From street kid to receptionist – Johanna Mbewe
By Miliswa Sitshwele
When her father kicked her family out to marry a younger wife, Johanna Mbewe, her mother and her four siblings had nowhere to go, so the street became their home.
With cardboard and plastic bags as blankets, they lived under a bridge in Randfontein. This was what life was like until a white lady offered her mom a job, which meant they would have a roof over their heads and Johanna could go to school.
Today she is a Receptionist at Maropeng Hotel. She heard about the vacancy from someone in her community, and applied for the job. She had to walk many miles to find the hotel, but when she found it she knew the job was for her.
She is the mother of an adopted young boy who came up to her on the streets one day and asked her to mother him.
“This boy lived on the streets and would escort me to the taxi rank after work; he was sick and had no parents. He asked if I could be his mother and I thought of my own struggles while I was homeless. I contacted social services, and the rest is history.”
Johanna says she thanks God each day for her job at Maropeng because she is now able to help her family.
“Maropeng is a beautiful place, I feel at home here. I love my job and I learn new things each and every day.”
Johanna has met South African celebrities such as Menzi Ngubane, an actor from Generations, actor and wedding planner Sophie Ndaba, who plays Queen Moroka in Generations, and Scandal actor Sello Maake Ka Ncube.
According to Johanna, as long as Erica Saunders [the Marketing Manger] is around, Maropeng will go places.
“She [Erica] encourages us to participate and learn more. When I first came here I didn’t know anything about the computer and I was scared of working at reception, let alone moving a computer mouse. But she was patient with me and encouraged me to learn.”
Erica, Marketing Manager of Maropeng, speaks highly of Johanna: “When you’re front of house, you always have to look your best, and Johanna always looks sophisticated. She works hard to accommodate all the guests’ needs.”
In the next five years Johanna would like to open a shelter to help homeless children who have nowhere else to go.