThema, Alra Park, Geluksdal, Mackenzieville, Daggafontein and Dunnottar.
“We are fully committed to making sure that South Africa reaches the broad socio-economic objectives set out in the National Development Plan’s goals for the transport sector. These are revitalising the rail sector, promoting commuter rail as a transport mode of choice, driving inclusive growth, and community upliftment. Rail is the future, and we are the future of rail in South Africa and across Africa,” says Gibela CEO Hector Danisa.
In a further demonstration of its commitment to the communities of Ekurhuleni, between the 2019/20 and the 2021/22 financial year Gibela spent R34.46-million on local suppliers in Alra Park, Benoni, Brakpan, Duduza, Dunnottar, KwaThema, Nigel and Tsakane.
One of the chief pillars of Gibela’s work is skills acquisition and transfer. “Without ensuring that more South Africans gain technical and professional skills, we cannot grow our economy and create the jobs we so desperately need,” says Danisa.
That is why Gibela runs a three-year apprenticeship programme. The company has taken on 283 apprentices in the 2021/22 financial year. This cohort is expected to qualify fully in 2023, or in some cases 2024, meaning that Gibela will have contributed nearly 300 skilled artisans to the South African economy.
Beyond that, Gibela runs a community skills development programme that trains an average of 650 people a year. In the period between 2017 and 2020 a total of 2 256 were fully trained. So far, in the 2021/22 financial year, which has not quite ended, 593 learners have taken part in this programme. Participants in this initiative can gain skills through six different programmes (technical and non-technical).
The company also runs a bursary programme for university, university of technology, and technical and vocational college (TVET) students, and an internship programme.
The bursary programme, which aims to alleviate South Africa’s desperate need for technical skills, involves a one-year contract between Gibela and each recipient, renewed for each year of study, based on performance. This programme has funded 1 181 students since its inception, with 337 going to TVET colleges in KwaThema and Daveyton.
The internships offer recipients workplace experience. The internships offer recipients workplace experience, with the possibility that the intern might gain a place working at Gibela. Meanwhile, the three-year apprenticeships and one-year learnerships on offer lead to a National Qualifications Framework-registered qualification. In the 2021/22 financial year Gibela recruited 10 interns and is currently recruiting 60 interns. Between 2017 and 2020 Gibela trained 225 learners and apprentices from the broader Nigel area, and recruited 183 of them.
Between January 2014 and March 2020 Gibela’s work contributed 1.25% to Gauteng’s economy, and created 2 544 direct jobs, according to a company report, The Socio-economic Impact of Gibela, published in 2020. Gibela also invested R30-million in maths and science education, early childhood development and agricultural schemes, all in the communities around its Dunnottar plant, according to the report.