Mr Trueman Tandabantu Goba, a former member of the National Planning Commission and the Executive Chairman and founder of Goba (Pty) Ltd Consulting Engineers and Project Managers, began his journey to success in Durban, growing up in the city’s townships during apartheid.
A visit to Keeve Steyn and Partners in Johannesburg in 1975 sparked Goba’s dream to establish his own company. This was Goba’s first introduction to the consulting engineer profession.
‘I was fascinated by the existence of this profession, what they did for society and how interesting it must be to be involved in this application of math and science,’ said Goba.
Goba managed to complete a diploma at Mmadikoti College in Pietersburg (now Polokwane) as a Survey Technician; this helped him receive permission from the Minister of Higher Education to enrol in a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Civil Engineering at the then-University of Natal in 1976.
He completed his degree in 1979, making headlines across the segregated country. He went on to complete a Masters in Engineering at Cornell University in the United States in 1986, and received a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1994.
Through his studies, Goba accumulated the experience and knowledge that helped him add value to societal challenges and provide solutions to clients at various levels of complexity.
Registered as a professional engineer, after returning in 1993 from studies and consulting work in South Africa and the USA, Goba partnered with his friend Ebenezer Moahloli to found Goba Moahloli and Associates Inc. (GMA) in Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape, with offices later in Durban and Cape Town.
Starting a company involved the challenge of finance, which Goba overcame by starting small with a home office, obtaining key projects from the newly formed Independent Development Trust, managing cash flow, learning how to manage a business and working in partnership. Goba also had to ensure that he could deliver on his responsibilities by gaining as much experience as possible to complement his qualifications, build a sustainable business and earn trust.
GMA merged with Keeve Steyn to form Goba (Pty) Ltd in 2001, employing more than 200 professional engineers, as well as technical and support staff. The company took on several projects in the region; when it merged into Hatch Africa in 2013 (part of a global multi-disciplinary group that Goba chairs), it operated throughout South Africa and in neighbouring countries with 500 staff.
Goba (Pty) Ltd’s Durban projects included road works at the Umgeni interchange, the King Shaka International Airport, the widening of the Durban Harbour entrance and subsequent relocation of the Sewage Pump Station for Ethekwini. It also worked on Gauteng Freeway upgrades prior to 2010, the Nelson Mandela Signature Bridge, the Berg River Dam in the Western Cape, the Cape Town Stadium, and infrastructure and services projects in the Eastern Cape.
Goba emphasised the importance of postgraduate training and specialisation, as well technical training, as essential in enabling him to provide sound advice to those investing in his solutions.
‘Continual learning helps, because clients evolve and change, so one’s strategy must also evolve,’ said Goba. ‘And when you network and meet people with similar interests, it can lead to more clients.’
Goba advised prospective entrepreneurs to plan and prepare well ahead of starting a business, to do necessary research, seek advice from others, and understand the business model. He also emphasised the importance of learning about finances, taxes, business management, working with others, labour relations, basic conditions of employment, and relevant legislation.
Goba is a former President of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering and President of the Engineering Council of South Africa.