Thandeka Nene and her sister, Cindy Mahlalempini, are among the most powerful and politically well-connected businesswomen in KwaZulu-Natal.
Nene, whose company Bonelena Construction is responsible for renovations to President Jacob Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla, has managed to clinch provincial government contracts worth just more than R453-million through this company alone.
Bonelena Construction and Trading was registered in mid-2005 and employs Zuma’s niece.
Nene’s construction company has completed 17 projects in KwaZulu-Natal, most of them schools. The contracts range in value from R3-million to R35-million.
Bonelena is currently contracted to build a road worth R92-million in Underberg, a R60-million project for the Old Magistrate’s Court in Pietermaritzburg, a R33-million project for the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital in Nquthu, a R15-million project for the Zwelibanzi Junior School in uMzimkhulu and a R3-million project for the Vulindlela Education Centre in Pietermaritzburg.
Another project, referred to as “Project A”, is being undertaken in “Inkandla” [sic] and is worth R30-million.
Nene, a married mother of three who started out as a teacher, first entered construction with her younger sister, Cindy, when they formed a partnership — Ntshantsha Construction — in October 2004.
The next year they both formed their own individual companies. Nene formed Bonelena and Mahlalempini formed Sthembokuhle Construction.
In September this year both deregistered from Ntshantsha Construction. The company is now run by Mahlalempini’s ex-husband, Jordan Ngubane.
Bonelena Construction has been a member of the provincial Master Builders’ Association since 2009. In early 2010, Nene registered as a member of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) through Bonelena.
The company’s listing with the PCB states that it specialises in commercial, industrial, domestic and civil works construction as well as rehabilitation.
In November 2008 the Sunday Tribune profiled Nene and Mahlalempini, revealing that they had made millions in less than five years. The report said that Mahlalempini’s company managed a turnover of R25-million, while Nene’s had made more than R4-million in its first year.
It went on to say that the sisters had hired their two brothers and that their late father was the pastor who founded the Power of God Assemblies, a church that has more than 100 branches.
“We’re headed for the JSE,” Nene is quoted as saying.
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