Nosizwe Solwandle’s (nee Mdingi’s) journey from life as a young girl growing up in a rural village in the Eastern Cape (EC), to her current position as an independent, single mom and the proud owner of three investment properties in the Cape Town area is an inspiring one to say the least. There are three distinct themes woven throughout Nosizwe’s story: work hard, learn from others, and partner well.
Her first lesson about the business potential of real estate came through her grandfather, who rented out buildings on his property, throughout her childhood, to teachers and students from her local high school. She herself became a tenant at the age of 17, when she moved to another village, without her parents, to finish her schooling. On weekends, Nosizwe worked as a hair stylist to supplement the money she received from her parents, who had relocated to Langa in Cape Town because of her father’s illness
Nosizwe regularly visited her mom and dad over school holidays. Not wanting to be a financial burden, she found work as a cleaner for a landlord renting out rooms to UCT students and short term guests ‒ a job she loved. She would also visit family members who ran their own businesses, at her father’s request, which she now recognises as his way of encouraging her to be more business minded.
After matriculating, Nosizwe moved to Langa and enrolled at an education centre to improve her pass marks. It was during her tertiary studies at the University of the Western (UWC) that her father sadly passed away and she was forced to drop out due to financial pressures.
“I got married and became Mrs Solwandle, at the age of 28, and stayed in a bungalow in Khayelitsha with my husband. Unfortunately, when my newborn daughter was only two months old, my husband passed away. I was left with little support from his family, so my family moved me back to Langa to be with them. I sold the bungalow to support myself and my daughter. My husband didn’t have any policy pay outs and I had no income, so I began to buy and sell men’s clothing to support myself.”
Fortunately, Nosizwe did have her husband’s pension money, from five years of work in a factory, which she used to buy a property, cash, in Samora Machel.
“My aunt, a qualified nurse, took me under her wing to help me through this challenging time, supported by my uncle, who played a fatherly role towards me,” Nosizwe explained. Her aunt encouraged her to attend a business skills course to keep busy. Nosizwe went on to complete a security training course, computer course and a home care course (offered for free by the Government).
Nosizwe secured a permanent job in 2006 as a security officer with the Western Cape Department. More certain of a regular and stable income, she chose to sell her property in Samora Machel to clear her debt. By then she had made substantial improvements to the property, adding on two more rooms, which she was able to rent out to tenants while she also lived there. “My tenants each paid me R300 a month to rent a room from me,” shared Nosizwe.
With the money left over after paying off her debts, and after a promotional transfer to another department, she could secure a R148 000 bond and raise R100 000 to put down as a deposit on a new property in Langa, which she moved into and shared with tenants.
It was during a train ride home from a work-related workshop in Belville that she learned from a fellow commuter about cheaper-than-expected properties for sale in Maitland. This prompted Nosizwe to do some online research, where she found out about a one-room flat in Maitland that she could afford to buy. She contacted the seller, Meyer De Waal of My Bond Fitness, to view the apartment. Meyer explained to her that she could first rent the apartment, with the intention of buying (i.e. rent to buy) ‒ an opportunity she eagerly snapped up. She then moved into the flat and rented out the entire house in Langa.
Meyer helped Nosizwe with her credit check and to get prequalified for her purchase. She had 12 months in which to rent the apartment while preparing for the purchase; she bought the property after six months. “It was a dream come true for me to now own a flat in a suburb,” shared Nosizwe.
But the story does not end there. With “property always on her mind”, Nosizwe decided to free herself up to pay off another bond ‒ this time for a property to develop for herself. She explained that she moved back in with her mother, put a tenant in the Maitland property (which is now paying itself off) and bought a 992 m2 piece of land on the West Coast on which to build her dream house. She plans to turn this into a guesthouse one day to continue generating income.
“I discovered a demand for student accommodation when I registered my daughter at the college nearby my plot. Some students overheard me talking to my daughter and begged me to accommodate them in the wendy house on my property. I managed to take in three students as new tenants, who share the wendy house with my daughter.”
She has subsequently bought a second flat in Maitland to rent out ‒ her fourth property in total. “I wasn’t able to secure a 100% bond and have had to pay a 10% deposit,” she explained. She is now waiting for the current occupants to move out so she can put in new tenants.
Nosizwe’s advice for others
- “The best investment is in property and women, especially, must open their eyes up to this opportunity ‒ especially single mothers. It’s time to wake up!”
- “Empower yourself: get skilled-up. Do short courses to get computer literate and to be able to do more.”
- “Find mentors and partners ‒ like my aunt, Mrs N Magwaca, mentor and friend, Mrs S Ntuntu, and Meyer De Waal, who helped me a great deal with my first purchase in Maitland.”