by MTHULISI SIBANDA in Tweeling, Free State
TWEELING – TRADING in one’s fixed-income job for the uncertain world of farming can be one of the riskiest decisions to make considering South Africa’s volatile economic climate.
The move is nonetheless paying dividends for married couple, Professor Thabo and Ethel Masihleho, who are running thriving projects in the small town of Tweeling in the Free State Province.
The Masihlehos run the Thathel Agriculture and Lion’s Rest Game Lodge, respectively, in the town located 22 kilometres from Frankfort.
Lion’s Rest Game Lodge, the three-star facility, offers luxurious accommodation, a venue for weddings and conferences, a health and wellness spa as well as a taste of wildlife with a selection of animals.
Among animals visitors can see on the game drive include lions, wildebeests, zebras, blesboks, springboks, sables and ostriches.
The game lodge is a haven of tranquility and its staff complement of three ensures guests enjoy the best service for a memorable time.
Mrs Masihleho, who took early retirement from her government job to focus on the lodge full time, uses her culinary passion to personally prepare meals for guests.
“Since we started operating in 2011, the lodge has seen the number of visits grow and we now have day guests for lunch and game drives,” she said.
Also established in 2011, Thathel Agriculture is an egg production farm that also breeds lions and other wild animals for conservation. It is the brainchild of the professor, who took a leave after decades in the academia.
Thathel Agriculture started with staff members but while it has largely been successful, it is currently bearing the brunt of the avian influenza, which has forced Masihleho to lay off 29 workers.
“…but we are currently working hard to get going again and will be in production again within a couple of months,” he said.
Both businesses were finalists in the 2016 Eskom Business Investment competition (BIC).
Launched in 2008, the BIC gives an opportunity to registered black-owned small and medium enterprises that have been operating for a minimum of two years, a chance to win great prizes that can help them create jobs and boost economic activity in their communities.
The competition boasts various prizes including training and workshops.
Lion’s Rest competed in the Trade/Services sector while Thathel contested the Agriculture/Agri-processing category.
The competition’s other two categories are Manufacturing and Engineering/Construction.
BIC is an initiative of Eskom Development Foundation is tasked with implementing the power utility’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) strategy in sectors including enterprise development, education, healthcare, social and community development.
“The BIC helped us to market the business and gain some key contacts,” said Prof. Masihleho.
Mrs Masihleho said participating in the BIC helped them in marketing their businesses.
“The networking opportunities provided by the platform and the Small Business Expo in particular, assisted us in making more potential guests aware of the game lodge and our other services,” she said.
– CAJ News