Being a woman has nothing to do with it

HARARE - Death comes like a thief in the night and when it strikes, particularly at those who are closest to our hearts, we usually fail to recover.

Such is the force of death it is irrepressible and does not allow our loved ones to live to see another day.

Instead, we are left to wonder what it could have been had so and so been around, usually when we achieve things.

Divine Ndhlukula, née Simbi, founder and managing director of Securico Security company, which today stands as one of the best there is, almost abandoned her dream because of death.

The illness and subsequent death of her  husband, Stanley Ndhlukula, almost forced her to abandon her idea of forming Securico.

Her towering company, started in 1998 during a discussion at a kitchen table in her home, was almost scuppered by her husband’s renal failure.

“My husband died in 2001, just after I started this company. My husband was diagnosed with renal failure a year prior to when I started this company.  He knew about this plan that I had conceived to start the security business,” she recalled during an interview with us.

“But I said now I have this situation; you have started going for dialysis sessions. In the initial stages I would go with him and spent five hours for dialysis sessions twice a week, I was still employed full time and planning to start a business in an area I was not trained in.

“And I said to my husband I am not going to start it anymore; I am just going to abandon the idea… but he said you can’t abandon your dream on my account.

“That’s how I got started and he died three years later but he had showed a true mark of a man who encouraged his wife   to become a success story in the area of entrepreneurship,” said Ndhlukula.

“While I was still in mourning, eight days after my husband died, my only operations manager then, Sabion Ndou, was murdered. I had to quickly pick up the pieces and rush back to work. It was difficult but I had to rope in a driver to fill in the post. Just starting Securico was difficult but God had his way”.

Today she is ranked among the top business people in the country on the back of her success in DDNS, the holding company of Security Operations (Pvt) Ltd, Canine Dog Services and Multi-Link P/L, an electronic security systems company.

The idea to form Securico was conceived out of the need to earn a livelihood but critically, said Ndhlukula, to revolutionarise the industry.

“I thought there was a gap in the industry. Companies that were there were not living up to the needs of the clients. The industry was renowned for wild cat strikes and guards generally were perceived as the lowly-paid in any sector. I wanted to change the perceptions and create a niche in which people could carve out a career and I knew I needed to go in with a different approach and that approach was going to make the difference , the people had to be key or central feature of the vision,” she said.

“I needed people who were willing to run with my idea, give their best and I needed the people to buy into the vision and needed to give them a sense of belonging and inculcate a culture of being the best and be proud to do what they were doing. It was a total paradigm shift and I worked on it”.

From humble beginnings, Divine founded Securico Security Services in her backyard cottage. She started off with four employees and the company has now grown to over 3 600 employees.

Among those employees, 900 are women.Ndhlukula is a firm believer in women economic empowerment and maintains that she was not perturbed by brawn because her brain was critical in forming her company.

And being a woman had nothing to do with her employment policy which looks sharply at gender.

“Ideally we should have a lot more women in decision making and studies I have read particularly from the US is that organisations with more women outperform those that do not have such diversity and I had to convince customers and my own management team as well as the women themselves to be able to stand at gates and perform as much as they are doing.

“Some of the girls I started with are now in management because I mentored them. I am proud because I took a deliberate effort and now we have 900 women and I deliberately targeted widows and single mothers because we wanted to give them the opportunity to a better livelihood and education for their children.

“Our greatest achievement is the acceptance of women in the hitherto male dominated sector. Sixty eight percent of our board is women and middle management is 38 percent and in line supervision there are about 54 percent women.

“Those statistics tell you how far we have come in trying to push the issue of women empowerment and they have a better work ethic. And whatever we do we do it better and it comes from our need to look after our homes and the gender diversity we have gives us an edge against our competition”.

She said government has done reasonably well in promoting women but it was up to the feminine gender itself to scale barriers.

“I think there are about 22 laws in favour of women that have been enacted in this country but it is no longer about laws; it is about cultural barriers and some are even afraid of being successful because it is not associated with womanhood.

“Some husbands support their women but others still would like to divert women when they feel what we are doing or the field they have chosen has too many men or too much power that the feminine aspect disappears.

“It also has to do with women and we have to get it into our minds as women that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. We have some unknown fear that we will not be able to withstand the pressure. The world of business is hard-nosed and after looking at some men failing they have a lot of fear and this is what we need to drum into women and we have to deal with it. It is the mindset and this has to be dealt with.”

The Securico founder grew up a feminist and women activist in rural Gutu where she was fortunate to continue with school.

“The policy to employ women was conceived right at the beginning.  I had always been an activist even when I was growing up. I grew up in the rural areas, I was fortunate that my father could afford to take all of us to school.

“But I would see a lot of girls that I grew up with having to drop out of school in Grade 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7– because the parents could not afford. If they had to take a choice on who to educate, they would select the boys. I saw a lot of the girls having to drop.

And some of them were coming from families where in Grade 7, a girl had to stop education because she had to be married off to somebody. Those are the things I could see.

I saw a lot of injustice in that.  I was so aware of it that even as I came to Harare and started living here, I looked for women’s groups,” she told the Daily News without hiding the blazing look in her eyes.

She took up women’s issues seriously in 1982 and joined a predominantly white middle-aged women group — the Business and Professional Women Club (BPWC).

“I was only in my early 20s but that did not deter me because I was just looking for an avenue to have a voice”.

Her breakthrough came through the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW) convention in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1984.

Dubbed young woman today, leader tomorrow, the convention became her defining moment.

“That was the turning point in my life, it was the defining moment. I met some formidable women. One of them was Dr Esther Ocloo; she was Ghanaian and first Vice President of that International federation. She owned vast cocoa plantations. When she spoke I looked at her and I said I want to be like her”.

Securico would come from that convention, but 19 years later!

Today it is reaping the rewards of a rocky and tumultuous journey started in the rural Gutu where Ndhlukula was born.

Securico is the first Zimbabwean manned security company to be certified to the internationally acclaimed ISO9001:2008 Quality Management System.

But Ndhlukula, recently named one of the most successful women in Africa by Forbes, sees right economic policies as the fulcrum in which new business and existing ones derive their existence.

“There are a lot of policy inconsistencies. The enablers are not playing their part. People are geared and we have everything we need to go back where we should be and be a giant in Africa.

“There is disconnect between government and the private sector and the idea of working together is there but it is slow.

We have given recommendations. We need to protect local industry. There is about a billion dollars that cannot be accounted, our borders are too porous. We are competing with goods that do not pay taxes and it is hard to survive in that kind of environment.

“Penalties and taxation levels are too high and punitive. If you are late in your tax payments they charge heavy penalties and that is not just practical. Something needs to be done to make sure the economy recovers at a faster pace,” said Ndhlukula.

She implored government and business leaders to stamp hard on corruption which she said remains one of the challenges in the country.

“Corruption is a disease that needs a cure. It requires a set of decisions we need to make morally, the moral courage to say what is wrong is wrong without fear or favour.  

There are too many pretenders — people who say one thing and do another in private. My belief is that corruption can be solved. We need strong institutions and action oriented leaders both in public and private sector to decisively deal it. Bottlenecks must be removed”.

Issues of integrity and professionalism, she said, make Securico and other subsidiaries a combined happy family.

I can tell you people want to join us because we are one happy big family. Our operatives in every part of the country know what the other is doing because we communicate effectively and use social media among our communication tools,” said Ndhlukula.

The biggest draw card is her company’s human resources policy which includes a bursary scheme for guards who have children who score higher grades in primary education funded for the duration of their high schooling.

Some of the incentives include agricultural input scheme, housing scheme, medical insurance and funeral scheme.

She has gone through the rigours of pursuing education and drawing personal satisfaction in employment.

She holds an Executive Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Midlands State University and another MBA from Women’s University in Africa which was conferred in recognition of her business leadership and gender equality initiatives, among other qualifications.

Ndhlukula has done several executive development programmes including but not limited to Strategic Business Management by AF International in Sweden and Millennium Training programme for directors by International Finance Corp (IFC).

 Divine worked for ZBC from 1980 to 1982 as an Accounting Officer,  Old Mutual as an Accounting Officer from 1982 to 1985 and then for Intermarket Life Assurance Company as Marketing Executive from 1985 to 1999 where she left to fulfil her vision to start Securico.

Her leadership excellence has been recognised by the corporate fraternity as evidenced by the numerous business accolades she has won, among others Empretec Entrepreneur of the  Year 2001 and Empretec Entrepreneur of Decade (Services Sector) 2002; Manager of the year 2005 for Zim Institute of Management; Celebrate a Sister Business award 2006; Institute of Directors Zimbabwe  Director of the Year (SMEs) 2008; Institute of Directors Overral Director of Year(Run Up) 2009;  Zimbabwe Women Filmmakers/UNifem Business Award 2010.

Her company has won several awards among other National Quality Awards Company of the Year 2011, Zimbabwe’s 7th Best Employers 2010 and 7th Best Employer again for 2011, and made history by being the first company in the southern African region and the first woman-led company to win the prestigious Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship 2011 Grand Prize run by Legatum and Omidyar.

She is in the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Executive Council member and current chairperson of the ZNCC Harare chapter.

Comments (2)

Mwari ngavakudzwe.Forward forever congratulations on your dream come true,you are a inspiration to our Girl Child.

toots - 25 November 2012

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