Three young women from Mpumalanga are making their mark in the tourism sector

These enterprising women are taking the lead and achieving significant milestones. Picture: Supplied

These enterprising women are taking the lead and achieving significant milestones. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 21, 2023


Amid challenging circumstances, where youth unemployment is as high as 65%, these enterprising women are taking the lead and achieving significant milestones.

Lwazi Thobela, Vutivi Mthimkhulu, and Mampho Makofane are shining examples of resilience, breaking free from the constraints often associated with rural village life.

Their determination and unwavering perseverance have propelled them into active roles within the burgeoning wildlife economy surrounding the iconic Kruger National Park.

While the luxurious comfort of Kruger Shalati private lodge, situated alongside the Sabie River in Skukuza, presents a stark contrast to the modest streets of Mkhuhlu, their hometown located 40km away, these young women have defied odds and risen above challenges.

Their success stories are linked to a collaboration between private lodges in the Kruger National Park region and local communities.

These lodges are committed to empowering their surroundings by providing employment opportunities to graduates who are well-equipped for the workforce.

As Women's Month celebrates the accomplishments of women across various fields, Thobela's aspiration to become a chef suffered a setback when she became teenage mother.

With the support of the Good Work Foundation (GWF) community, she managed to strike a balance between motherhood and her dreams. Here she gained vital digital and work-readiness skills for rural job opportunities.

Despite challenges, she pursued hospitality studies at the Travel & Tourism Academy. Her story underlines the importance of educational initiatives and community support in empowering individuals to overcome obstacles and chase their goals.

Lwazi Thobela, Picture: Supplied

“Previously, I’d had the opportunity to do chef training in Graaff-Reinet, but had to decline because of family commitments. Then, when I was offered a position at Hippo Hollow Country Estate (in Hazyview), my child was sick, and I couldn’t take up the position.

But the Good Work Foundation kept in touch with me, constantly checking in to ask me how I’m faring, do I need assistance finding work, and so on,“ she added.

“When the opportunity to do an internship at Kruger Shalati came up, Madam Tarshine (Mafuyeka, the GWF Hospitality Academy coordinator) phoned me to ask if I’m interested, and here I am! I’m hoping the internship will become permanent in time.”

Thobela counts “being patient, being humble and working hard” among the personality attributes that have gotten her this far.

Vutivi Mthimkhulu's. Picture: Supplied

Mthimkhulu tends to the bar at Kruger Shalati. Additionally, after completing her Bridging Year Academy (BYA) training post-school training to become more digitally literate, she enrolled in a short course in hospitality management.

Equipped with the skills acquired from the BYA training, which bolstered her digital literacy, Mthimkhulu ventured into a hospitality management course – a testament to her determination.

The assistance provided by the GWF proved pivotal in her career. In 2020, armed with her newfound knowledge and skills, she secured a position at Shalati.

Her initial nervousness was alleviated by her computer proficiency, thanks to the education she received. Starting as a cashier, she swiftly progressed to becoming a barista, ultimately assuming the role of a bar lady.

But she is taking self-empowerment a step further – thanks to her job, she saved up and bought a Toyota Avanza and is now the proud owner of a taxi.

“I can now firmly say that I am a businesswoman. My mom was so proud of me when I bought the taxi. She said to me, ‘This is why I named you Vutivi – your name means ‘knowledge’ (in Xitsonga), and you have shown that you really are knowledgeable’.”

Mampho Makofane, Picture: Supplied

Makofane is a cashier at the Kruger Station restaurant, run by Kruger Shalati. She has been working there since it opened two years ago, having studied at GWF’s IT Academy and then at its Travel & Tourism Academy.

“I was so happy when I got my first pay cheque,” she remembers. “My family are very proud of me being a breadwinner,” says Makofane.

Her advice to other young women is to “keep on pushing, keep on pulling your socks up, because one day you will get a job.I never thought I’d be here, working at Kruger Shalati!”

Makofane expressed that she’s eager to grow and sees herself being a manager.

Kruger Shalati is but one of the many lodges where GWF graduates are making their mark and these three inspiring women are just some of the many success stories of GWF’s pioneering Ecosystem of Learning and Working.