Businesswoman who sold sweets as a child now one of the few African women to own a game lodge

Johannesburg – Nompumelelo Ngwenya is the owner of LeNgwenya Private Game Lodge, making history as one of the few African women in the safari industry.

Before becoming one of the first private game lodge owners, she was a bookkeeper for an accounting firm and learned her entrepreneurship skills from the early age of 10 years old.

By the time she bought her farmland in 2012 and converted it into a game lodge, she was already something of a trailblazer.

Against all odds, Nompumelelo Ngwenya, a tough, independent, and driven woman built and decorated the safari lodge in the African bush, in Bela Bela.

After years of trying out different business ventures, some successful and mostly failed, she bought a farming plot which is now known as LeNgwenya Private Game Lodge in Bela Bela.

“After saving up and trying all sorts of business ventures. I bought a farm in 2012. I opened a record label with my sister called Xhentsa Entertainment and signed two artists, Lisa Good and Jey Charles but the business did not do well.”

“A lodge was a more sensible investment especially to use the farm space and that is how Le Ngwenya was birthed. It had old houses which my husband renovated into cabins for the lodge. I did the décor myself and the look and feel of the lodge. We officially opened the lodge to the public in 2019,” Nompumelelo said.

Home to wildlife and guests looking for a home away from home, LeNgwenya Private Game Lodge offers breath-taking views of wildlife; zebras, nyalas, gemsbok, impala, waterbuck, and peacock.

An early morning game drive with breakfast in the bush is ideal for relaxation.

The luxury accommodation is suitable for young and old, family getaways, and those looking for a private getaway under the African sky.

LeNgwenya Private Game Lodge is suitable for conferences and corporate gatherings, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Massages at the lodge spa are a must-have and children can enjoy outdoor play areas, a jungle gym, and a children’s pool.

“When we launched, things were going smooth, and guests were enjoying the new lodge. Then Covid-19 happened, and it was the biggest challenge. We were out of business for 9 months. After strict lockdown rules were relaxed, the business was very slow. People couldn’t afford holidays, and some were afraid to be in public spaces. In the last quarter of the year, the business picked up.”

 

Nompumelelo says running a white male-dominated industry is not easy, but she is proof that hard work pays off.

“Running any business comes with its challenges and should never be taken for granted. I always avoid playing the race card and offer great service. Small things like keeping the lodge well maintained, treating guests well, and always meeting international standards.

Born and raised in Cape Town, Nompumelelo was raised by her uncle Thamsanqa Sijaji and aunt Patrica Sijaji from the age of one year old.

Her uncle had a taxi business and her aunt was a vendor selling food at local schools, that is where she learned business skills from a very young age.

She grew up a happy child, in a busy home. She had a business acumen from a young age, all because of her guardians, and at 10 years old, she started a small business selling sweets at school.

She had very little time to play with other kids. She preferred to spend her extra time helping out in the family businesses.

“I was raised by my uncle and aunt in Cape Town, where I was born. My uncle had old taxis, he used to wake us up early in the morning to help him start the taxi. Then we will help my aunt to prepare the meals she will be selling at school. When coming back from school, we had to go and buy stock for the following day l. So playtime was very little,” she said.

“My mom got pregnant when she was doing matric and went to nursing school then my aunt took care of me. My biological parents are James Hlohla (Cape Town) and Sandulela Ntonga (Durban) left me in the care of my uncle and aunt who took care of me. My uncle owned old taxis and my aunt sold food at a local school. I then later got married in 2010 and my husband and I have a blended family of 8 children.”

A view of one of the rooms available at the lodge.
A view of one of the rooms available at the lodge.

Nompumelelo studied Management Accounting and worked as a bookkeeper to an Accountant. She is a qualified Family Herbalist (Inyanga).

“I am also currently completing studies in Ethnomedicine through the Ethnomedicine Practitioners Association of South Africa (EPASA).” Nompumelelo is completing her studies in Ethnomedicine while balancing family life with a husband and a blended family of eight children.

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