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First female contractor at MeerKat breaks barriers

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“Women should step out of the box and make use of opportunities like this,”

Deputy President David Mabuza unveils a plaque to mark the completion of the MeerKAT 64-antenna radio telescope during its official launch as a precursor to the SKA telescope in Carnarvon, Northern Cape. Picture: Siyabulela Duda

WITH construction being a challenging, male-dominated industry, Lillian Andreas broke barriers to become the first female contractor for the groundbreaking 64-dish MeerKAT Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Hailed as one of the best of its kind, the MeerKAT radio telescope was officially launched by Deputy President David Mabuza recently.

It will study galaxies across the history of the universe.

Born and bred in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, which is home to MeerKAT, the 48-year-old mother of three was unemployed for a long time before the SKA made its home in her hometown.

“I was the first female contractor, doing construction work for SKA,” she said.

“We started this phenomenal construction in 2012. We were responsible for building the circles around the dishes. It is 64 slabs back-to-back in diameter. We did it in the old-fashioned way where we worked with our hands.”

Although she said the profit margin was small, the important thing for her was the exposure with regard to the development and socio-economic upliftment for herself and her team.

Unemployed

She explained that her team were all previously unemployed.

Andreas gained her experience and exposure to the black economic environment from the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc).

“One of the highlights within that era is that I’m a Patrice Motsepe product, because the development and BEE equity plan was formed and developed by us at Nafcoc under the auspices of former president Thabo Mbeki,” she added.

“At the time Motsepe was the president of Nafcoc and you can see how passionate he is about development.

As a member of the federal

council, I gained a lot of experience, especially through advisory councils with the president.’’

Andreas was Nafcoc’s president for the women’s chamber in the Northern Cape, as well as vice-president for the women’s chamber nationally.

“When I came home, I thought to myself, what am I going to do? I’m not a farmer, there’s not much here and I’m ageing. Then I said to myself, let me make use of the venture that’s on my doorstep

“So I approached two guys and I said to them, this is what we can do And that was historically the first black company for construction and supply in Carnarvon.

“And we didn’t only work for SKA; we worked for the SA Social Service Agency as well, and some other

parastatals.

“And I’ve been constantly involved

“I worked with my guys on site from morning till afternoon.

“I am of the opinion if you want to be a leader, you must lead with experience, due to exposure So I lead by example,” Andreas said.

As a woman in construction, Andreas described her experience as both exciting and intimidating.

“You have to know your grounds and set your grounds.

“What counts in my favour is that I came with a conscious mind to the table, because this is our environment and what would makes me less or better than a male counterpart?

“Women should step out of the box and make use of opportunities like this,” she said.

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