MBDA empowers New Brighton-born SMMEs

OCTOBER 12, 2015

The colourful and ancient craft of felting has become a thriving small business for four previously unemployed Port Elizabeth women, thanks to the initiative and training of the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA).

LaphumiKhwezi, which means ‘the star has risen’, was founded as a co-operative, in 2012 and the small company has gone from strength to strength, exhibiting at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and now expanding their skills to boost their business offerings.

The group is currently employed by the MBDA, as part of a job-creation programme funded by the NMBM with Extended Public Works Programme resources, to make and sell felt clothing, accessories and home décor items from their studio and gallery at The Athenaeum in Central.

Felt is a natural, hand-dyed cloth, produced by matting and condensing woollen fibres to form a strong, non-woven and versatile fabric that is transformed into one-of-a-kind bags, scarves, hats, jackets and more. For this creative and hard-working group, these desirable goods have also meant income and stability.

“MBDA has enabled us to put food on our tables. We are the bread winners in our homes and this opportunity has been truly humbling,” said Zandile Qeqe, a LaphumiKhwezi member.

Now, the LaphumiKhwezi team is also undergoing a brickmaking training programme, which will enable them to sell bricks to construction companies. Qeqe said the group will be qualified and able to work in the construction space with confidence.

Eight other New Brighton residents will be recruited into the brickmaking business and will undergo training. They will join the six ladies of LaphumiKhwezi.

The brickmaking business will be based in Phendla Street in New Brighton, which the MBDA has agreed to help clean up and fence off.

“We are now venturing into a long term working relationship with MBDA. The agency has enabled LaphumiKhwezi to become a holistic business, for which we are very grateful,” said Qeqe.

“In addition, this is enabling us to create employment opportunities for unemployed youth in Nelson Mandela Bay.” 

Oyama Vanto, Project Leader, Job Creation and Tourism at the MBDA said “poverty and unemployment are the challenges faced by many of our community members. Through this job creation programme that focuses on arts and crafts, the women have an opportunity to pursue the establishment of a uniquely Eastern Cape business entity. This is part of the vision of the MBDA for the Baakens River precinct.”

Members of the public are invited to visit LaphumiKhwezi at The Athenaeum, Studio 4, 7 Belmont Terrace, Central, from Monday to Thursday from 9am – 4pm and on Friday from 9am - 3pm. 


Image: SUCCESS ‘FELT’: LaphumiKhwezi members, from left, Ntombizodwa Kula, Phindiwe Majola, Zandile Qeqe and Nomfundiso Zitho, display some of their clothing and accessories made of felt, which are for sale to the public from The Athenaeum in Central, Port Elizabeth.