Andries Van Heerden
Rainmakers & Potstirrers

Andries Van Heerden

CEO: Afrimat

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‘We’ve done many acquisitions over the years and we know that culture integration is where the biggest risk lies’

IF South Africa’s construction sector recovers – and Afrimat’s quarterly index reflecting activity across the industry was positive throughout 2023 – Afrimat is among the best-placed to capitalise on it. Currently, about 40% of its revenue is from construction. In the teeth of the multi-year downturn in the sector, Van Heerden has carried on delivering profits.

In the past year the construction materials division has done exceptionally well, with better sales to road and rail and, hearteningly, signs of Transnet buying more ballast for rail maintenance. Exposure to construction was increased by buying cement producer Lafarge for $6m. Canny acquisitions to diversify operations are key to Afrimat’s success: typically Van Heerden buys small and sometimes ailing operations at a good price, invests in them, and makes them profitable. At Nkomati Anthracite Mine, which previous owner Sentula Mining struggled with, Afrimat has expended capital and effort to bring it up to full capacity. Van Heerden expects it will “come through strongly” in the current financial year.

At Glenover, the future materials and metals business, Afrimat is building a beneficiation plant to make high-grade phosphate, and it should start to turn profitable this year. Afrimat is not immune to South Africa’s challenging operating environment, but Van Heerden finds solutions: generators have been installed at key industrial minerals operations and some of the iron ore that could not be exported was diverted to the domestic market. Another challenge is finding skills. Van Heerden says the average age of a diesel fitter in South Africa is 57. Afrimat is spending time and effort recruiting young people and training them.


Andries van Heerden was fired from his job at a quarry company for daring to suggest it was time for sector consolidation. He went ahead on his own, combining two companies, Lancaster Group and Prima Quarries, and listing them on the JSE in 2006 as Afrimat. Since then he has built up the company, one stone at a time. Over the past 10 years the shares have increased sevenfold compared to about 40% for the JSE All-Share Index. Van Heerden is a mechanical engineer with an MBA.

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