A 22-year-old accounting student from Joe Slovo has opened the first pharmacy in the township, going door-to-door to sell basic over-the-counter medication and traditional remedies.
Thembekile Mahintsho says he opened the business, Magethe’s Medical Store (which is named after his clan), after watching his father’s long battle with ill health.
Thembekile grew up in Joe Slovo and attended Marconi Beam Primary and later Sinenjongo High schools. He excelled at economics and business studies and says his entrepreneurial skills surfaced in primary school when he sold sweets to other pupils.
But his home life changed when he started Grade 10.
“My father started getting sick. His leg was swollen, and he couldn’t work anymore, and he moved to the Eastern Cape. Through all of that, I continued to do well in school and eventually decided to study accounting at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
In 2016, he landed a bursary through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“In September of that year, we started getting monthly R500 food vouchers from NSFAS.”
But tragedy struck later in the year when Thembekile’s father died while still in the Eastern Cape. Thembekile was in contact with his father from time to time, often going up to the Eastern Cape.
Thembekile doesn’t know what illness his father had but says his leg became very swollen and he had difficulty getting around. Making a trip to his local clinic became too much to bear for him.
After his father died, Thembekile found himself wondering whether things might have turned out differently if his father could have had medication delivered to his door. That idea became the kernel of his pharmacy business offering door-to-door delivery to those too sick or frail to leave their homes.
“People are suffering out here because not only is medication expensive, but it’s time-consuming and takes a lot of effort. How can we expect old and sick people to wait in long lines for hours to get medical attention?”
The second-year CPUT student saved his food vouchers, and his mother also helped him with the start-up money he needed for the business..
“Our people live under poor conditions, and people often don’t have money for transport to go to pharmacies that are often in places like the Cape Town CBD. I have made it easier for them to have access to quality medication, and I even have a delivery service if they need it.”
He did market research in the community, asking people which remedies worked for them and which didn’t. He sells everything from medicine for babies with colic and natural remedies for chest infections to sex-drive boosters. A local matric pupil will be helping him out in his shop in December.
“This is my way of trying to give back and create employment. I hope that one day I can grow the business and possibly have stores in surrounding areas like Dunoon and Table View and also countrywide.
“It does take a lot to keep the shop running, as I am still a student myself, and it’s quite expensive to maintain the shop. If there are any businesses or government departments that would like to help with funding, I would really appreciate that.”
Thembekile’s story has been shared widely on social media and he says he is grateful for all the support he’s had.
“I am very thankful to my family and my community for supporting this dream of mine. I did this with the best of intentions, and it is good to see that Joe Slovo is getting positive media attention this time.”
Colleen Smart, spokeswoman for Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, said the department supported Thembekile and what he was trying to do for his community and would assist him with meeting the legal requirements necessary to run a pharmacy.
“We would however like him to be in accordance with the law so that is why we need to make contact with them and see what is the quickest way we can help,” said Ms Smart.