Humble and soft-spoken Nkosikho Mbele, the country’s hero petrol attendant wants his life to go back to what it used to be.
Mbele, 28, said he had no idea that his “small act of kindness would turn into something so big”.
The petrol attendant paid R100 to put petrol into Monet van Deventer’s tank last week because she was afraid that she would get stranded on the N2 on her way to work. In return, Van Deventer started a crowdfunding campaign to help Mbele, his mother, brother and two children.
More than R500 000 has been raised so far.
He told Weekend Argus he was happy with the positive response and South Africans showing him an “even bigger act of kindness”, but he would now like to revert to his quiet and peaceful life.
Born and raised in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape, Nkosi came to Cape Town at the age of seven. Raised by his mother with his younger brother, Mbele grew up spending most of his time in church and reading his Bible. This is, he says, what has made him the person he is today.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a soccer player, but as time went on, I realised that being employed and dependent on money is the root of all evil and all problems we are faced with in the world today. I am the way I am today because of my faith in the Bible,” he said.
Mbele said he enjoyed working at the garage because it helped him meet new and different people every day.
“I am a very private person, I don’t like being in the limelight and now that small gesture has turned my life upside down. I highly appreciate South Africans who have embraced me and shown me even greater gratitude than I had ever expected, but I would like to get back to just being me,” said the father of two.
“What is happening to me now has opened my eyes to a whole new world; it has made me realise that humanity still lives, but we as a nation also still need to move away from the notion that apartheid and racism have to form part of our daily lives. We have to hold each other’s hands and unite as a people, and in that way the spirit of ubuntu will grow and live on.”
Mbele, however, added that because of his act of kindness he is now unable to walk freely in his community of Makhaza in Khayelitsha without people trying to take selfies with him.
“People treat me like a celebrity now, and I am not – I just helped a fellow human being,” he said.
Described by his friend and colleague Buyile Kwenyela as a “good and humble person”, Mbele carries himself with pride as he does his job at the False Bay Shell Ultra City near Macassar, on the N2 highway.
“He has been working here for about two to three years; he always has a smile on his face and always services customers with a smile. His act of Ubuntu has lifted this garage to great heights. He is a great example of what true humanity is,” said Kwenyela.
“I love chatting to people and getting new views on life and sharing my views with them. For me, working here is not just a job, but it is a place where I can grow my knowledge of people in general,” Mbele said.
“Helping customers is what we do; we are here to provide good, quality service, and if it means going the extra mile and paying for a customer’s petrol, then that is what we do,” said the newly discovered national treasure.
By late this week, the crowd funding set up in Mbele’s name had accumulate almost half a million rand. In addition, Shell will also donate R500 000 to a charity of Mbele’s choice.
Mbele told the Weekend Argus he had not yet had an opportunity to sit with his family to discuss what he would do with the money.
“I have been busy since the day this all started. I am yet to sit with my mom and the rest of the family to discuss everything.
“I am, however, confident that a sign from above will come and we will make a decision that will not only be pleasing to us, but the man above as well.”