Vusi Dlamini, Tsogo Sun’s group HR director, on developing SMMEs, training hospitality entrepreneurs and how sport can make a difference to the youth


Q: How does the Tsogo Sun group operate its CSI ‘umbrella?’
A: Tsogo Sun is committed to the upliftment and development of local communities. We are further committed to leveraging our resources, experience and geographic spread within the hospitality and entertainment industry to provide the foundation for initiatives that achieve lasting results in the communities where we are present.

Each year we set aside a portion of our profits for social investment and, through our SunCares programme, we are able to deliver effective social initiatives that seek to create shared value within the broader society. SunCares was officially launched as Tsogo Sun’s Sustainability in Tourism plan in July 2012. It comprises three specific areas of focus, namely community development, enterprise development and the natural environment.

Q: In what way does the group support SMMEs close to its operations? 
A: Tsogo Sun supports the development of small businesses with a specific focus on skills-based entrepreneurial development, in addition to the provision of preferential procurement opportunities to black-owned qualifying small enterprises and emerging microenterprises. The group’s spend on enterprise development for the year ended 31 March 2013 was R123 million. That is 7% of net profit after tax, which is four percentage points above the DTI’s BBBEE target.

The enterprise development projects supported by the group include various black-owned tenants at the group’s casinos. Our tenant philosophy is connected to enterprise development and, through the provision of preferential rental fees and start-up allowances where warranted, in certain instances we provide support to tenants that are black owned or have a majority black shareholding in their businesses. The group also supports a range of black-owned SMMEs throughout the organisation.

Q: The Book-a-Guesthouse programme helps equip entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry with additional skills. What are its fundamentals? 
A: The programme is the only one of its kind in the country, and 92% of the entrepreneurs developed by the Book-a-Guesthouse programme are black women. At the end of March 2014, 85 entrepreneurs were at various development phases of the three-year model. Book-a-Guesthouse has been instrumental in creating about 250 jobs and supporting more than 2 000 in the value chain.

In addition to the programme’s established partnerships with South African Tourism and regional tourism agencies, we’ve also partnered with the Micro Enterprise Development Organisation in order to increase the entrepreneur and business development offerings to our beneficiaries. We also formalised our partnership with the South African Chefs Association to equip the guesthouse owners with the skills and tools necessary to optimally manage food service in their establishments. Another new partnership started this year was with Micros South Africa – it provides property management systems as well as training and support to guesthouse owners.

‘We are able to deliver effective social initiatives that seek to create shared value with the broader society’

Q: How important is it that guesthouse owners are also involved in CSI and job creation within their communities?
A: The Book-a-Guesthouse programme is founded on the basis of sustainability and its related principles. The programme trains and encourages entrepreneurs to look beyond their businesses and, where possible, support local communities through local employment and procurement, as well as through social investment.

An example of this would be Carol Sanderson, the 2014 Guesthouse of the Year winner. She runs the Casambo Exclusive Guest Lodge on the outskirts of Nelspruit in Mpumalanga. Her business helps to support the nearby Uthingo Primary School by providing uniforms and other school requirements for the children who come from disadvantaged homes. The guesthouse also actively supports local women who earn an income through beadwork.

Q: Sports is a major part of Tsogo Sun’s CSI programme. Why is that?
A: From a business alignment point of view, sport is a natural fit, especially considering the numerous national sport teams that the group’s hotels have sponsored over the years.

In addition to the Tsogo Sun Sports Academy, however, our CSI programme also incorporates the Tsogo Sun Arts Academy and Learning Academy. The decision to create an arts academy was also a natural one, seeing as the group owns various entertainment venues around the country, including the Teatro at Montecasino and the Lyric at Gold Reef City, which aligns with the group’s commitment to the development and promotion of arts and entertainment.

Q: How do the academies work? 
A: Each of the academies work on the same model, which features four elements. These are mass participation; talent identification; coaching the coaches; and life skills. We ensure mass participation by providing extra-curricular activities at schools, development and coaching for the coaches, facilitators and teachers within the different academies (which naturally leads to talent identification), and life skills that are incorporated into each of these.

Q: What age groups are they aimed at? 
A: Tsogo Sun’s CSI programme reaches school-going pupils in both primary and high school, from Grade R to matric. The various programmes are targeted at different age groups, depending on the nature of the sport or educational programme.

Q: Which sports does the academy concentrate on? And why these sports? 
A: We focus on soccer, chess, rugby and athletics. Our selected sports are based on the 16 priority sporting codes for schools outlined by the minister of Sports and Recreation. These are also very mainstream and enjoyed by many young people.

Q: Has it been rolled out throughout the country?
A: No, it is based in specific areas, primarily those in close proximity to Tsogo Sun’s properties. This allows us to be more directly involved in the programme, to enable staff to volunteer, and to monitor the programme to ensure its efficacy and efficiency.

‘The programme must remain relevant to the local community to ensure the greatest impact’

Q: How many children are involved?
A: More than 35 000 children are involved in the various academies and programmes nationally.

Q: How does the government contribute to the programmes?
A: Our CSI programmes are based on a strategy of collaboration and we view the state as a key partner in all of them, particularly because of our involvement in sports and education within the school environment. Tsogo Sun’s programmes are closely aligned with the strategies of both the Department of Sport and Recreation and the Department of Education. It is important to foster strong collaboration between the private and public sector to ensure the alignment of objectives. These are essential to the improvement of society.

Q: The academies pay special attention to The teaching of life skills. Why is this?
A: Life skills are certainly one of the group’s key focal points. We want these young people to be more than just great sportsmen, artists or businessmen, which would be unrealistic without having coping skills when the student leaves the school environment and goes out into the world. For this reason the group has chosen sports, arts and education as platforms to reach children through mediums that they enjoy, which is ideal for teaching life skills.

The programmes focus on life skills such as general well-being, nutrition, hygiene, financial literacy and exposure to different and aspirational environments. The life skills component of the programme is continuously being expanded through research and partnering with service providers, who help provide various life skills training. One of the most recent life skills classes added to the academies are financial literacy workshops, in partnership with Absa’s Consumer Education division. In also opening these workshops to parents and educators, the programme is extended to the family and broader community, and ensures the thorough transfer of knowledge.

Q: How do Tsogo Sun employees participate in the academies?
A: Employees volunteer in their personal capacity, in their spare time. There is a growing culture within the group to volunteer for Tsogo Sun’s CSI programmes and give back to communities. Our staff are generous when giving of their time and are willing and eager to be involved in community development.

Q: What other organisations do the academies work with? 
A: We work with a number of service providers who are all experts in their respective fields, within the arts, sports, education and life skills arenas. The group project manages all the programmes – however, each academy is introduced to a wide spectrum of public, private and civil society partners, depending on their skills and expertise, in order to add value to the programme.

Q: Do any sports and arts stars – past or present – work with the academies?
A: Yes. It’s a great privilege to have a number of big names regularly involved in the academies. The Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy is supported by ‘Doctor’ Khumalo, Lucas Radebe, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Morgan Gould. Meanwhile musicians PJ Powers, Loyiso Bala and Kurt Darren have worked with the Tsogo Sun Arts Academy.

Q: Have any participants gone on to play professional sport? 
A: We are still in the early phase of monitoring the programmes. However, it is very promising. We are extremely proud that a number of the students in the soccer programme have been scouted by development sides for professional teams, such as Kaizer Chiefs and Bidvest Wits. On the arts front, some students have received bursaries to prestigious schools such as Dainfern College in Johannesburg.

Q: What lies Ahead for the academy programmes? Teaching other sporting codes, perhaps?
A: The primary aim of Tsogo Sun’s CSI programme is to have considerable impact on the communities in which it serves. Should the group ever diversify, it will most likely do so in alignment with the 16 sporting codes outlined by government, and within certain environments. To this end, the group’s programmes must remain relevant to the local community to ensure the greatest impact.

The next stage of development will focus on academics for students and learners who are already in the programme to ensure that they become academically strong alongside the development of their sports and arts talents. This will be monitored by impact studies – another key area of CSI programmes at present. These core activities will ensure that the group continues to grow in strength while establishing new partnerships and solidifying existing ones with government, other corporates and civil society, for the benefit of the learners and community.

By John Rossouw
Image: Matina Steyn, Gareth van Nelson/HSMimages