Humility. If asked to describe the man awarded as the Tzaneen Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year, “humility” would certainly be apt. At a prestigious awards luncheon held at Hotel@Tzaneen last week, Milaan Thalwizer, patriarch of the Komati Group, was honoured for a lifetime’s achievement in business as he spearheaded the growth and expansion of a once modest family farm, to one of the most prolific commercial farming groups in the country.

Komati Group is one of the largest exporters of citrus in the Southern hemisphere with more than 70% of their produce shipped internationally. Since its humble beginnings in the mid-1950’s on a farm in the Letsitele valley, the group has grown to acquire commercial lands in Hoedspruit, Hectorspruit, Burgersfort and Malalane on which they grow citrus, macadamias, bananas, blueberries, avocadoes, mangoes and sugarcane. In total, the Komati Group employs 1 500 permanent staff and provides close on 3 500 seasonal jobs to local workers during the picking seasons. This bears testament to their most important cultivar – people.

“It is truly a great honour for me to be presented with a reward amid all my peers who all work as hard, if not harder than I, to grow our business and uplift the people of our region,” Thalwizer said as he received his award from Chamber chairperson, Llandi van der Walt and Greater Tzaneen mayor, Maripe Mangena. “I am blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people who have made this award possible and so I would like to dedicate this accolade to everyone of the members of this chamber. You all deserve recognition for your efforts in this community. Thank you for this privilege, I graciously accept with heartfelt thanks.”

Each year the Tzaneen Chamber of Commerce hosts their Prestige Awards during which they pay homage to those members of the local business community who play a pivotal role within their communities and take pride in the manner by which they conduct their business. The recipients of awards in the various categories are nominated by members of the community and seconded by members of the chamber. The nominations are then discussed and voted upon by members of the executive committee to decide who the top awards will be presented to.

This year’s awards ceremony served as a fitting platform to bid farewell to one of the founders and longest serving members of the Tzaneen Chamber, Lukas Groenewald, who retired from his position as manager of the Letaba Herald after more than 30 years, in December last year. Groenewald was considered to be one of the most influential members of the chamber over the last few decades where he served as chairperson and executive committee member during that time. He stepped down earlier this month and will be pursuing other avenues which will undoubtedly include enjoying his retirement.

Pest Control Specialists, a household name in pest control both locally and nationally, received a special gift of appreciation from the members of the chamber for their generous sponsorship of hampers and gifts to the guest speakers at the monthly luncheons. Leonie Roux received the certificate of appreciation on their behalf.

Petra Andersen of El Olom Community Services and Deon van Tonder of EVAC911 were both honoured for their outstanding service to the community while Madeleine Saunders of Momentum Financial Wellness Practice was bestowed with the award for the Secretary or Receptionist of the Year.

For her tireless efforts in organizing, managing and growing the annual Tzaneen Show and her behind the scenes gathering of the troops when times call for community involvement to support those at the frontlines of runaway veld fires or other emergencies that threaten the wellbeing of the community, Naomi Excell of Agri Letaba was named Tzaneen’s Manager of the Year.

Vixtrix Signs was unanimously named as the Business with the most Outstanding and Friendliest customer service – a reward the owner of the this outstanding enterprise, Martin Froise, happily accepted. Part of the ethos of the Tzaneen Chamber of Commerce is to grow and support the emerging businesspeople of the region. It was in light of this that Henco Pretorius of Bricks@Tzaneen was named the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year for the work his accomplishments in job creation and supplying an ever increasing demand to the construction sector through his well-managed brick yard just outside the CBD.

For saving the citizens of Tzaneen in excess of R40 million by cancelling a roads project off the back of tender irregularities uncovered by his office, and for taking the necessary stance against poor service delivery and corruption within the municipality, Thapelo Matlala was awarded as the Public Official of the Year. Since taking office in April 2018, Matlala has already brought about significant change within the GTM and earned himself the nickname “Ironhide” for his unwavering drive to restore Tzaneen as the jewel of the north it once was known for.  

“Congratulations to all our achievers. Every one of you have done your community and your business family proud and have shown that through diligence, humility and sound business ethics, one can truly make a difference,” concluded Van der Walt.



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