By David Smith

This month we chatted to Philani of Gaabai Holdings about the value of science in plumbing and how a deeper understanding goes a long way.

Philani of Gaabai Holdings. Image supplied by Philani

Philani of Gaabai Holdings. Image supplied by Philani

David: Hi there Philani, please tell us how you became a plumber

Philani: Hi David. Well, you see, it all started several years ago when I got a job with a construction company in Pinetown which was looking for a plumber for a construction site; they were busy with revamping a community centre. The underground water mains had been damaged during the process of paving the road for the community hall and so they asked me to come in to work on the pipes. I went in to help them out, not knowing I was paving my own way back to them. They gave an interview back in 2017 for a plumber position with the company and I was confident enough to take on the job. My employer asked me if I would be working on the plumbing inside the building or in the parking lot – but there was no plumbing in the parking lot, he was just checking to see if I felt up to the task! We went over the drawings together and I gave him my opinion and just like that the rest all came together and I ended up working with them for a while until I completed my trade test in 2019. After getting qualified I got registered with PIRB and then with IOPSA as well, and I must say having memberships with these official bodies gives me great confidence in my work as a plumber. And that’s how I became the plumber that I am today.

David: I can imagine that must have been quite the boost to your self-esteem getting qualified. It almost sounds like they threw you into the deep end there a little, but you seem to have managed quite well. And now you run your own business?

Philani: Yes, that’s correct. I resigned and in recent times I’ve been running my own company, Gaabai Holdings. We are working on two different sites at the present moment, one of which is on hold for now. Slowly but surely, I’ve been growing my business and I hope to keep expanding to be able to provide the services which people need, especially in underprivileged communities where people need it most.

David: What has kept your interest in plumbing?

Philani: Well, that’s the interesting part for me. I would have to say something which has kept me interested is the involvement of PIRB and IOPSA, and why I say that is because since I registered about 5 years ago it has given me a sense of certainty in my capabilities. IOPSA makes it easy for us with the training they provide us, by teaching us safe practices in order to protect people’s families from diseases, as well as the leadership they provide to us here in KZN in particular. I want to mention Steve Brown, Mahen, and Ralph Scott. These fine men put in a lot of time and effort to pass on their knowledge to me. They’ve done a lot to guide us and keep the plumbing industry on the right track. As we are currently facing issues of non-compliance with materials and individuals in the industry it makes things very challenging for everyone. It’s difficult to describe but when you get to a site and there has been work done which is incorrect then it puts you in a position where you first have to fix their mistakes before you can begin to work on the system. Another thing I would like to mention is the solar geyser and heat pump training which they provided. It goes a long way in giving a person the right tools to do things the right way. Not only does it help the environment, but it also diversifies the offering your business can provide for a given client. Aside from normal domestic water supply and drainage, we are now embracing renewable energy sources so it’s wise to have the certification to work on these two types of systems as a plumber.

David: Very wise indeed with the current energy crisis. What has been one of your favourite projects to work on?

Philani: We had to complete a project, a four-storey building, which had a very short time frame with a lot of work to be done. That was a project which taught me to be strategic and plan for every stage of the plumbing process. This was my first time working with HDPE pipe and I have to say I was very impressed. Once the project was completed, I am proud to say that all the plumbing work done was hugely successful and is still working to this day.