Apartheid undeniably stripped off South Africans plenty of opportunities and SA government has been doing its bit to mend the bridges broken by then regime. Unfortunately, there were innocent children whose childhood was interrupted. Fifty-year-old entrepreneur and mother of four Bulelwa Dywili was only a few years old when her father had to smuggle her in and out of his hostel.
“The quarters that we lived in were designated for strictly men. There was seven of us and we lived in a one-roomed house, and shared space with another family. Older people would be in bed and we as children crammed in the passage between the beds, there was neither peace nor privacy” she recollects the disturbing picture in her head.
“We lived in constant fear that there would be a raid, and we would be sneaked back into the township to sleep at the first stranger’s house that opened for us. We’d then head back to the quarters the following day. My dad knew some officials and they’d alert him when the next raid would take place to get us out as soon as he could, otherwise he’d get arrested if he were caught with us.” Bulelwa says.
Young Bulelwa’s childish mind couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to spend time with her father, or why she was more vulnerable around the person she leaned on for security.
“At some point you’d become angry at the oppressive system, and wonder why you had to go through that. We learnt the hard way but our parent’s teachings kept us in the right lane. You only wish that government never builds such buildings again and let humans live under such conditions but unfortunately, people live under worse,” she says.
After apartheid was abolished in 1990, Bulelwa saw education as the only ticket out of poverty and she still does.
“I have a Diploma in Public Administration and Management that I completed in 1992. Education is very important because you get to be financially independent. You learn new things and education is constantly revolving, and by ‘education’ I’m not only referring to formal education. The little experiences you pick up in life teach you the best lessons.” Bulelwa is currently completed a business year course at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).
She has had her fair share of business downfalls in the past and she cites them to lack of business knowledge.
“I didn’t know what to do after working at Transet. It was hard to find a job but I had the desire to start my own business, although I didn’t know what it’d be about. I was a business partner to this person and we created BEE certificates. We worked for the company but it fell through eventually because it was hard to maintain it.”
Bulelwa picked herself and persevered on nonetheless.
“I partnered with two gentlemen and opened a business that offered Financial Assistance. The company started limping due to inactivity from the members and lack of business knowledge, and we it hit rock bottom eventually. I didn’t take that failure well and it took a knock on my health as well.”
She even had to consult a counsellor who advised her to terminate the relationship with her partners as they were not contributing to her growth.
“I was miserable and confused that I had to seek counselling. The counsellor tried to mend the broken bridges by organising a meeting with my business partners but that never materialised, they just never pitched up. He then told me to move on because the business would take me nowhere. I had registered that business at the USB but I had to let them know that it wasn’t working out, the partners were inactive and there was no need for me to resuscitate a dying horse anymore. They advised I needed to open my own business and I eventually named it Saksida.”
As her business name suggests, Bulelwa’s in it to succeed this time around.
“The question I had to ask myself was what is it that would interest and keep me passionate, and the answer was simple – clothes. I love clothes and it was just fitting for me to sell them. I’m in the research process right now because I wouldn’t want to make the same mistake we made. I also learnt you need to go and present your product to people because it gives them recognition and they feel valued. It’s about identifying your target market and cater specifically for it,”
Her company name has a huge significant meaning to her as it as a combination of her nickname and grandson’s name.
“I feel much better now because I have absolute control over my business, its success is in my control. I won’t be easily sabotaged and betrayed by people whose commitments are elsewhere. I’m 100% hands on this project. I’m still working with one of my former partners, because we both fell victim to the third person.”
Bulelwa concludes by advising the youth to stay active in their communities and the “time for their name to be called will come”.
“Keep humble in whatever situation you are in, and all else will fall into place. You must accept that you’re in that space for a reason but don’t get too comfortable, rather have a goal to emerge victorious out of it. At the end of this tunnel there’s going to be a light. If you’ve parents, then be grateful because you’ve people who are fighting the struggle with you” she concludes.