THEMBA / MAYO / QHAWE (HERO)

“I have done everything.  I started off as a gardener, became a driver, then Front of House. One day I will be in charge!”

He is Mr Personality of Lalibela. Themba, our man with many names,  might introduce himself to you as Mayo, Qhawe or Hero. Regardless of what name he gives you, you’re guaranteed some laughs, an epic story or even a Xhosa poem.

1. Why are you called Mayo and Hero?

I grew up playing a lot of football (soccer). I formed a team for the kids in the township. I was lucky enough to have a good coach and I wanted to take it back to the community. Football is a tool to get the youth to think beyond where they currently are – it teaches them life lessons.

They started calling me hero. But I don’t want to be a hero. I just live my life to make sure those boys don’t close any doors for good opportunities.

2. How did you start at Lalibela?

I personally dropped my CV off at Lalibela, and I waited one year after my interview before they called me about a job. But I had the right mindset – you have to be positive, you have to say “there’s the right job out there for me, and I’m going to find it.”

3. How has your journey here been?

I started as a gardener. I put a lot of hard work in – I worked hard to understand all aspects of being a gardener. But I wanted to understand everything – the lodges, the guests, the landscape. I learnt housekeeping so that I could help when they needed it.

Management noticed my hard work and made me a driver. But I asked for something more challenging, I said “Mr Rob, I know how to drive, I need to learn more”.

So they promoted me to a lodge waiter and then to trainee assistant manager.

4. What is your favourite part of being at Lalibela?

I don’t feel like I work here, I feel like a part of Lalibela. We’re a family, a team. Everyone here has a good heart and gives me support. Anri and I work at three different lodges, each has their own environment. And I know that when we have a problem, we’ll solve it because we’re a good team.

I enjoy being around the guests and the people in the kitchen. We have a huge responsibility on our shoulders – we represent South Africa.

In search of more reading? Here’s a chat with Tobani!

A CHAT WITH TOBANI