Perhaps labels really are just for boxes – because Lindokuhle Mnisi’s talents certainly can’t be put in one. At 24, Mnisi is a multiskilled, self-made entrepreneur. Growing up in Lothair, a village in Mpumalanga, he’s surpassed all expectations of how many thought he’d turn out.
Coming from a family of five, he is the youngest of three brothers. His mother, Thulisile Rebecca Khumalo, had to drop out of school and get married. “My father was a loving man and a church-going person,” Mnisi says. “And he was well off because he had cattle. But the problem came when he tasted alcohol for the first time.” Mnisi’s father turned abusive and domestic violence became a part of their lives.
“From the age of five, I’ve seen my mother cry,” he recalls. “I remember jumping through the window, running away from my father while she had me on her back, seeking help from a neighbour for a place to sleep.”
Despite all the challenges they faced, Mnisi’s mother decided to complete matric at the age of 37. She went on to pursue a degree and graduated in 2014 at the age of 48. And she’ll be getting her second degree on 7 April 2016. “This is where I draw my inspiration from,” Mnisi says. “My mother was forced into a marriage, endured abuse, but finally graduated and followed her dreams.”
Mnisi is an author and has published a book titled The Victim of Circumstances – Life of a Village Boy, in which he looks at the challenges he faced and how he overcame them. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories. In my community there was only one journalist we knew of, [political journalist] Thulasizwe Simelane,” he explains.
In 2010, Mnisi decided to leave the village and head to Johannesburg to embark on a new journey. He lived in his brother’s outside building and travelled from Tsakane in the East Rand to the SABC studios in Auckland Park, where he’d observe the activities of the media organisation. “I’d basically do nothing but look at people,” Mnisi says. He was often part of the studio audience for music show Gospel Time. “I was really trying to get myself closer to what I wanted to achieve and wanted to be, but it just wasn’t happening. But I kept on trying.”
Mnisi applied for a journalism degree at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in 2011. Three months later, the university’s radio station, TUT FM, offered him a position. “As a village boy, I was worried about my English but I managed,” he says.
Mnisi was hired by TUT as a student assistant to help with broadcast studies. Staff members were impressed with his tenacity and hunger to learn. And if that didn’t keep him busy enough, Mnisi also did voluntary work with community newspapers in Gauteng .
Two years later, news network ANN7 offered him a position as a reporter after he’d applied by submitting a proposal rather than sending them a CV. “Trust me, I didn’t even know how to write a proposal but I took a leap of faith.” Many doors opened for him as a result and he soon received an offer to work at news broadcaster eNCA.
He started his company, Iphupho Consulting, in 2014. Its aim is to empower and motivate people in the township – Mnisi visits schools as a motivational speaker. His company also deals with branding and design. A team is assigned to design logos and even make graduation gowns, many of which have been bought or hired for the past graduation period at universities. Iphupho Consulting also makes protective clothing for miners, such as overalls.
Later in 2015, Mnisi published his book, which was no easy task. He had to find a publisher because he didn’t have the funds to do it himself. While many publishers enjoyed his book, some have put the idea on hold for now. “I’m still waiting for the call. But in the process of trying to find a publisher, I learnt the trade of publishing,” he says. He asked a friend to edit his book and the rest is history.
The idea to develop his company even more arose from the difficulty he had trying to publish his book. He thought, “let me start a wing within the company to offer the service of publishing books for those who can’t afford it”. They’ve managed to publish six books.
“What keeps me going is the fact that my dreams are bigger. I don’t want to fail myself and the people who can one day benefit from what I’m doing.”
His motivational speaking experience has taken him as far as speaking at youth development seminar Leadership 2020, after DJ Sbu asked him to take up the task. “You think people aren’t watching when in fact they’re seeing you make moves, which is amazing.” He’s been a frequent guest on SABC1 show Mzansi Insider and is often invited to speak at schools in Limpopo and North West.
Running the business from a garage space he hired in a township, Mnisi’s team of about 15 staff members continue to push boundaries. The young man is arguably a true example of a diehard, and he seems to be going in one direction – up.
“They used to tell me all I’d be good for was to clap as a spectator at Rebecca Malope’s show [Gospel Time] and watch others succeed – but I’m proving them wrong.”