By: Tebogo Mokwena
The Makhelwane Festival is centred around the township economy and aims to build townships by turning them into hubs for entrepreneurs. The festival, which has been held since 2014, was in Orlando West in Soweto this weekend, where the pros and cons of the entrepreneurial landscape were discussed amongst stall owners as well as the impact of Gauteng’s new Township Economic Development Act.
According to the event’s co-founder, Sifiso Dlangamandla, the festival had placed small businesses and empowerment at its centre. It did so by not only providing space for them to trade during the festival but also by providing procurement opportunities for small businesses based in townships. This year the streets of Orlando West were turned into a marketplace, and a vibrant space for music, food, entertainment and a variety of products.
Dlangamandla said 60 SMMEs had stalls at the festival and other small businesses benefitted indirectly. “We procured services for the sound from a small business in Protea North, the tent services from a business in Dube, and the security services from a company based in Orlando West,” he told Vutivi News. “There are SMMEs from which we hired jumping castles, and also SMMEs that managed the artists. “The township economy is about creating an environment for business, changing how people view townships and encouraging businesses to be innovative and seek solutions for the problems townships face,” he also said.
Dlangamandla called on more government departments to support the township economy. “We work with institutions like Gauteng Tourism, Joburg Tourism and Constitutional Hill, and they have done great work in investing in the township economy,” he said. Ntokozo Xulu’s business Hectic 7 Creations had a stall at the festival this weekend. Hectic 7 sells streetwear and is based in Freedom Park.
Xulu said that he had been attending the event as a business since 2014. “The Makhelwane Festival introduced my brand to a bigger audience in Gauteng, as I was focused a lot on Soweto,” he told Vutivi News. “Our business will soon be launching a shop this year and it is thanks to the wider market reached by festivals like Makhelwane Festival. “This past weekend was also an exhilarating experience, as we made lots of sales,” he said. Xulu also described the festival as a vehicle to put SMMEs on the map.
“It has a massive impact on the township economy, as many businesses are empowered not just by selling, but by providing services at the event,” he said. “The festival also provides SMMEs the level of advertising that draws more people not only to their stalls but also to their businesses.” David Mogane, whose fast food business Iced Pepper Fast Foods was also present at the event, said that it gave his Meadowlands business publicity. “The event gave us good publicity and exposure that one wouldn’t normally get,” he said.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that my burgers were a hit, as on a normal occasion burgers wouldn’t be that popular,” Mogane said that thanks to the festival, he was expecting an increase in orders and profit. “More people know about the business, and this is always good news.” Silindile Zuma’s business Nanola Wine was also present. She said she learnt about the festival when a client stocked her wine from a previous festival. She said that she witnessed and personally experienced the spirit of neighbourliness in the township during the festival.
“Our company received wonderful exposure and was introduced to more clients,” she said. “The security was good, and the community accommodated us really well, such that I was allowed to park my car in someone’s yard throughout the festival.” Gauteng’s Economic Development and Tourism MEC Tasneem Motara welcomed the festival. She said that townships could become centres of excellence, industrial hubs, creative zones, livable spaces, knowledge hubs and magnets for repeat visits.