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Women’s Month heroes

By Thembelani Mkhize

With August being Women’s Month, l wanted to celebrate the rocks in my life. They refuse to break, only getting stronger and finer as pressure turns them into the diamonds they were meant to be.

I think my mother, Nomusa Maphanga, should be first up. She educated me on the importance of appreciating women.

Apart from mom, there are a few women who have made an impact, not only on my life, but on the lives of people in my community.

Sma Mahlaba is a fashion designer who has inspired and mentored youth from Mpophomeni who are either at a school or working in the fashion industry. She started her fashion movement, Black Teardrop, with a friend, who sadly passed away before their dream was realised.

Black Teardrop

“Nkanyiso’s passing made me realise what Black Teardrop actually meant,” she says. “He used to tell me about this every day, about what it meant to him, but I didn’t get it until I experienced the pain of him passing without being recognised for who he was,” says Sma.

Designs by Black Teardrop, which is run by Sma Mahlaba and Siso Mbotshwa.

In 2010, she managed to acquire an old building at the Montrose facility in Mpophomeni. With the help of friends, she turned it into her workspace and now designs and makes outfits for people across the province and some from Gauteng.

Her assistant and partner, Siso Mbotshwa, is always around, learning from Sma.

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In 2014 she was featured on eTV’s SA Heroes, a series created to profile individuals who go the extra mile to contribute to their communities. One of her challenges is acquiring new machinery, but for now she tries her best with the skills she’s acquired to keep the machines in running order.

Third on my list of most valuable women is Senzile Madlala.

Her Midmar View restaurants are a local favourite, especially their shisa nyama weekends. Apart from the restaurants, Senzile runs Il’e Nail and Beauty Spa, which was located in Mpophomeni, but has since moved to Pietermaritzburg. Her foundation has done a lot of community work, including driving the Mpophomeni Farmers’ Market, sponsoring a running race and hosting a free lunch for the elderly in December to thank them for their support.

Senzile prides herself on being a tough, no-nonsense businesswomen, but also a caring mother. She teaches her kids the value of hard work by giving them odd jobs at her restaurants. She also runs Senzile’s Catering.

Driven by a love of art and community pride

She once told me: “You have to know your worth, otherwise people will use and walk all over you. Knowing how much your time is worth is very important when you do business.”

Permaculture queen Ntombenhle Mtambo, left.

Last, but not least, is Ntombenhle Mtambo, the permaculture queen. Her vetkoek and salad are absolutely delicious.

Ntombenhle’s garden is her pride and joy, and has received visitors from all over the world. The garden was once a dump site which she used to walk through every day on her way from work.

She features in the cookbook, Mnandi – A taste of Mpophomeni, and has travelled as far as Italy to share her knowledge of permaculture.

No waste

“Everything in my garden works; nothing is wasted. If a plant dies, we use it as compost to help the others grow. Everything in my garden is edible, too,” says sis Ntombenhle.

She’s currently working on a new cookbook that features all her healthy recipes and a few new ones.

Women, take a bow.

Picture, top: No-nonsense Senzile Madlala, who owns the Midmar View restaurants, a nail and beauty spa and catering company.


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