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Biography of Robert MATANA GUMEDE

South Africa > Business : Robert MATANA GUMEDE

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Born on 09/08/1963 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Robert Matana Gumede (b. August 9, 1963), is a South African business man.

From being a caddy at the age of 7, Robert has overcome significant obstacles and challenges to get to where he is today, founder of a largely successful IT-based company in South Africa.

Born the fifth child of seven in Nelspruit, Robert was all too familiar with the culture of sharing and ‘hand-me-downs’. Robert’s entrepreneurial spirit was fostered by his domestic worker mother who sold second hand clothing to supplement her income. He learnt responsibility at a very tender age, when he became a golf caddy at the Nelspruit Golf Course. Robert did a combination of working as a caddy, being a gardener and bus conductor until he went to the University of Zululand. His mother was often not home because of work so Robert stayed in a three roomed house in Nelspruit with his grandmother and 11 relatives. He was a very studious young man with good grades, played sport and got involved in the cultural aspects of school such as debating and the theatre club.

Ever since Robert was a child, he wanted to become a detective, so he studied Law at the University of Zululand. His tertiary education was funded by himself and some donations from the members at the golf course where he was caddy and gardener. After completing his degree, Robert moved back to Nelspruit and worked in the magistrate’s office, he then worked as an advisor in the Ministry of Justice. He had to leave government in 1988 due to his political activeness. This became the defining moment for him where he then started selling clothes like his mother used to do, to earn a living. With his savings, Robert bought a soccer club called ‘Dangerous Darkies’ and worked as a business consultant in the Nelspruit area at the age of 25.

As a consultant, Robert was exposed to various industries and opportunities. He started Gijima Guards after doing some work with a security company and identified some opportunities within the industry. Robert also identified an opportunity to start a stationery company called Yebo Stationers. The stationery business was so successful that Robert decided to set up a brand new factory with 300 employees and new equipment in Pietersburg to manufacture. Unfortunately, competitors undercut his margins so much that he was forced to close shop after three years. He then focused his attention back onto his other business venture and carried on consulting while living in Johannesburg. Robert identified another opportunity in the IT industry through consulting and this is when he started Gijima Technologies. He decided he wanted to make Gijima Africa, which means Run Africa, the holding company for all his ventures. His dream was to expand his companies into more than just security and technology companies, and also more than just a South African venture.

Since the teething stages of Gijima Technologies, under Robert’s stewardship the company has grown to the fore of IT in South Africa. In just over five years, the new company grew from ten people to one of South Africa’s largest black-owned IT companies that had clinched government deals worth more than R1.5 billion and had ventured into African countries, such as Nigeria. The IT company services have branched out into telecommunications, networking infrastructure, smartcard technology and EasyPay transaction switch.

Robert’s company services 90 of the top 100 companies in South Africa. He laments that one could hardly wish for a stronger base. He believes in hard work and having the courage to jump at any opportunity that presents itself to you now, before someone else does.

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Last update : 01/08/2009

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