Cape Town mom on building her private game lodge dream

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Nompumelelo Ngwenya has been business minded from a young age and learned from her taxi driver uncle and vendor aunt.
Nompumelelo Ngwenya has been business minded from a young age and learned from her taxi driver uncle and vendor aunt.

She loves the fresh outdoors and being one with nature. Growing up in the city, she hardly got a chance to see any wildlife. But owning a game lodge has always been a dream of hers since she was young.

But what did a young woman from the Western Cape know about running a game lodge?

Fast forward to many years later and the little girl who dreamed of owning her land with animals now owns LeNgweya Private Game Lodge.

Nompumelelo Ngwenya has been saving up for more than 10 years and exploring different ventures while working towards her dreams of having a game lodge. 

“There is not a single business that I did not pursue,” she says.

"At one point, I started Xhentsa Entertainment a record label and we signed two artists, but that also did not work out.” 

The qualified Herbalist worked for an accounting company for many years as a bookkeeper where she learned finance and running a business.

She studied Management Accounting and worked as a bookkeeper to an accountant. She is also a qualified Family Herbalist (Inyanga) and she is currently completing studies in Ethnomedicine through the Ethnomedicine Practitioners Association of South Africa (EPASA).

Born in Cape Town, Nompumelelo was raised by her taxi driver uncle Thamsanqa Sijaji and her aunt Patricia Sijaji who sold food at a school. Her mom was in Grade 12 when she gave birth to her and relied on family to help raise the young girl.

“I got my business instinct from my aunt and my uncle. My uncle owned old taxis, but he was disciplined, and business minded. My aunt was always on time at the school, and I helped both and that is where I learned to be business-minded.” 

By age 10 years old Nompumelelo was already running her own a sweet stall. 

“I sold sweets from school and at home, and I saved the money,” she says.

“This for me is an important lesson to teach children to be money-wise at a very young age,” she says.

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She's been working in business since then. In 2012 she bought a piece of farming land which had a few buildings in the property and slowly worked on using it as her game lodge. 

“The farm had a few houses on the plot, which my husband helped me to renovate into cabins and we turned the farm into LeNgwenya Private Game lodge, “she says.

“I was looking to do something that will benefit myself and the area, by creating employment and a lodge seemed like the best idea. It took me eight years of working on the land, rebuilding the property, decorating the cabins, and opened the restaurant, KwaDontsa before we could launch.” 

The lodge is home to wildlife and guests looking for a home away from home with breath-taking views of wildlife; zebras, nyalas, gemsbok, impala, waterbuck, and peacock situated on the R516 highway going towards Thabazimbi.

“We pride ourselves in being able to take care of our wildlife and really be a home away from home for families,” she says.

“It’s the perfect getaway for a family with children, couples, and anyone looking for time away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.”

Nompumelelo started with three employees helping to maintain the lodge and now has seven full-time employees.

“It has not been easy, but it has been worth every sweat,” she says.

“We have created employment in the area and an affordable lodge for people to visit,” she adds.

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Nompumelelo’s pride and joy has been up and running since 2019 but was negatively affected by the pandemic.

“It has not been easy. But luckily, we retained all our staff and managed to keep the lodge running,” she says.

“We have come a long way and I encourage anyone looking to start a business; the sky is not even a limit. It is a white male-dominated industry, but nothing is impossible.”

The wife and mom of eight balances running the lodge and family life.

“Everything I am is about family and building a legacy for generations to come,” she says.

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