Lloyd Gedye and Niren Tolsi
One of the main protagonists in the mafia-style control of construction tenders in KwaZulu-Natal, Stefanutti Stocks, has a colourful history on which it has built its success.
This includes working almost exclusively for the apartheid government’s Natal provincial administration throughout the 70s and 80s, mainly building bridges and culverts.
Looking to expand, the then-Stefanutti & Bressan moved into Swaziland in 1988, building a palace for Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III, in “true James Bond style”, according to its website.
Presumably, the palatial pad was not decked out like a Bond villain’s lair, and Mswati must have been satisfied as the company stayed in the country, developing into the largest contractor operating there. No business in Swaziland can flourish without Mswati’s approval.
Such grandiose achievements, Stefanutti’s publicity machine insists, started from humble beginnings, according to its online company profile titled ‘A truck, a concrete mixer and two dumpers’.
Stefanutti founder Gino Stefanutti was born in the town of Gemona in Italy, but immigrated with his family to the then-Natal, where his father had a building company in Empangeni.
Fascinated with bridges from a young age, Stefanutti studied civil engineering before meeting Ivo Bressan in Durban.
The duo left their respective employers in 1973 to build a major culvert at Esperanza on the South Coast freeway for Sangro Construction. At the time, their company assets included a truck, a concrete mixer and two dumpers.
Aside from the work the company did for the previous provincial regime, it also did small-scale industrial work for the sugar industry. In 1996, the company expanded into Gauteng with Willie Meyburgh joining and setting up a civils operation there.
The company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in February of 2006, and in July 2008 Stefanutti & Bressan and Stocks merged, becoming Stefanutti Stocks.
Main Pic: by Delwyn Verasamy
This work was assisted by a Taco Kuiper Grant from the Valley Trust, administered by Wits Journalism.