Municipal LED disappoints black entrepreneur

ROB KNOWLES

HAVING successfully completed an entrepreneurial course on BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) and running his own garden nursery business, Thembelani Tomani is finding it virtually impossible to get the grants he is now entitled to receive.

Grahamstown-born Tomani is a qualified horticulturalist who received his National Certificate in Horticulture at the Peninsular Technical College in Cape Town and worked at Floradale Nurseries in Port Elizabeth for six years.

FRUSTRATED: Entrepreneur Thembelani Tomani is grateful for the help he has received from various members of the community in his effort to make a success of his garden nursery company, but is finding it frustrating dealing with municipal officials Picture: ROB KNOWLES

Having opened his own garden nursery in Alexandria, Red Nose Nursery, Tomani entered the SAB Kickstart programme in 2011, receiving training in goal setting, planning and other business activities. The course, which took place in Johannesburg, was organised by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). Tomani also learned of his rights under the law and the type of grant support he was entitled to claim.

TotT reported on his plight to find sponsorship in our August 26, 2011 edition.

“The problem is,” said Tomani, “so far I have heard only noises from them (municipal officials) and no action. They have told me I qualify for funding under the LED (local economic development) grant but, so far, no one has given me anything. They are listening but doing nothing. They are bast***s.”

Tomani said he was extremely grateful to those people who had assisted him over the last year. Specifically, he pointed out the tireless work of Erica McNulty of Sunshine Coast Tourism in Kenton.

“Without her help I would be nowhere,” he said.

McNulty said Tomani was a quiet man with extensive knowledge of plants, who offered advice to patrons of the local markets about growing and caring for gardens. She said Tomani had approached her for help and she had directed him to the municipality.

“Apparently the LED officer directed him to request the mayor use his discretionary account to assist. At that time Sipho (Tandani) was new to the post and had no money available,” she said, adding the municipality apparently offered Tandani a job, which he refused.

“He wants to grow his company, not join the municipal workforce.”

“Becoming a BEE entrepreneur has opened so many doors for me,” said Tomani. “I have been taught the municipality must support SMMEs (Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises). But so far, they have not put their money where their mouths are.”

“My name is on all the lists and registers but, so far, there is no money.”

Tomani has big plans to assist the community once his business receives funding, including opening a school of horticulture in Alexandria.

“I want to give back to my community, and share my experiences,” said Tomani. “I can teach the children of Alexandria how to grow vegetables. I have a 10ha area of my farm specifically established for food production.”

And Tomani will not stop at gardening when he teaches the children. He intends to help them understand the entire entrepreneurial process.

“This all depends on whether I can get the municipality to listen to me and grant me the money they agree I am due,” he said.

“I am very excited about my business,” he said. “I plan to put Ndlambe and Alexandria on the world map.”

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