Robert Gumede, 55, the fifth child of seven in Nelspruit has had a prolific experience as an entrepreneur and a hard worker, beginning at seven years old, when he began to help his mother in her second-hand clothes business. After school Gumede worked as a gardener and a petrol attendant to supplement his single mother’s income. His mother was often not home because of work so he stayed in a three roomed house in Nelspruit with his grandmother and 11 relatives.
Gumede studied Law at the Zululand University through donations from the members at the golf course where he was caddy and gardener. He was a very studious young man with good grades, played sport and got involved in the cultural aspects of school such as debating and the theater club. Gumede graduated from the Zululand University in 1986 with a Dip Juris, a diploma.
After studying, Gumede worked as a clerk at the Magistrate’s Court of Kabokweni . In 1988, he founded Gijima Electronic & Security Systems.
He moved to Joburg in 1992 to build the company from there. He opened an office in a basement. As they were a new business, he had to pick up marketing and networking skills to win clients. He was also the business development executive of LTA (now Grinaker-LTA) during his time in Johannesburg. In the mid-1990s he registered several Gijima companies, including a firm that provided protection services to the Mpumalanga government.
In 1999, Gumede’s Gijima consortium got a R800-million contract to develop an electronic identification system. He bought 26% of Applied Card Technologies (ACT) from John Sterenborg to enter the smart-card market in August 2000. A year later Gijima bought the remaining ACT shares. In 2002 Gijima Afrika Smart Technologies (GAST) won a multi-million-rand tender from Telkom to produce phone cards.
Gumede shot to prominence in 2005 when listed IT firm AST sold 37% of its shares to Gijima. All the original Gijima companies changed their names to Guma.
Through Guma, Gumede has an interest in tourism group Tourvest, and the Gauteng Lions rugby union.
Gumede has built a business empire, owning Guma Group, a group that covers eight sectors: Investments and Private Equity; Infrastructure and Construction; Information & Communications Technology; Energy; Railways, Mining; Tourism & Hospitality; Water & Sanitation; and Strategic Business Consulting. Robert Gumede’s company services 90 of the top 100 companies in South Africa.
Robert Gumede & his company Guma Group want to expand into sectors such as renewable energy, IT for taxation and population registration with a citizen card among other things. Gumede thinks it’s unfortunate that African continent is home to most of the world’s fresh water and yet many people across Africa struggle to get clean water to drink. This is tragic, and the Guma Group is exploring ways to solve this issue for the African continent’s poorest people. Currently, they have interests across the Africa and with international partners beyond our borders, such as China. They are consistently looking for regions to expand their portfolio to, innovate where they can & deploy their present portfolio.