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Zane Dawood

Businessman and entrepreneur

Zane Dawood is the chairman of Sultan Zane Construction (SZC).

Very little can stand in the way of this self-starter. When he had to drop out of university due to financial constraints, he immediately entered the corporate world in Joburg and started making his mark. He completed his studies in the United States and returned to play his part in building the new South Africa through SZC.

This 100% black economic empowered (BEE) compliant company was started 18 months ago and initially focused on constructing religious buildings and projects for Middle Eastern embassies and high commissions in South Africa.

The company is currently the sole contractor for the King Fand Religious Centre in Houghton in the Nelson Mandela Precinct. The R50 million contract is wholly funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and will include a conference hall where people of all faiths and denominations will be welcome. The conference hall will also host lectures by distinguished scholars.

The centre is unique because it will be one of the largest buildings of its kind on the African continent, and it is built on one of the busiest arterial routes in South Africa.

Currently the King Fand Religious Centre is taking up most of my time. I have to take a “helicopter view” of the project but am involved on a daily basis. I have regular meetings with the engineers and site foremen and have to keep abreast of the progress on all the various aspects of the project.

This project seems to occupy a special place in your heart…

Yes. I am hoping to use the King Fand Centre to showcase the quality of our work and ability to construct buildings with unique architectural designs. We will use the centre as a springboard to engage with other stakeholders in the industry to maximise our potential so that we can continue to make major contributions to our country.

What challenges do you face in the construction industry?

It is a very competitive industry in South Africa, especially for projects in the R1 00 million plus bracket.

Has PBF membership held any benefits for your company?

The PBF is a wonderful platform to forge relationships with senior members of our party. We also engage with fellow members and attend seminars. We hope to take the opportunity to join fellow members, senior leaders and ministers when they travel overseas on trade and investment missions. The PBF is also very pro-active and provides a tremendous platform for emerging entrepreneurs to network.

Construction worldwide has been badly affected by the economic downturn. How has SZC dealt with the tough times?

It has been a very difficult period. We re­negotiated terms with our suppliers and created an awareness campaign for our 200 staff members to look at cost-cutting measures in their various positions and departments.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by great leaders such as the Prophet Mohammed as well as world leaders such as former president Nelson Mandela, United States president Barack Obama and current President Jacob Zuma. I have tremen­dous respect for the American president as well as for our own who, despite trying circumstances, overcame all odds to lead our country and stabilise our economy.

What is the best business lesson you have ever learnt?

Do not become despondent when you are down or your idea has been rejected. Pick yourself up, and do it again. When one door closes, another one will open.

What are your future plans for the business?

I would like to build up SZC to become the leader in the construction market for Middle Eastern countries based in South Africa – in particular Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar; Oman and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, I would like SZC to build orphanages to continue the company’s involvement in the wellbeing of the country and that of humankind.

What words of wisdom do you have for other business leaders?

A quote from Muhammad Ali: “If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it.”

And for those hoping to enter the construction industry?

Study your market, do a risk analysis and try your best.

Are you excited about the FIFA World Cup coming our way?

I am very proud of our country. South Africa will be known and spoken about from Paris to Phuket, Los Angeles to Laos and Damascus to Djibouti. I think the tournament will create a tremendous impetus for foreign investment and tourism in South Africa. South Africa will do Africa proud, and I am especially delighted for former president Mandela, Uncle Kathy Kathrada and all our stalwarts who sacrificed so much for our country.

Article from PROGRESSIVE LEADER Publication of the ANC Progressive Business Forum, Issue 4