Opportunity has been percolating into Mondli Mahamba’s life after he opened his own business, Heaven Coffee, in the city.
But the beginning of his story is far from heavenly.
Mondli was born in Eastern Cape, but moved to KwaZulu-Natal after his single mom landed a job there.
He finished his schooling in KwaZulu-Natal, and moved to Cape Town fresh out of matric.
“My mom was retrenched, and we were all old enough to start working, so we all moved away from home, and I found myself in Cape Town.”
Mondli was in Cape Town for three months when he landed work at a call centre in Bellville.
He then ended up working for Old Mutual for the next three years.
During this time, he experimented a lot.
“I hung out with friends and started drinking alcohol and then started doing cocaine. It worked for a while, but then it started affecting my work.
“I would stay out of work, or come to work late, and my standards started dropping.”
His workplace forced him into rehab, where he was an outpatient for 21 days, and came out functional.
“I was under supervision at work, but I still went back to drugs. I relapsed and went back on treatment, but I wasn’t ready to admit that I have a problem, so I continued to do drugs.
“At work, it was warning after warning until I was eventually fired.”
Mondli said it all went downhill from there.
“My addiction worsened to the point where I felt sorry for myself. I felt so much shame and guilt, and because of those feelings, I just kept using, until I eventually hit rock bottom and ended up on the streets.”
He lived on the city’s streets for six months, until one day, he met two girls from Switzerland at the Cape Town train station. They asked him for directions to a church they wanted to attend.
“We chatted a bit, and they were very friendly. That same night, they invited me for dinner, and we became friends.
“I stayed with them in Green Point for that week, and they bought me new clothes.
“When they left, they paid for my shelter fees at the Carpenter’s Shop, and they sent me money through the Common Ground church in Green Point.
“I started attending church there, and things started looking up, so I started attending support groups at the Central Methodist Mission church.
“I started getting my life on track after I connected with the church. I hit rock bottom, and that’s usually when miracles happen. I think the love and care I received from these two girls motivated me.”
Eight months later, after attending more support meetings and getting himself clean, Mondli started searching for a job.
He started working at a coffee shop in Bree Street, and that’s when he fell in love with coffee.
“I loved coffee, I loved working with coffee, and I loved the space I worked in – it had all these vintage cars and then a little coffee shop in the middle. It was amazing.”
After leaving the coffee shop, and continuing with his meetings, he met the management of the Central Methodist Mission Church, who told him a space
in the church had became vacant.
“I asked if I could rent out the space and received a loan from the Common Ground Church to buy a few things and Heaven Coffee was born. I also moved out of the shelter into my own place in town.”
He says, so far, Heaven Coffee has been doing well, and it pays the bills. “I love the fact that we could open up the church and people of all backgrounds – believers or not – could come and enjoy the coffee and the beauty of the church.
“If you are a believer, you can come to pray. It’s great that we could open a space that would previously have been exclusive.
“Heaven is inclusive, in whichever way people choose to see heaven. It’s a happy place.”
Mondli says the city is a place where anything is possible.
“There are opportunities for young black entrepreneurs here, but, personally, I would love to see this grow.”
While he is saddened by homelessness increasing daily in the city, he loves the fact that he is able to meet people from all over the world in the CBD.
“The friendliness, the warmth and the diversity of the city is what I love best. I get to meet people from all over the world and learn their culture and share a bit of mine. I get to meet the world here.”