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Talented employee, Ruth Mahlaba, becomes service station owner after 23 years of service and joining the TOTALYoung Dealer programme 

Ruth Mahlaba takes reign as the new owner of the TOTAL Springs Road service station after decades of incredible service.  

When she moved to Johannesburg as a student 23 years ago, she started working as a cashier at the TOTAL Sizan service station in Boksburg, but even then, she knew she wanted to keep learning and grow as an entrepreneur.  

Mahlaba is the sixth child in her large family, raised by a single mother who worked hard to secure a better future for her children. Born and raised in the village called Moletjie Ga Piet, Polokwane in Limpopo, she set out to further her studies in Electrical Engineering when she moved to Gauteng.  

“My first work experience was with the TOTAL retail network and ever since I fell in love with the brand and the professional environment,” said Mahlaba.   

Armed with the determination to work hard, gain knowledge and experience, Mahlaba was repeatedly promoted under the mentorship of one of her managers, Iqbal Petker, who helped her through the rigorous training to ensure her growth at the Sizan service station.  

From the beginning, Mahlaba knew her passion was customer service and patrons echoed this with praise of her work. Soon after she was promoted to Site Manager, the station’s owner assisted her in connecting with Busisiwe Dludla, Territory Manager at Total South Africa, who saw Mahlaba’s inherent potential and enrolled her into the Young Dealer Programme (YDP).  

“After seeing a potential in Ruth through a series of interviews and business plan presentation, TSA decided to take a risk on her and put a plan in place to empower and coach her to become an independent dealer through the incubation program.” Said Zukiswa Njobe, Training & Entrepreneurship Manager at Total 

In 2018, Total started the YDP by appointing promising service station employees to operate and manage service stations in various provinces, initially piloting the project in Gauteng. But the initiative has spread, with Total placing six Young Dealers at stations countrywide, including Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. 

“The Total Young Dealer Programme was established to empower capable service station managers that have over time displayed maturity and talent and were often entrusted by their employers to operate the business in their absence,” said Sanjeev Sheosanker, Retail Fuel Sales Manager at Total South Africa.  

The program has shown that for many of these ambitious employees, all they needed to succeed was a push in the right direction.  

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to my success: my family, Total Head Office, my boss, the dealer of TOTAL Sizan service station and everyone who never got tired of taking their time to invest their knowledge in me in my 23 years of service,” said Mahlaba. 

Her advice to other women entrepreneurs? 

“As a woman, I have confidence in myself and believe that a good leader leads by example; you do what you say and your team embrace it. Always believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals because nothing is impossible,” she said.  

For Dludla, Mahlaba’s success has shown the necessity of empowerment initiatives like the YDP.  

“Today, Ruth’s success in the programme and her drive to become the owner of a TOTAL service station shows the importance of following your objectives, but also that corporates need to contribute towards transformation and creating opportunity for the people who need it most in South Africa,” said Dludla.