SIMON MUNTEMBA writes
SOME six years ago (in 2013), a young villager, Hambani Lukhele, left his rural homestead on the outskirts of Lundazi district in Eastern Province, at the age of 19 years, to look for the greener pastures and indeed the beckoning lights of Lusaka city.
Growing up in a community of Matimba Village in Zumwanda Chiefdom, Hambani’s family had to be creative to survive: as small-scale farmers, they did not have money, and neither did they have the luxury of affording to pay school fess for their children.
At one time, Hambani said, he almost stopped schooling because his parents failed to raise K200 for his tuition fees. He recalled how his parents could not even afford to buy him shoes on a regular basis.
Despite growing up in such poorest conditions, Hambani jumped all the barriers and go from nothing to the top.
The experience of growing up in such an environment actually taught Hambani to see the potential in limited resources, and to maximize the value that he derived from whatever was available to him.
It was in the principle of never turning back that he decided to travel to Lusaka to join his elder brother who was working as a security guard at G4S security company.
From impoverished home to underprivileged background, Hambani started as a security guard and, through hard work, managed to establish his own company.
The Sun caught up with Hambani Lukhele, a PK Loans proprietor and third year student pursuing a Bachelors in Sociology of Education at the University of Zambia (UNZA) who shared his journey from a villager, to a security officer to CEO.
The Sun: Tell us about yourself?
Hambani: Well, my name is Hambani Lukhele. I was born on March 11, 1994 at Lumezi Mission Hospital in Lundazi District Chief Zumwanda. I am coming from a poor family of 5, all of us a men, and no sister. My parents are Patson Kamutu Lukhele and Medai Nyirenda.
I started school in 2002 at Kamphanda Alpha Community School. I completed my grade 12 in 2013 at Lumezi Day Secondary School. Currently, I am in third year pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Bachelors in Sociology of Education at UNZA.
The Sun: You said you are from a poor family of five, what exactly do you mean?
Hambani: Well, what I meant is that, for example, for me to complete my education it was not easy because my parents could not afford to pay for my school fess. From grade 8-9, my older brother, Harrison Lukhele, who was working as a security guard used to pay school fees for me, but unfortunately, he later when I was in grade 10 because he stopped work.
In 2011, I passed to grade 10 but there was no one to pay for my school fees, my mother and father were not able to raise K200 and I cried all night because I really wanted excel school wise. It was painful but I later understood that it wasn’t deliberately as both of parents were not working.
The Sun: So what happened from there? How was the K200 raised to enable you continue school?
Hambani: As a poor family, we had to be creative to survive. So I decided to start burning woods to produce charcoal for sale. My parents helped me and we managed to raise the K100.
However, I missed classes the first term in grade 10 because I could not raise the fees on time. I managed to raise K100 which was half of the required school fees at Lumezi Day Secondary School in second term. I remember my mother going to plead with the school head teacher, Mr Chagwa Banda, who was very understanding. Mr Banda allowed me to start school after paying K100 instead of the full K200.
From that time I made it a habit every time we close school. To go to burn charcoal so that the following term I pay my school fees. I completed school through burning charcoal.
The Sun: When did you come to Lusaka and why?
Hambani: After I completed school in 2013, life was tough in the village and because I had the burning desire to go to college, I decided to follow my brother Zondwayo Lukhele in Lusaka who was working as a security guard for G4S Company. I actually came to Lusaka when I was 19 years old.
I tried to apply in several security companies but because I was very young, they could not consider me because the minimum age for someone to be a security guard is 25 years and I was only 19 years old.
But lucky, I got some job at Texas Security Company as a security guard. They gave me a location. My work place was in Rhodes Park at REPSSI opposite High Court next to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. My salary by then was a K450 per month.
The Sun: How did you spend your first salary?
Hambani: By then, I was staying in John Laing with my brother Zondwayo. He told me to contribute only K100 every month for home necessities and out of K450, I remained with K350 but still it was not easy for me to save because I had to send something back home (village) to my parents who had no source of income.
I used to send my parents money every month. I worked for three months as a security guard without taking off days. Life was tough for me because I had to walk every day from John Laing to High court for work and I worked the whole day without any food. I only eat once at night when home.
The Sun: At what point did you stop working as a security guard?
Hambani: Well, because I had a good working relationship with my boss Mr Kelvin Ngoma at REPSSI, he recommended me to his friend (Mr Ben Fumbelo) to employ me as a cleaner. So Mr Fumbelo employed me as cleaner and later became a garden boy at Bigben Autolink, the company which was situated in North Mead by then. My salary went up by K50 from K450 to K500 and I was very happy because that meant a lot; it was life changing for me.
After working for 3 months, I had a K400 as my savings I used to keep in my MTN mobile money account. I started thinking of what business to do with it and I opened a Xapit account at Manda Hill with ZANACO.
The following month I got my salary and contributed K100 for food at home and remained with K400 which I deposited into my Xapit account plus the K400 that I saved the previous month, and I had K800.
Now, interestingly my workmate was looking for Kaloba. He asked me to borrow him K800 to pay back with 50 percent interest and true to his words he paid back K1400 at that particular month end. And because it festival season, my boss paid me double my salary, i was paid 1000 as Christmas bonus so I had in total K2200 in my account.
My workmate brought his four friends who wanted K500 each for Kaloba and i gave them. The following month end my money had accumulated to K3700. (K500 from my salary plus K200 in my account and k3000 from the people I gave. So together I had k3700).
The Sun: How about PK Loans, when was it officially established?
Hambani: It was from this k3700 that I erudite the idea of giving loans and I continued giving out small amounts to people which turned into a loan business. By then the name of my business was PK Mwanawakwithu Best Help.
When I went to UNZA it changed to PK Mwanawakwithu simple loan. And when I decided to register my business I changed to it to ‘PK Loans’ as is stands today. Fast forward, today I have my own company called PK Loans where I have permanently employed five people.
The Sun: Where would you attribute your success to?
Hambani: I believe that everything is possible in this world, all you need to do is believe in ourselves, be focused and principled. Let’s learn from others and our life can change forever. Above all let’s not forget to pray every time for it is said that nothing is impossible with GOD. My life changed from zero to something, from falling to pay K200 school fees to who I am today all because of God. I started with K800 but I’m currently making a profit of K100, 000 per month.
The Sun: Okay, let’s talk about PK loans and your studies at UNZA, how do you manage to balance the two?
Hambani: Managing my business and studying at the same time has been tough, more especially that I am in third year. At times, I find myself in a situation where I need meet a client and at the same time I need to be in class, so to solve this problem I had to employ four people on a permanent basis.
I have employed a managing director who oversee the whole operations, debts collector, collateral controller and an accountant. And plan is to work with more young and old people so that we can create more employment in Zambia for everyone out there.
The Sun: Your last works or advice to those who might be in the same situation you went through?
Hambani: As a person who have journeyed from anger to empathy, from poverty to what I can call ‘a bit’ financially stable, they should not allow their background to determine their future, rather, they should do whatever they can to improve their lives. Never should they be selective when it comes to jobs offered to them. Do any job and God will lead the way.
Finally discipline and determination. Never give up. Also, we can only build a better Zambia if we work together and start thinking critically not really depending on others to realise our dreams. We need to soldier on regardless of the situation we are in.