Meet Zodwa Mkandla one of Zimbabwe’s leading business personalities, fashionista and luxury car collector
Zodwa is one of Zimbabwe’s leading business personalities and fashionistas. She loves cars and has a collection most people can only dream of. Among her amazing collection includes the latest Mercs, Range Rovers and a Bentley.
Q In a few words describe who Zodwa Mkandla is?
A: Business, Personal, Anything? Mmmeee.. Okay, Let’s see now, where do I begin? I was born in a place called Mbembesi, in Zimbabwe, which is about 40kms from Bulawayo on the Harare – Bulawayo road. We are called the Fengus. We a very small minority ethnic group in the country. We are rather well known though for having powerful, prominent and delightfully gorgeous, very beautiful girls in Zimbabwe. (She laughs). I was born in 1972. My mother’s name is Margret Mhlanga. There are 6 of us in the family. I am the second child in the sibling line up. Our eldest my sister is late. I have 3 brothers and 1 sister. I went to Mqwashini Primary School. That’s hard to pronounce, isn’t it …unless it’s your mother tongue because of the clicks? (She giggles) Mqwashini is down there far away in the bundu there, in the rurals. We used to walk about 30kms distance to school and back each day. It wasn’t really hard then. That’s what we knew. Excellent for fitness. We were super healthy to be able to do that and not get burn out. I love great cars but once a while we just need to park them and walk, to work, the shops, the market, friends’ houses, in the rain even, for fun, for movement for toning …mmee what do you think? (I think it a novel idea indeed and just nod my head) It doesn’t mean I don’t have fancy cars. It just means I chose to walk. What you are seeing now is the result of years and years of good walking and good working muscles. A fine refined product don’t you think? (as she preens to show off her refinedness, and yep I can’t argue that boastful claim) That is where I started from the rurals. For Grade 7, I then moved to Harare. I went to Mt. Pleasant High from form 1 to Form 3. I then moved back to Bulawayo to St. Columbus to do my form 4. It was back to Harare again to pursue my Diploma Courses. That’s a brief background of my schooling.
Q: What is the path you took to be where you are today?
A: I’ve never really carved out a path neither did I really imagine I would get here. Well It’s just that I knew that I did not like my life back then and wanted more, way more. When you grow up in a family that is disadvantaged you start wondering why? Where you are not born in family of money and resources things pass you by. I felt the unfairness of it all. There were some kids whose social status is higher than u, who feel they deserve to be looked after better than you. They feel superior and show off, saying that, because of your different social economic circumstances, they don’t believe that you can do better than them or become somebody useful. Your peers, the children torment you at school. The parents boast in your face in front of your parents. It upset me. So, I grew up as a person who always had something to prove to the next person. My thing was defiance “okay fine, you might have the surname that I don’t have, you might have a silver spoon in your mouth, but I can always do better than you. You do not control my oxygen. So even if this your big dad is rich, or important, it’s your dad, it’s not you, I can do better than you.” And I’ve proved it. I have done way better than almost everyone I grew up with. I am not one person who wants to fail in anything that I set my mind to do. I’m a go getter. I persevere.
Q: What is your biggest strength?
A: My fearlessness. My ambitious drive. I’ve always wanted to succeed in anything that I do. Whatever I touch has to turn to gold somehow. Even now, whatever I do, I don’t want to fail. My children know the same thing. I have taught them that failure is not an option. There is no such thing as failure. What is named as failure is just learning opportunities or stepping stones to success. Life is not just mountain tops but has valleys too. You can go down into the valley that seems like a shadow of death, you can fall but you pick yourself up quickly and move on, your carry on to your journey to success.
Q: What do you know about cars?
A: Mmmeee I know that I love cars. Eiish I’m glad that either petrol or diesel which is what we are used to will be a thing of the past. I know that we now have electric cars in the world. I can’t wait to experience that one. I also know that cars need to go for service regularly. Unfortunately, most women just drive them and never bother to take care of them…till the car is making funny noises where it means something is seriously not right. I just don’t get it though! We women, we spend too much money on servicing our hair, skin, nails. We eat good food and drink as fuel for our body but are neglectful of looking after our vehicles. That’s bizarre.
Q: What’s your favourite car and why?
A: G Wagon. It’s super comfortable.
Q: How do you choose a car when you are on the market?
A: I like them big. 4X4s. I like to feel like I’m on top of the world when I’m driving. I also look for luxury and comfort
Q: How do cars make you feel?
A: Powerful.4x4s negotiate the traffic and the road better. It gives me visibility and presence. Owning a good car makes me know I am being rewarded for my hard work, I am also using the latest cutting-edge transportation tool to accomplish my day to day tasks. Cars validate me in a way I guess. They are my friends. They help to take me to clinch my next big deal.
Q: What is your most important attribute as a business leader?
A: To grow people. To work with the people and not above the people. To lead not rule. To collaborate and do great things and realizing that I will always have to put in an equal amount of focus and dedication or even more than my staff.
Q: What is your message for the girl child?
A: To the girl child and to every woman. Absolutely no one can misuse or abuse you without your permission. Everyone is born with a gift. No one is useless. You have a brain use it well. Don’t be idle. Use your skills, experiences and continuous education and training to negotiate to get employed or start a business and not be taken advantage of by old sugar daddies/ blessers. Your ambition does not end with you want to be mother of so & so, or wife of so & so or even girlfriend of so & so. There are way bigger things out there already set up specifically for you. That way you can date people of your own age. Madhalas have had their life, and most probably have messed it up, so can be fooling around, and full of baggage. You do not need to be part of that baggage. Be free to be who you are created to be. Bold. Black. Brave. Beautiful. Productive. Fly.
Q: How do you balance the demands of business and motherhood?
A: I plan my schedules and my work well. I do not take work home. It is important to give myself down time with the family. I give the girls and I time to catch up on all sorts of things.
Q: How do you motivate yourself in difficult times?
A: I look up to God from where my greatest strength comes. Everyone has God’s hands, feet, heart and pockets around them in the form of relationship capital. If only we would build good relationships. I have a few people, or let’s say mentors that I trust. People who know stuff better than I do. I call on them for advice. For example, Dr. Mangudya, He has contributed a lot to my success and to my business. He is one person that saw potential in me, identified it, and said “Zodwa you can do this!”. He redirects me, whenever I am falling or off track. He is now the Governor, a very big honour, but I’ve been privileged to know him way before he was the Governor. There are difficult financial times we went through as a business. He, as a seasoned banker was there to encourage and provide options and sustainable solutions for us to stay afloat. I have had most people look down on me, but I would say he was consistent in urging me on when I felt like giving up. He always gave me the push and would say “Don’t give up, don’t look for partners, this is your vision, you can do this on your own. Look for the banks, the bank can assist you”. When you are starting out having business partners can be a headache because of divergent view of how to do things, and different lifestyles and values. Yes, it may just work for other people but it doesn’t work for everyone. If you do decide to have partners, you must choose the right partner to get into business with. In our African Zimbo mentality of pull- me – down competition it is sad but it is rare to find trustworthy people of character and integrity who have your passion and your energy for the project.
Q: Describe yourself in one word
Q: In your life is a car a fashion statement or mode of transport
A: Both. It’s a lifestyle issue.