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On a mission to unify amaNdebele people; meet Mrs SA finalist with a big heart, Itumeleng Kekana

A wife, doting mother, philanthropist and businesswoman, Itumeleng Kekana has her sights set on winning the Mrs South Africa 2021 title, an achievement she believes will go a long way in enabling her share, on larger scale, her passion to uplift and empower young men and women and help them discover their purpose. The mother of five gives us the lowdown on how she plans to use her Mrs SA journey to advocate for the empowerment of both girl and boy child, along with her mission to unify amaNdebele people.

Born and raised in Mokopane, Itumeleng strives to positively impact other people’s lives through her life’s motto, “Let your light shine!”

As someone who’s had to learn to navigate a number of hurdles to be where she is today, she knows all too well the frustration that comes with the failure to tye your gifts and talents with your personal purpose, and worst still how that can lead to an unfulfilling career life. 

A passionate believer and minister of the word of God, there’s more to the hard-working mother of five than meets the eye: in 2016, she founded the Itumeleng Ledwaba Foundation with a primary focus of imparting knowledge, wisdom, and nobility through what she describes as “girl-boy mentorship and mental awareness programs”.

An ambitious businesswoman, Itumeleng is the founder and owner of two thriving, women-managed entities: 10Eighty Construction and Zion Communications.

She is also the founder of Light of Zion Ministries and Ekklesia African Council of Churches.

When you accept your purpose, and you answer your calling, you can achieve even the grandest of dreams 

Itumeleng Kekana

An inspiration to young men and women looking to lead meaningful lives, Itumeleng intends to use her Mrs SA journey to advocate for three main courses which close to her heart, namely:

Women empowerment: she believes women are the cornerstone of a healthy society, and have very important roles to play in different spheres of life – be it in their immediate families, business or place of worship – and as such their leadership skills need to be nurtured early in life. 

Cultivating entrepreneurship: Itumeleng intends to support and endorse more upcoming and aspiring entrepreneurs with the intention of helping create jobs, and imparting skills and knowledge to many of the country’s unemployed youths.

Boy child empowerment: while emphasis has always been placed on empowering the girl child, she believes that boy child in society needs to be guided too. This, she says, can be done through various programs centered on education and socialisation around how boys and men need to behave in society and become responsible men who can become pillars of society.

Big plans ahead; Mrs SA finalist Itumeleng Kekana wants to be remembered for helping unify amaNdebele.

The Limpopo-based businesswoman is dedicated to serving others, she said, and guiding them in their journey of self-discovery and leading purposeful lives. “The thing is, when you accept your purpose, and you answer your calling, you can achieve even the grandest of dreams. Your gift makes room for you and there’s no limit to how far you can spread your message,” she added.

Q&A with Mrs SA finalist, Itumeleng Kekana

What inspired you to begin the Mrs South Africa journey?

A couple of years ago, I bumped into an old friend whom I immediately almost didn’t
recognise because of how transformed she looked. Her inner light truly manifested on the
outside for me and when I asked her what happened she responded with these words “Mrs South Africa happened”. I had never heard of Mrs South Africa before, but what I knew is that I wanted it as well, not only the platform but the impact it had on her. I was in a dark space in my life, and I wanted to be impacted in a way that my own light would shine.

And when I finally decided I would enter I fell pregnant, but now I’m thankful to God for the “delay” because looking at where I am right now, I am no longer just looking to be impacted but also on a mission to be impactful in
the lives of others – for my light has come!

How has the journey been for you?

The journey has been absolutely fulfilling, I’m enjoying every moment of it. Just the honour of
being in the company of formidable women and learning from them, learning from the Mrs
SA team, all the speakers that come on to share their knowledge and wisdom, I couldn’t
have asked for a better platform to learn and let my light shine.

And back home in Limpopo, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, to the people of
Mokopane, you know, I’m already a queen, and that it’s so humbling. The inspirational stories from the youth on how my journey has impacted them are really all I can ask for.

What would you say is your greatest strength?

Forgiveness, I do that so easily and for me it is the ultimate freedom! And I love hard, and
that has been my greatest liberation too. Also I am a very optimistic person; I see the good in
every situation no matter how bad it may seem at that time.

What exactly is the Itumeleng Ledwaba Foundation and what inspired you to start it?

Itumeleng Ledwaba Foundation is a Christian ministry – as I call it – which was birthed from the Bible verse “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you’’.

Through my observation, I noticed how most charity foundations, although well-meaning, are always working hard to help those in need, yet despite all those wonderful interventions, there was always one thing missing; purpose! This is where our foundation comes in.

Itumeleng Kekana owns several businesses, including a construction company.

Through the foundation we not only seek to share resources, empower and uplift but to also
assist those who want to discover their true God-given purpose, without which all things done in this life really is vanity. I am at a point life where I can proudly say ‘I’ve discovered – by the grace of God – what my true purpose is, and I’m living in it!’ My mission now is to be a light to others that causes their lights to shine, thus doing unto them as I’d have them do unto me.

What has been some of your most recent memorable experiences as a foundation?

We just concluded a project in partnership with the Phaahlana-mahlako Training Academy
and W&R seta, where informal businesses were taken through an upskilling program, and at the end of the course, some of the attendees were given vouchers to assist them with basic infrastructure in their businesses. One of
the attendees, I learnt, is a king from one of the villages. He attended the course with his
people, and that was really something beautiful to witness and which I was proud to be part of.

What are the current projects you’re working on now?

We are currently in talks with the greater Maandagshoek mixed-farming agricultural
cooperative aimed at imparting skills to unemployed youth. We have recently also just collaborated with the greater Sekhukhune region to help develop and impart skills to its members, and community at large in the
wholesale and retail space.

Itumeleng Kekana plans to use her Mrs SA journey to advocate for male and female empowerment.

How do you maintain balance in your life as a mother, businesswoman, and a Mrs SA finalist?

I recognised that to get to all my
assignments done I‘d need assistance, and God truly drew an amazing team to me. I have formidable teams assisting me in the foundation, the Mrs SA campaign and my two companies; Zion Communications and 10Eighty Construction. Most importantly, my husband, who happens to be my co-founder in all of these companies, has been my pillar of strength.

We just celebrated the month of September as heritage month in South Africa. Tell us what excites you about your heritage?

Being of the Ndebele clan, this journey has propelled me to trace back my roots. We are in
talks with MANO (Mandebele National Organization) to embark on a journey to visit all the Mandebele chieftaincies and involve them in my journey as a Mrs SA finalist.

Currently the Mandebele people have no homeland in Limpopo (this is not the Kwa-Ndebele homeland), something that MANO has been in talks with government about – which makes it a bit challenging to unify the Mandebele people. With its rich history and being an Ndebele, the journey has truly been enriching ng for me so far. When all is said and done, I want to be remembered for helping unifying the Mandebele people – so that can we can start organising and participating in celebrations around the rich Mandebele history – especially in Mokopane, Limpopo where I grew up.

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Tankiso Komane
Tankiso Komane
A Tshwane University of Technology journalism graduate, Tankiso Komane has a vast experience in print & broadcast media business and has worked for some of the country’s biggest daily newspapers, including The Sowetan, The Citizen, The Times, and The New Age. Through her varied work as a journalist, notably as a copywriter for SABC1 (On-Air promotions) and as a publicist for Onyx Communications, she has developed an in-depth understanding of the nature of the media business and how to use it for the purpose of exposure. Her expertise in journalism across various disciplines, coupled with a good reputation, has laid the foundation of a new kind "trust in Journalism" as the media ecosystem continues to digitally evolve.
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