Diesel mechanic aims to be first black man to open tractor franchise in Mthatha

Mount Fletcher-born Athi Siyila, a qualified diesel mechanic, has opened his business Mzondi Agri in Mthatha, where he fixes tractors and sells spares.
Mount Fletcher-born Athi Siyila, a qualified diesel mechanic, has opened his business Mzondi Agri in Mthatha, where he fixes tractors and sells spares.
Image: SUPPLIED

Athi Siyila from Mount Fletcher hopes to make it big in the agricultural industry but unlike farmers who work the land, his passion lies in the machinery.

The 27-year-old qualified diesel mechanic worked for a tractor company and in 2018 put down his tools to look for better opportunities.

However, he was unemployed for three years and finally in September 2020started his own business fixing tractors, Mzondi Agri. 

“I became frustrated with sitting around and waiting for responses, so I began to expose myself to the farming and agricultural projects and emerging farmers within the Transkei.

I picked up that emerging farmers and their drivers lacked skills needed to handle agricultural equipment and there were limited youth who were experienced with agricultural mechanisation

“I picked up that emerging farmers and their drivers lacked skills needed to handle agricultural equipment and there were limited youth who were experienced with agricultural mechanisation,” said Siyila.      

“I began to provide them with services and realised many people cannot operate the machines due to the advanced technology.

“This prompted me to register my business.”

In 2021, Siyila decided to close up his workshop in East London and move his operation to Mthatha.

But the decision came with its own set of challenges.

“Looking for a workshop was not easy because of expensive renting space.

“I ended up opening a tractor spares shop in Standford Terrace in Mthatha.

“I am looking for a workshop just outside the CBD.

“I have visited relevant government departments for assistance with renting space. I am waiting for feedback,” he said.

The diesel mechanic from College of Cape Town said starting his business was challenging, as he did not have enough capital.

“Financial muscle has been challenging as I must borrow some of my resources and have had to rely on the support of my family.

“I have an assistant, rent and other office expenses which need monthly payment. I am currently applying for funding in this regard.”

He relies predominantly on word-of-mouth as a marketing strategy, with clients from his former employer also having referred customers to him.

“I have learnt that running a business is not easy and that you must be consistent, with a good attitude, even if there is no money generated in some months, that must not demotivate you, instead have a positive attitude and the money will follow.”

His vision is to find a space to establish a spares department, workshop and mechanisation department on one premises.

“The mechanisation centre will be mainly to create job opportunities for the youth in Mthatha.

“I recently engaged with AgriSETA on taking in young apprentices for skills development, which is highly encouraged, given I have safe and good working conditions in the workshop.

“I am determined to be the first black to open a tractor franchise in the Transkei region,” said Siyila.


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