“I advise the youth not to underestimate the power of the soil and not to look down on farming…”
Thanda Mbeje has planted seeds of knowledge to her students as a teacher and principal and now turned commercial farmer in KZN since 2019. Thanda’s journey can be described as a seed that was dropped in the soil surrounded by dirt and darkness and eventually made it to the light and blossomed like a flower in spring time. She is the founder of Thanda Mbeje Foundation.
Mbeje is also the owner of Kwa Mandlovu gardens. The initiative is supported by the government for female farmers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. She is still in her early days in the agriculture sector yet she is managing to make a positive turnover with the guidance of mentors. Thanda sees herself farming full time in the near future.
Before her life blossomed she was like a seed that had to fight to grow through the tough soil. Thanda is from a previously disadvantage background in Pine Town.
Raised by her great grandmother with 10 of her cousins, Thanda says “being away from my parents made me a rebellious child but despite my chosen path I knew both my parents loved me”.
Her great grand mother was strict and was a great leader and an example to Thanda and the community at large. When Mbeje passed her matric with remarkable marks many were surprised as it didn’t seem like she would make it because of how she behaved and carried herself.
“Luckily my mother had saved some money through the years for my education and I had an opportunity to study further and enrolled for a teaching course “says Thanda.
Shortly after graduating she managed to secure a job which immensely helped her poverty stricken family financially. Her family is proud of how she turned her life around and keeps supporting her as she continues to make her mark in KZN.
She says: “I’m a born leader just like my great grandmother”. In high school and tertiary Thanda held leadership roles that helped to sharpen her leadership skills and shaped her to be a blossoming woman.
In 2014 she became a principal in Ulundi. “The news of me becoming a principal was not fairly received by some community members” she adds. In 2019 she was attacked at gun point by 5 men who posed as policemen.
“They beat me close to death but luckily I was not raped however I was left half dead and with no car”.
Thanda managed to get to the nearest police station to report the incident. She was hospitalized at Saint Joseph hospital and fell into a deep depression which led to anxiety.
“At this point my life came crumbling down” she says. “All the good things in my life were accompanied by bad luck and vise verse”. In 2008 she was accused of forging her teaching qualification. She experiences another traumatic incident while in tertiary. “I was attacked by a group of guys and landed up in hospital”.
“I hated men” she says. The success of her first book called ‘At Gun Point My Dreams were Conceived’ was well received by men. While marketing her book and attending interviews for it men would reach out to her. The book gave people in hopeless situations hope.
“One guy that reached out to me was raped by his father and another was close to suicide because he didn’t know his father”, shares Thando.
She no longer resents the male gender. Her second book is a handbook titled ‘Take It from a Woman’ and was published in June this year. “I can be in boxed on all social media platforms on Thanda Mbeje for those who would like to reach me” she says.
The Thanda Mbeje foundation focuses on youth from previously disadvantaged background. This year their main focus is the boy child from rural areas and disadvantaged background. “Let’s include men in conversations of gender base violence and rape. Some men are ticking time bombs because of their abusive background”, Thanda adds.
Mbeje is no longer in Ulundi as her safety was compromised at gun point and some attackers have not been found. “ One of my biggest achievements while I was in Ulundi was being part of a foundation helping children previously disadvantaged, assisting them with obtaining registration fees”.
Thanda Mbeje’s future plans are to be fully involved in farming and grow her foundation internationally. “I advise the youth not to underestimate the power of the soil and not to look down on farming. The youth should develop a mind set to be job creators and less of job seekers”, she concludes.