The forging of a complimentary partnership between a group of BP dealers made headlines when it saw BP employee Elvis Sithagu go from pump attendant to co-owner of BP service stations in Randburg and Tembisa near Midrand.
A celebration to mark the milestone in BP’s transformation journey and its ongoing investment in the Southern African region was held on 11 December, where Dipuo Peters, South Africa’s Minister of Energy, applauded BP for its efforts to transform the country’s energy sector.
Sithagu, who owns 28% of the business, started as a petrol attendant with BP 13 years ago. He and his partner, Phanuel Sinthumele, rose to the challenge when two new BP service stations in Rabie Ridge and Midrand became available in 2012. Today they employ 111 people – 65 of them at Ebony Park.
Their big break came when their employers became their business partners and took them under their wing by helping them through the franchise process. Their partners, who, along with BP, are committed to the transformation, visit the service station up to four times a week and provide guidance about finance, human resources, statutory compliance and other aspects of running a successful business.
Sithagu said: “I am a natural entrepreneur and started selling cold drinks and working over weekends while I was still at school. After I matriculated, I did a two-week course to become a petrol attendant and was attracted to the sector because I know how essential petrol is to all of us. But I soon decided I did not want to be a pump attendant for the rest of my life, and worked hard for many years to learn as much as I could about the business and to get to where I am today. I’m not even nearly there yet, but I feel like I am on top of the world today.”
He said: “I know it’s just the first step of the ladder and the start of a very exciting journey for us. I am incredibly excited about the opportunity BP has presented to me, and I want to thank and acknowledge my business partners, who have helped me enormously. If it wasn’t for BP and my partners, who saw the potential in me, I would not be here before you today.”
Peters emphasised the importance of transformation in the South African energy sector. She explained that this unique partnership was proof of how existing dealers and the petroleum companies could find creative ways to enable greater empowerment in a sector which, by its very nature, presented high barriers to entry.
Thandi Orleyn, BP’s chairperson, says: “We have ambitious plans ahead for the company and a true commitment to ongoing investment in the Southern African region. We are also going to be significantly up-weighting our efforts when it comes to greater empowerment and equity sharing in our service station network.”
She said BP is very supportive of the government’s transformation agenda, and is committed to a journey of meaningful and sustainable transformation.
As part of BP’s ongoing commitment to uplift and develop communities in which it operates, it marked the celebration through a donation of R100 000 to a local school, Ebony Park Primary, which will be used to purchase reading books for its library.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Lange360 and BP for the information given to write this article.