Put a few colourful Mini Coopers together, along with their Generation Y party animal owners, and what do you get? A Mini Cooper charity club called Le-Mini-iYeza (LMY), from the Nguni expression lemini iyeza, meaning “the day shall come”.
The day came quite by chance for this bunch of sassy Mini Cooper owners from Joburg.
A couple of friends in their Mini Coopers met at a party in Kathlehong at the end of January last year and an idea took hold. “Why not gather together Mini Cooper lovers/owners and drive to parties together in convoy?”
Within weeks, there were 10 Mini Cooper owners in the Mini Cooper “party club”, and they were becoming a much anticipated spectacle as they made their way from party to party in Joburg’s suburbs and surrounding townships each weekend.
“People were clearly excited and motivated by it. The logical next step was to use the buzz we were creating to give something back. So last May we launched Le-Mini-iYeza, a social investment club of Mini Cooper owners,” says founding member and one of its six directors, Lebogang Ntoagae, a 30-year-old travel agent who lives in Kensington, east of Joburg, and the owner of a creamwhite Mini Cooper convertible.
LMY’s membership now stands at 40.
One of its first charity drives was to Setlopo village in Mafikeng to give food and clothing to Rebecca Phejane, the now well-known mother of two sets of triplets who, being single and unemployed, is struggling to raise her brood.
Their efforts were well received by a grateful Phejane, who tearfully told the crew: “We’re happy for the miracle that happened in this family.
I want to thank you for visiting us all the way from Johannesburg and wish the Lord helps your cause.” Almost every month since then has seen the club setting off in convoy to help someone in need, using their own resources or appealing to friends and family to donate clothing or food.
On June 16, LMY were the centre of attention in Soweto as they arrived to drop off donations at an underprivileged family’s home, then offered a group of schoolchildren joy rides, before finally gathering at the Hector Pieterson memorial in Orlando.
The club has since done charity rides to Tembisa on the East Rand and Alexandra in the north of Joburg, each time dipping into their own pockets to help the needy.
In Alex, they dropped off nappies, food and clothing to an HIV-positive Matsileng Nkadimeng, a grandmother to orphaned children, one of them blind and mute.
At the end of this month, the club is heading to KwaThema, near Springs, to drop off school shoes to underprivileged kids at three different schools.
LMY also visits and supports small township businesses, such as Backroom, a bar-lounge-restaurant in Soweto, which in turn encourages custom.
“We come from these township neighbourhoods. Most of our members are actually from Soweto, so we recognise the need out there,” says another director, 30-year-old Brian Macheke, a manager at a glass and fibreglass company who lives in Soweto.
“Our objective is to give back, but we are also trying to act as role models to the kids, to encourage them to follow their dreams in the working world, so they can also own a Mini Cooper one day.”
Being in the R200 000 to R250 000 bracket, it’s a given that members of Le-Mini-iYeza have realised their own lifestyle ambitions, albeit often with the financial help of their parents or relatives, and perhaps even a bond from the bank.
Most of the members are between 25 and 35 years old, hold down good jobs, and are living independently.
Interestingly, a number of the women are unmarried mothers working for a corporate, with support enough to have some unfettered fun at the weekends in their sexy, shiny Minis.
Like Ntoagae herself. Originally from KwaThema, Ntoagae works for Flight Centre and lives with her 14-year-old daughter in her Kensington house.
Bubbly, articulate and ambitious, she was the one who organised the design of the logo for Le-Mini-iYeza through a contact at Flight Centre.
For the first directors’ meeting of 2013 recently, members met at her house, as they come from every part of Joburg.
Owning a Mini Cooper, which she’s had for a year-and-a-half, is an indulgence for which she’s not about to apologise.
“It’s very feminine and beautiful to drive. I’ll never get rid of it. And the best part is you can custom-design your car with Mini Cooper accessories, so it’s unique.
“Then there’s the branded clothing. I’m looking at the sneakers,” she confesses.
Originally from Durban, Petunia Sikhakhane is also a single mom to an 11-year-old son and feels strongly about women owning their own lives and futures and not being dominated by men in the home.
“It’s just something I feel strongly about personally,” says the attractive banker with killer heels.
The structure of LMY also shows the impressive organisational skills of its young founders.
The club is divided into six “villages” covering Joburg and its surrounds – two in the south, two in the east, one in the west, and one in the north, with one director for each.
“We also have a code of conduct, because, although we started as a party club, we are now a proper charity foundation with a calendar of events that we expect our members to attend,” says Sikhakhane.
The goal is to reach a membership of 60, and the directors are presently looking for a clubhouse.
They are also planning to approach Mini South Africa for possible sponsorship, and to hold an “inter-Mini conference” (with other Mini clubs) over a weekend in July.
Ultimately, the dream is to set up Le-Mini-iYeza in all the major cities in South Africa.
One of the spin-offs of belonging to a fun club like this, says Sikhakhane, is the support you get from within it.
“The members span lots of professions, from lawyers and accountants to computer specialists, so when we need a service, we go to one of our own. And when a member gets married, we are there in full Mini Cooper regalia on their wedding day,” she says.
Sitting in a restaurant in Melville, where their Mini Coopers are parked in the street outside, with Sikhakhane and Macheke dressed in their Le-Mini-iYeza T-shirts, and Ntoagae sporting fingernails alternately painted in black and white, it’s soon apparent that they ignite curiosity.
It’s their enthusiasm that’s most infectious, though.
“Once we started, we couldn’t stop. It’s a real rush. During the Alex trip, we realised just how much what we are doing means,” says Macheke.
And it all began with having fun, and playing with a sexy yuppiemobile called a Mini Cooper.