Interesting fact: Lesotho has a population of 2 million people, living in a country of 30 000km2. Although almost twice as large as South Africa’s Gauteng Province, it is only a sixth as populous!
Another interesting fact about Lesotho is that Stuttaford Van Lines’ branch, located on the outskirts of Maseru on the banks of the Caledon River, is the country’s only formal removals company – even though it was first established in 1976.
Despite these hints to the contrary, however, Lesotho is home to a diverse range of embassies and construction interests (the largest of which is the ongoing multi-Billion Rand Katse Dam project). Surprisingly, a significant number of celebrities have also paid SVL Lesotho’s branch a visit.
Former US President Bill Clinton visited SVL Lesotho in 2006, when he was presented with a painting and Stuttaford Van Lines was appointed to prepare the specialised crating. The branch was similarly called upon to pack and wrap gifts presented by the Lesotho Government to the United Nations’ Kofi Anan in 2002, who also visited the branch in person; and in 2010 was honoured to host the UK’s Prince Harry when SVL donated packing materials to a charity he co-founded.
“We are mainly in an international market, dealing with imports and exports from Lesotho,” explains Venus Havenga, SVL Lesotho’s Branch Manager. “The split is about 50-50, because in the case of embassies’ foreign diplomats, for example, if five leave the country they are then replaced by five.”
Just like the branch she heads up, Venus has the SVL spirit of facing challenges head-on. Making the switch from the fashion industry (as a qualified fashion designer) into removals was unique, but Venus joined SVL Lesotho as an operations controller in 2000 and never looked back. In 2002 she was appointed as Depot Manager, and promoted to Branch Manager in 2007.
“When I joined the company I knew little about the industry, but now the only thing I can’t do is drive trucks,” Venus says. “I always have contact with our clients – personally conducting the surveys, quotations, bookings – and they benefit from dealing with one person from start to finish.”
For the record books: a challenging move for SVL Lesotho
In 2011, SVL Lesotho had to relocate 30 customs officials around the Lesotho Borders Posts between Maseru, Van Rooyens Gate, Tele Bridge, Qacha's Nek, Caledonspoort, Maputsoe and Peka Bridge.
“We had a time limit of five days to complete all the removals, and the road to Qacha's Nek is over the Maluti Mountains – only 400km from Maseru, but it takes two days to travel,” recalls Venus.
“That month we experienced heavy rainfall and both our trucks got stuck in the mud in Maputsoe. Undeterred, we used huge backhoe tractors to get them out, and completed the job regardless!”