Cycling 15kms to school each morning along country roads in Underberg gave Terrence Khawula plenty of time to think.
His parents were farm workers and he needed to supplement their income as soon as he was able. Along with other boys on the farm, he became a caddie at the Underberg Country Club on weekends. Here he met local landowners and built relationships that have lasted a lifetime. “It was good to be able to take meat home to make curry, with the money I earned. This was a treat for our family as our diet was mainly potatoes, maize meal, spinach and milk.”
In 1990, he began to sell firewood at the annual Splashy Fen Festival. During every spare moment, for weeks before the festival, he would cut and bundle invasive wattle ready for sale, then hawk it around the campsites. “My eyes were so big seeing all these different people gathering in one place!” In 1994 he watched Ladysmith Black Mambazo play and from then on, Terrence and his team would sell their wood all day and as the sun set, sit down and enjoy the music.
By now Terrence was an expert on the Splashy scene and spotted another opportunity – in security. After matric he joined Berg Protection and became the Security Manager at Splashy for 5 years, still managing to enjoy some of the music while ensuring that revellers were safe.
Along the way, he spent a couple of years in Johannesburg, but found life too fast for his taste. “Here in Underberg people care about me and I am able to make a real contribution to my community.”
2009 was a big year in his life – he married his childhood sweetheart, and now business partner, Patricia – and applied for a post with the local traffic department. With all his experience, local knowledge and gentle manner he was perfect for the job and has become a familiar face on the roads in the area.
Patricia ran a successful stall selling vetkoek at Splashy and together they observed that the standard of cleaning was not up to scratch. So, what did this enterprising pair do? Started a cleaning company of course! Beginning with just 15 unemployed people from their church who they knew were trustworthy, their operation has grown each year and now employs 35 people part time.
Recycling is a large part of the clean-up, with bottles, cans, plastic and cardboard going to the local recycling centre. “I am trying to train people’s minds that we can make a living from recycling,” he says earnestly. “People used to tease me and ask, ‘how many condoms did you collect at Splashy?’ but now they can see there is money in this business.” Next, he is thinking of a plan to turn all the food waste into compost.
Underberg is a hub of exceptional events and festivals. “Everyone here loves Splashy Fen because it brings so many people who spend a lot of money in our town,” smiles Terrence, who constantly sees opportunities to create jobs and change lives in his community. Pat Loos is the latest division of their company and provides portable toilets for smaller events. Their clean up and tent erection crews offer great service to participants of Sani2C, Drak Challenge, the Glencairn Trail Run. Next, he wants to be the go-to toilet guy for all the big events and has recently purchased a ‘honeysucker’ sewage truck to add to his service.
While days are spent manning roadblocks and educating drivers, his evenings are spent answering emails, preparing quotes and planning. Somewhere he even manages to fit in studying for a BA in Disaster and Event Management.
Is Terrence thinking about the next opportunity? Yes, he is, but on the golf course now.