Greyton farm worker’s entrepreneurial spirit
At almost 60 years of age, most of us are thinking about ending our working career and yet for Elias Mkhalakahla, who manages the maintenance team at Tru-Cape’s Greyton apple and pear grower, The Oaks Estates, he seems just to be beginning.
Although farming in Kwa-Zulu Natal originally, The Ehlers family set up at the historic Oaks Estate in Greyton eight years ago. Gert Ehlers Jnr, who now manages farming operations, returned from a banking job on the Isle of Man, in the United Kingdom, and was full of praise for the role that Elias Mkhalakahla played on the farm. “My father was so grateful for how he helped set up the farm that he gifted his Mercedes 230. Rather than just enjoy the car himself, or sell it for cash in hand, he started a taxi service which was the seed for an another entrepreneurial solution: farm-worker transport.”
Ehlers explains that Mkhalakahla approached him with a plan to retrofit a former newspaper delivery vehicle to make it safe and comfortable for passenger transport. “He had the whole thing worked out and asked for support from the farm to purchase the vehicle. We were glad to partner with him by providing a third of the required finance on an interest-free two-year loan and the commitment that we would lease it from him to transport staff.” According to Ehlers, the loan repayment period is soon at an end and then all the income generated by offering a competitive and more comfortable transport solution from the villages of Genadendal and Greyton will go to Mkhalakahla.
As someone who has worked on The Oaks for well over 32 years, Mkhalakahla knows the community well. “Now I’m more of a grandfather figure but I have taken care of a number of children who didn’t have parents who were able to contribute.” he says.
“We hope that this deal will empower him to generate additional income and that the truck will continue to generate income for him and his family long after his retirement. This transaction has also ensured that staff travel in better conditions than before and is a good example of positive outcomes when we put our minds together to find a solution that benefits all.”
Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing’s Managing Director Roelf Pienaar says this is a perfect example of the many “good-news stories” that come from South Africa’s fruit industry, “where role-players at all levels of the value chain are working towards a common goal.” Pienaar adds that Tru-Cape takes their responsibility for the livelihood of 15,200 people as a result of the successful sale of fruit from growers such as Ehlers and others in the EGVV valleys, Ceres and The Langkloof, very seriously.