Johannesburg - Some know him as a bartender, but the rags-to-riches story of Zwelinzima Dweba has become one of the most inspiring in business circles in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.
Through hard work, talent, grit and a bit of luck, Dweba rose from his humble beginnings to become a respected entrepreneur.
His nightclub, called So What Lounge, has become renowned for hosting some of the country’s top musicians.
The 34-year-old was raised by a single mother in Stanger (now KwaDukuza), 75km north of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal, following his father’s death when he was just three years old.
He obtained a diploma in travel and tourism at Oval Computer College in Durban, but after struggling to find work, he moved to Mthatha in 2008 to join his brother, Zandisile, who owned a popular night club there called Havana.
While working there as a bartender, Dweba learnt to deejay and run the business.
“When I came to Mthatha people used to go to clubs, festivals or entertainment parks and drink outside, standing by their cars,” he recalls.
“They never bothered going inside the venue.”
It bothered Dweba that patrons were missing out on the music and the pleasure of good service inside his brother’s establishment.
In 2012, he ventured out on his own, organising gigs through the contacts he had made at Havana, while working to establish his own nightclub business.
Two years later, having amassed a huge support base as a deejay – known as DJ PK – he secured sufficient resources to open a nightclub in Vulindlela Heights, a popular middle class suburb.
It attracted up to 800 patrons on busy nights as meals were offered, along with the deejay’s speciality, music.
Along with the club, Dweba set up a bed-and-breakfast establishment to accommodate long-distance travellers, a security company to maintain peace and safeguard vehicles, and a shuttle for drunk drivers. He has 55 staff members, excluding part timers.
Dweba said he achieved this by inviting big names in the entertainment industry such as Black Coffee, DJ Tira and Big Nuz, Riky Rick, Emtee and a host of other artists to perform at the club – a move which forced people to remain inside the venue to watch the icons.
“I cannot think of any artist who I haven’t worked with. It is humbling to be associated with these big names and we have become friends with some of them,” said Dweba.
He has since gone on to establish popular events such as the Black and Gold Experience, which started out as a small party to celebrate his birthday on May 18.
Now a three-day back-to-back music festival, it features a host of kwaito, house and hip-hop artists, who come to Mthatha for this weekend extravaganza.
A must-see event, it attracts almost 6 000 revellers.
Dweba is setting his sights further, with aims to promote the annual Macufe arts and culture festival and the Durban July race.
Just after Christmas last year, he organised the Natives Summer Party in Mthatha, which featured big acts such as Cassper Nyovest and drew a crowd of more than 10 000.
This weekend, he has teamed up with business partners Sydney Lawrence and Siyabulela Mshiywa for a three-day Easter music and culture event in Port St Johns.
Headlined by actor-musician Anga Makubalo, AKA NaakMusiq, the festival will include drag racing, professional car spinning, a biker’s show, a boat cruise and jet skiing.