The CEO and Founder of UPower Africa
Mr Rendani Tshiwalule
Geologist at Keaton energy
“My Background has taught me to use the Power within me to change my situation hence I have founded UPOWER!”
The CEO and founder of Upower Africa
I am the last born of the Late Mrs S Tshiwalule and Mr A Tshiwalule. My mother was the second wife from the four wives my father had. Amongst the 15 children, me as the youngest of all the children, we all had to depend on my dad’s salary who worked as a guard at public works.
My mother never went to school at all, my dad dropped out from grade 5. My brother (35) dropped out in grade 5, my sister (39) who at the age of 20 got employed as a domestic worker and got married by the man she helped cooking for, she dropped out of school in grade 6 and my eldest sister(41) never reached grade 8, she also had to get married at the age of 22. I have witness them my sisters being physically abused and every now and then they would return home and my mom would force them to go back as she had no enough financial support for all of us.
My father could only visit my mother’s house once in a month while the other times was shared amongst other wives plus the others which were not recognised. We lived in two mud houses build by rocks and pure mud. The roof was made of grass that my mother collected, and the door was a made up of an empty mealie-meal bag. I went to school with barefoot until high school, i remember my brother got a job in the Millie fields were he stayed there day and night and that is were my first pair of shoes and a pair of calculator came from when i was in grade 8.
I was employed as a herd boy for goats form the age of 7 until 17 years, i.e. until in grade 11. I used to look after the goats daily where I would study while in the bush for 10 years. Every year end I would earn one goat, that made me ended up owning 12 goats.
While in the bush, I would hunt locusts which I also sold for generating pocket money for school, a man called stumpo, a taxi driver was my regular customer.
Things really turned worse in 2000, when flooding showered our area. One mud house fell down forcing me, my sisters, and my parents to now sleep in one left standing mud house. Clothes were donated to us and some food parcels from the community. We were then rescued by the government which built us an RDP house.
My family survived from my mothers’ brewery of “mahafhe” that she used to make and sell so that we could eat. I had adjusted to study with the noise because I knew that it was either noise or we die of starvation. We were regarded as the poorest in our villages. The candle that I used to use for light during studies had an amazing accountability, I couldn’t fall asleep because I knew it is dangerous to doze off while the candle is on. The candle also served as measurement, I wouldn’t stop studying until the candle is finished, so it held me accountable and was the best check on me.
Being raised in such a background was challenging as well as inspiring. I made a decision that it is only through education that the situation at home will change. I started to focus on my studies in grade 09 where I would be amongst the top 3. I have never dated in high school because I never wanted anything to destruct me or rob my ambition of changing the situation at home.
I Passed matric with exemption in 2001 and obtained a bursary to upgrade maths and science results. I then went Wits University to do mining engineering mining engineering In my first year first year (30+ points scholarship). In 2004 though the help of the NSFAS and MQA funding I went to the university of Johannesburg to study Geology. I then went to do a One year in mining industry doing in-service training in a coal mine in 2006 and the following year I graduated with a 3 year degree in Geology. I went to work as a geological technician at Rockwell diamonds and in 2009 I got a job as a geologist at home land mining and energy. I am currently working at Keaton energy as a geologist and I am also a part-time student at the University of South Africa where I am doing a bachelor of science honours in environmental mon and modelling
-While in homeland energy, I have trained two junior geologists from Tswane university of Technology for a year which when I resigned, one of them was qualified to occupy my position. And they are my mentees to date.
-I am mentoring about 5 graduates where I monitor their progress and do review every quota
-I have started visiting schools from 2009 to date, giving motivational talks, financial assistances and career guidance’s
-I am a co-founder of an organisation called Mufulwi (village where I grew up) enterprise for youth development.
-I am also a founding member of an organisation called Shumela Lushaka (Serve the nation) project formed by young graduates in Vhembe District
-I have mobilised those that passed from my high school and we have formed a NPO called Tahulela (Ploughing back) Matavhela Sec School
-I act as a liaison of the school and the industries, e.g. last year I have organised a trip of matric leaners to Sasol and some mines in the Witbank area where I have financed a portion of the costs incurred.
-I have been interviewed in radio stations including Phalaphala FM about my upbringing story, talks relating to leaners. E.g. how to prepare for tertiary institutions, exams, what inspire you? What young SA needs, etc.