By Yvonne Dos Santos | December 02, 2016

My name is Mzimkulu Sokapase.  I am 56 years old. I was born in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape in 1960. I come from a family of three children.  I had a very difficult childhood. My father left my mother when I was six. He was very abusive to my mom and my brothers. Because my mom did not have a job, I was sent to live with my father. I lived with him until I was 16 years old and during that time I was not able to attend school regularly. 

I knew that I did not want to be like my father. I started doing piece jobs when I could get them and I eventually got my matric when I was 34. In 2013, my wife came to Johannesburg. She lived with her friend in the squatter camp in Reiger Park. She told me that there was a school down the road that was doing skills training. I came here in 2015. I met a guy from my church who told me which courses were offered at St Anthony’s. I was very interested in upholstery and I did the course in July 2015.   At the end of the course I did the Nexgen Entrepreneurship Programme. I learnt so much. They taught us how to work as a team and how to start a business. They told us about how to get finance, marketing and how to manage the business. I was the top performing student with 98%. We had to form a business and I was part of the business called Bright Future. My business came second in the Business Challenge. We made an overall profit of 87%. 

I now have my own business. I started it in January. I always enjoyed sewing so I asked myself how I could start making things to sell. I had very little money. I get my material from various dumps where people throw out things they don’t want and I recycle these. I make pencil bags and shoe bags. I use the old materials that I find so it does not cost me much. I only spend money on buying cotton, zips and hangars.  I have no electricity in my shack so I use a hand sewing machine. I sell my shoe bags for R50 and the pencil cases for R20. 

I market my business by going from door to door with my products. I have also made posters which I have put up around the squatter camp.  I have 52 orders now. Last month I made R1 900. I employ my wife and she is my secretary and I pay her. My customers live in the squatter camp. 

It is my dream to get out of the squatter camp and get a proper house. I am trying to get a loan from the bank and I am busy trying to get the information they need. I will soon be registering the businesses. I have been offered a small space to work from in the township and when I buy my industrial sewing machine I will work from there.  In 2020 I want to be a fully-fledged business with at least R1 million in the bank.

St Anthony’s has helped me so much. I am very proud of what I have achieved so far. I can really see that I can make money for myself. I will work very hard until I have reached my goal. God bless everyone at St Anthony’s for helping the people, even the older people, to make a difference in their own lives


CIE supports poor Catholic schools in South Africa who have many desperate needs. We strive to give every child in our schools the education they deserve.