By Eamonn Ryan
On 1 November, 2022, SARACCA appointed Phophi Nematangari (also known as Nematangale due to a Home Affairs department bungle) to its National Executive Committee (NEC), as well as its Vice Chair.
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Nematangari is the owner and managing director of Mumy & Sons Projects and Construction, a fully black female owned business established in 2009. The company has experience in HVAC&R, facilities management and project management. Some of its clients include the Department of Public Works (Pretoria regional office) and City of Joburg Property Company.
With a father who was a car mechanic and being somewhat of a tomboy not afraid to climb ladders and repair fridges, a trade career was in her blood from the earliest age. And HVAC&R was her choice – not an accident. “I wanted to work like my father, and as soon as I started working in this field, I felt HVAC&R was where I wanted to be. Now his toolbox is with me,” she explains.
In 2003, she responded to a Transnet Properties advertisement for HVAC&R apprenticeships to NQF level 2 to 4, training for three and a half years at ACRA (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Academy South Africa) under Grant Laidlaw. Following the training she worked as a junior artisan from 2006 for Transnet, using more her project management skills than the technical training – such was the need for completing projects at the Carlton Centre in central Johannesburg.
“I was one of the first group of four HVAC&R artisans at Transnet Properties,” Nematangari says. Her functions included managing projects, heat load calculations in order to draft specifications and managing the contractors. “I got priceless experience and exposure to running projects. This enabled me to join a facilities management company in 2009 as operations manager running all the Presidency facilities, where I broadened my exposure to electrical, access control, building maintenance and general construction. I found my air conditioning and refrigeration technical experience made these other trades relatively easy to learn.
“The company that appointed me had a contract with Public Works for the Union Buildings and the Presidential residencies, and that contract was extended to five years. Then in 2013, I resigned and started my own company, which does all the facilities functions I had learned and decided to include in our scope,” says Nematangari.
It is a facility management company that primarily focuses on building maintenance.
Her love of HVAC led her to a close involvement with SAIRAC and then SARACCA since 2007, with a strong urge to make the younger generation and her fellow females aware of the opportunities that lie in HVAC&R. “Anyone who trains to become an HVAC&R technician is guaranteed work – they are snapped up as soon as they qualify, yet so few learners are aware of this brilliant career. My role on the NEC will be to focus on spreading this message,” she explains.
“Most South Africans when they want to study further, think of university or civil engineering because HVAC&R is not top of mind. They know little about the sector and its career prospects. HVAC&R companies struggle to recruit technicians, and you find that most of the black artisans in this country are not South African but from our neighbouring countries. The HVAC&R trade is not doing enough to market themselves to school learners,” says Nematangari.