Entrepeneur spreads infectious optimism to tourists and Khayelitsha learners
Lembeni, who is 31, is originally from the Eastern Cape. He was born in Lady Frère then moved to East London. Like so many families in the Eastern Cape looking for better opportunities, his moved to Cape Town. He spent his early age in Khayelitsha, attending Nomsa Maphongwane Primary and Uxololo High schools. He also did higher education at Cape Town College and finished a degree at UNISA.
Before starting his own business, Lembeni volunteered at the aquarium. He also worked for Cape Town Tourism. With this experience he decided to start his own business. "This is not just any business. As someone who grew up in this township, attending the schools here, I know how it feels to learn without textbooks and how it feels to be told about something you can’t feel or see,” he says.
Lembeni started Imizamo Yethu Tours. He takes hundreds of tourist from all over the world to show them Cape Town's townships. When he started he did most of his tours in Hout Bay but decided to move them mainly to Khayelitsha. Lembeni's website states, "He has a great passion for community development in Khayelitsha. He is always wearing a smile and exuding infectious optimism." And spending a few minutes with him shows that this is not just marketing rhetoric. He is friendly and funny. His entertainment skills are boundless: he is also a magician.
Besides taking tourists around, during the school year he takes learners on tours. "Our people don’t have money we can’t run away from that. When I take learners for a tour I charge them R200. This covers transport, food and a boat ride," he explains.
"Tourists from outside Africa get shocked with the chicken feet’s, smiley’s (Sheep heads), sour milk and other things that we eat. To them it’s really shocking but what I like about them is that they like experiencing things whereever we go,” Lembeni says. He says many tourists come back or send him emails asking how they can help people in need. Lembeni intends to eventually expand his business beyond Khayelitsha. Currently he is busy writing a book about Cape Town townships and his life. Wisely he says, "Education is the key of life. Without education, life is not easy at all. This is the most important thing to do in life. Without it you ain't gonna make it. Lastly be yourself and be responsible for your actions."