Nkosikho Mbele could have made his living flipping burgers, but because he is a people person he chose to work outdoors and interact with customers.
Little did the 28-year-old Cape Town petrol attendant know that this decision would one day bring him national fame.
Mbele — who touched many hearts after he gave a stranded motorist R100 for petrol at a Shell garage last month so she would not get stuck on the city’s notoriously dangerous N2 — does not like the spotlight and says that social media comments this week almost broke his heart.
He had to calm family members after unfounded reports went viral that his home in Khayelitsha had been broken into.
A local radio station even asked him if he would have helped the customer if she were black, he said.
“Myself and my colleagues help many customers here — customers of all races. Sometimes we change tyres for them because the N2 is very dangerous, and assist them to safety,” said Mbele.
“Some show gratitude more than others. It is just this time around the customer took it to another level.”
Motorists have been pulling into the garage near Somerset West since he became a celebrity.
“A lot of people have been coming here since my story started trending. Some just come to pose for pictures with me and others encourage me to continue to do good. But the attention has been overwhelming. I can’t express myself the way I am used to. Now I feel I have to be perfect in every aspect in order to impress people.
“Even the way I talk to the customers is very formal lately and more rigid than before this is not me. I am a very friendly guy, I like to engage the customers, chat and build a rapport with them. Right now, I feel like a machine.”
Two years ago, Mbele worked in the kitchen at a Steers attached to the garage, but asked to become a petrol attendant.
On Thursday last week, Monet van Deventer forgot her bank card at home and told Mbele that she was rushing to a meeting in Cape Town.
He helped her out and a friendship developed between them.
Van Deventer started a crowdfunding campaign on his behalf after he told her he wanted to help children on the streets in Khayelitsha. The campaign, which had raised more than R500,000 by Friday, ends on June 30.
Grateful for the donations, Mbele said what touched his heart most was the chocolate that Van Deventer bought him when she came to repay his money, which she topped up with an extra R50. Ever since that day they have been in contact.
Improving his home tops the list of his priorities, said the father of two, who will consult his mother about this. Mbele also wants to ensure that his children get a better education than his matric.
Mbele mentions “God and my mother” in every sentence, reflecting the source of his kindness.
“We did not have much, we were backyard dwellers for a long time and my mother sold meat on the streets for a living. But she always taught us to be content and share the little we had. What I did was ubuntu, which is God’s work. Even my community is proud of what I did,” he said.
Shell has pledged to donate R500,000 to a charity of Mbele’s choice and will fly him to Zanzibar, Tanzania, next month for the company’s regional service excellence awards.
– Sunday Times