Young Eastern Cape entrepreneur follows father’s footsteps


A Transkei-born entrepreneur's drive to continue his family’s business and community service legacy was recognised at the weekend with an achievement award from the Mpondo Kingdom for his contribution to development in his hometown of Ntlaza in the Eastern Cape.

Caltex Ulundi service station owner Tukela Mtembu, 35, was proudly walking in his father’s footsteps when he received the Nkosi Ntsikayezwe Sigcau award at the Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival in Ntabankulu in the Mpondo Kingdom, Eastern Cape.

The Mtembu family have a long history in business in the area and Tukela’s late father received a similar award from the Kingdom in the 1950s, he said.

Mtembu opened the service station in 2012 as part of a shopping centre established by his parents. It has become a business, transport and social hub for the surrounding rural communities, and a key stopping point on the road from Mthatha to Port St Johns.

He returned to his Transkei roots from a business career in Gauteng in 2009, to realise his dream to “come and give back to the people who made my parents who they were”.

In just three years of operation, the service station has shown positive growth year on year , created employment and received various awards from Caltex Eastern Cape for excellence in operations, customer service and community outreach.

“This is more than a service station – it is a community hub and a catalyst for growth in the area. Bringing a major international brand like Caltex to the region gives confidence to other businesses and supports growth.

“When you start a business you empower yourself and you create opportunities for other people to improve their lives. That is what drives me,” says the passionate entrepreneur and community activist.

Caltex Eastern Cape Marketer CEO Clive Berlyn congratulated Mtembu on the award: “Tukela can be justifiably proud of all he has achieved in his business in the past three years. His commitment to his business and community reflects the Caltex values and commitment to serving our customers. We are proud to have him as a member of our Caltex family.”

Mtembu said that his ethic of “giving back” starts with the centre’s employees firstly.  He cited the example of a staff member who had developed from a domestic worker into a fully-fledged back office administrator who runs the business for him now.

Determined to show the youth in the area that “a boy from Ntlaza can still achieve big dreams”, Mtembu regularly does motivational talks at local schools, as well as distributing books and stationery and providing bursaries for two local students to attend university.

An annual raffle raises funds for repairs, maintenance and supplies for a local crèche “adopted” by the service station while Mtembu has also been involved in raising funds to upgrade schools in Port St Johns, and runs a project with other local businesses to collect and distribute sanitary towels to ensure that high school girls don’t miss out on their schooling due to lack of these basic essentials.

“This place is dear to my heart and I am actively involved in local affairs in the traditional council, church and community events. We must all work together to develop this area and its people as responsible citizens – we can’t sit back and expect the government to do everything, we must help ourselves too,” he said.

Image: ROYAL RECOGNITION – Tukela Mtembu was recognised by the Mpondo Kingdom for his business acumen and contribution to the Ntlaza communities and surrounds over the weekend.  Congratulating him is (LtR) HRH Stella Sigcau II, HRH Zama Faku Sigcau and Princess Nwabisa Ntsikwe. Supplied.