Submitted By: Delisa Godfrey Bhembe

Tembisa entrepreneur, Delisa Bhembe, calls his jail sentence a blessing in disguise.

As a child growing up in the township, Delisa went from being a straight-A student to a high school delinquent, and in no time fell into the wrong crowd.

 “We were bored, had no role-models to look up to. I was a quiet youngster, and my family was not aware of the things I got up too.  My arrest after participating in a truck hijacking in 2000 came as a shock to everyone close to me,” he says.

Even worse was the 25-year sentence he received for being involved in the crime. “Fortunately I appealed the grave sentence and because I was a first time offender, the sentence was reduced significantly, and eventually I spent six and a half years behind bars,” Delisa explained.

“Prison was tough, but it was also a learning curve for me.  I met others in the same dilemma as I. There is a lot of opportunities to study, and I did some Bible courses.  I was also assigned to work in the mess to help prepare and serve meals for the inmates. I got a lucky break when I transferred as cook to the warder mess.  Here the style of cooking was more refined, and I had learned many culinary skills by the time I was released in 2007,” he said.

Turn adversity into opportunity

It was not easy to get a job with his criminal record, and thoughts of doing something to employ himself was slowly emerging.  When friends, who knew of his cooking skills, visited him, they joked about the limited menus on offer at Tembisa restaurants and eateries.  He ended up writing a proposal and his late father gave him the R10 000 Delisa needed to buy equipment.

Something new and unique on the food scene emerged in Tembisa, and today Delisa is the Kota King of Tembisa.  His business has expanded and he employs five people and is looking at establishing his brand in other areas.

 “Learn from your mistakes.  Never give up or lose hope. If only I could tell my younger self to be patient and not rush life to give you the things you desire.  Impatience landed me in prison. But on the other hand, my sentence was a blessing in disguise, as it equipped me with the skills to make my business a success,” he said when asked to give a message to #ImStaying members who face adversity.

Mouth-watering kota

Learn from your mistakes.  Never give up or lose hope. 

“I must also tell you that I was fortunate to be welcomed back into my community with open arms.  Yes, I struggled to get a job, but once my business was up and running, people supported me and celebrated my success.  I am blessed as my community accepted my history and supported my second chance at life,” he concluded.

If you are ever on the lookout for an out-of-the-world experience, be sure to look out for delicious toasted kota, made with love by the King of Kota, Delisa Bhembe.  His toasted kota, sandwiches, and burgers also drew the attention of a national clothing store. They like his food so much he has been able to expand to catering services for conferences and meetings too. 

He loves participating in food festivals as well, and you only need to look for the longest queue to find his stall!

Delisa does not only focus on business success.  He plows back into the community, a real kasi hero.  He has sponsored beauty pageants, supports 16 Days of activism against women and child abuse, and a local school receives pre-packed meals from him whenever they have to travel to partake at events and competitions away from home.

Photo’s courtesy of Obedience Mkhabela, Thembisan Newspaper


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Edited By: Erna Maré