Oct 2022 1st edition

Cobbler helps children put their best foot forward

Written by Owen Mngadi

A Limpopo cobbler is fixing school shoes for free to help less privileged learners stand tall.

Denice Maphanga (27) learnt the art of cobbling from his grandfather and used these skills to start an informal roadside shoe repair business in his community of Steelpoort. He repairs and resoles all types of shoes and promotes his business through his popular Facebook account and via word of mouth.

In 2020, Maphanga added a barbershop that is managed by his brother. He says this complements his shoe repair business because customers can have their hair cut while waiting for their shoes to be repaired.

Maphanga says his business has been running for over five years and attributes its success to his supportive community. He is now repaying this loyalty by fixing the shoes of schoolchildren whose parents cannot afford to repair or buy them new shoes – for free!

“I know what it feels like to not have shoes to wear at school,” he says.Dennis Maphanga owns a shoe repair shop in Steelpoort, Limpopo. Photo supplied by Dennis Maphanga

Maphanga says he is thankful he learnt how to repair shoes from his grandfather and is happy that he can use this knowledge to help his community. “While I am not where I want to be at this point, it makes me happy to make an impact on other people through my business.”

Mining company Glencore – which operates in the area – recently chose Maphanga as one of two winners in its Youth Month 2022 competition, which aimed to reward people making positive impacts in their community. He received a cash prize, which he says he will reinvest into the business. “

While he has worked in retail shops, Maphanga’s vision has always been to own his business. He says he would like to grow the business to create job opportunities for others. At the moment, he employs two people on a casual basis when he needs help.

In his blog published on Youth Zones in September, he shared this advice with the youth of South Africa: “Don’t use laziness as an excuse. Don’t worry about what others think. Don’t procrastinate. Be unique and responsible. Prioritise yourself. “

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