It was thanks to sheer chutzpah that former security guard Siviwe “Chippa” Mpengesi scored his first R100000 pay cheque.
Siviwe "Chippa" Mpengesi. Photo: Chippa United.
In 2003, Mpengesi had just given up a R900-a-month job and was living in a one-room shack when he approached a supermarket chain and offered to recover its missing trolleys from Cape Town’s townships.
That was the beginning of the 35-year old’s multimillion-rand business empire — but it is his latest achievement as a soccer boss that has become the talk of the town.
In 2010 Mpengesi paid R400000 for Mbekweni Cosmos, a struggling third-division soccer club from Paarl outside Cape Town.
Recently his team, now known as Chippa United, thrilled fans at a packed Philippi Stadium in Cape Town with a 4-3 victory over favourites Santos to clinch promotion to South Africa’s premier soccer league.
Said Mpengesi: “I have big faith in everything I do and I knew that I wanted this team in the PSL — and I believed that it was going to be a success.”
Born in the rural Eastern Cape village of Ngqamakhwe, Mpengesi grew up sharing a rondavel with his mother and two siblings. The family could not afford for him to study beyond matric.
In 1996 he headed to Cape Town where he struggled to find a job and, Mpengesi said, had no choice but to take one as a security guard.
He later registered his own security company but struggled to get business.
“No one wanted to do business with me. I didn’t have suits and nobody trusted me enough to give me their business.”
He asked Pick n Pay to hire him to recover its trolleys. The company wouldn’t give him a contract, but agreed to a letter authorising him to do that.
“I collected 800 trolleys in one month,” he said. That landed him his first big pay cheque as well as a contract to carry on.
Mpengesi later branched out into waste management, treefelling, armed response, vegetation management as well as sector education training.
He employs more than 3000 people around South Africa, he said, and has a 10-year lease to run Philippi Stadium — Chippa United’s home ground.
His team’s meteoric rise has been hailed as a rare feat.
“It’s very rare that you find a team that finds a straight line into the top league of any country,” said South African Football Association vice-president Danny Jordaan.
Striker Andile Mbenyane described Mpengesi as a hands-on boss who used his own life story to inspire them to achieve — not just in soccer but in life.
“He tells us that he once had nothing and lived in a shack. He encourages us and emphasises that he has worked for everything he now has and that everything in life is possible.”
The team is now worth in the region of the R60-million to R100-million that PSL franchises sell for.
“But I wouldn’t sell,” Mpengesi insists. “That’s not what I’m in it for. My ambition is to become the third-largest supported team after Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates and to challenge for the league title.”