Thriving car wash started with one man in a wheelchair

“I have gained my independence, doing things that I didn’t think I would be able to do,” says owner

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Photo of two men, one in a wheelchair
Ayabonga Makalima and Mziyanda Mjayezi started their car wash business in Langa in 2011. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

Ayabonga Makalima and Mziyanda Mjayezi met in 2011. It was a difficult time in their lives. They were both unemployed and needed to make a living. Makalima had spent years in a wheelchair after being stabbed by robbers on his way to work in Philippi in 2007.

The two friends opened a car wash in the parking lot of a church near where they lived in Langa in an area called New Flats. Five years later, they have one of the busiest car wash services in Langa and regular customers.

The business is named ‘Mzeewheller all purpose cleaner’, a combination of Mjayezi’s name and Makalima’s nickname – Wheller because of his wheelchair.

Before the stabbing, Makalima worked cleaning and cutting fish in a restaurant. Afterwards, he survived on a social grant.

“With this car wash I have gained my independence, making my own living and doing things that I didn’t think I would be able to do,” says Makalima.

Mjayezi worked as a boiler-maker for an engineering company. When his contract ended, it was not renewed because he lacked the necessary qualification.

“I was the only one working at home. At that time, I didn’t have the money to pay for the [boiler-making] course,” says Mjayezi.

A car wash costs R50 and the car is cleaned inside as well. Residents in a block of flats nearby allow Makalima and Mjayezi to connect a vacuum cleaner and a hose for a monthly fee.

On weekends, they sometimes work until 8pm because of the number of cars to be cleaned. They say they need more space to grow the business. During church services the car wash has to close. This is a problem during religious holidays such as Easter, when there are church services for four or more days.

The friends began with five employees and now have seven.

“On weekends and holidays, we take school children, so they can have something to do and make money for themselves instead of getting into trouble,” says Makalima.

This started when they helped students involved in gangs at schools to escape taking part in gang activity.

Makalima says winter is their quiet season because they do not have shelter.

“In winter, we can do three to four cars a day, but in summer we are busy. During the week, we can have 15 to 20 cars a day and on weekends even more,” he says.

On the busiest days, they wash up to 50 cars and earn approximately R2,500 a day.

TOPICS:  Society Unemployment

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