Skip to main content

Triumph That Came After The Tears

Published 5 years ago
By Forbes Africa

Thulani Khoza, a smartphone manufacturer, grew up hungry with no parents and was sexually abused. He endured it all to build his own company, Thules Telecoms.

Soon after he was born, in the east of Johannesburg, his parents abandoned him. This cruel twist of fate saw Khoza move to Bushbuckridge, a small poor town in Mpumalanga, to stay with his grandmother.

“Growing up was hard. I would walk to school and back by foot. On hot days I’d feel the heat on my feet and when it rained it poured on me. And when I get home I’d find that my aunts had only reserved food for their children,” says Khoza.

The odds were stacked against him and it was about to get worse. Khoza says a cousin raped him leaving physical and emotional scars.

“I have an operation on my manhood. It’s gets painful every winter season and it’s a reminder of what happened,” he says.

As if that was not enough, later that year, he survived two accidents; one put him in hospital for six months. Khoza was alone and cold in a world of suffering.

“It was a difficult time in my life, so much so that I tried to commit suicide five times.”

The scars on Khoza’s body tell the story of his anguish.

“I was burned by iron. I had hot water thrown over my body by family members,” says Khoza, as tears well up his eyes.

The 30-year-old entrepreneur has a soft shaky voice but he is tough.

In those lean days his hunger for a better life kept him going. After completing matric, he moved back to Johannesburg to stay with a relative. But death was at the door; the cousin died. This left Khoza to fend for himself.

“After his death I felt lonely and I had no place to call home. So I ended up sleeping at church. The security guard would give me his jacket to use as a blanket.”

Khoza was not to be beaten.

His love for technology saw him take on a degree in computer science from the University of the Witwatersrand. Here, he also slept in lecture halls.

“I would wake up at 4AM so that other students would not see that I was sleeping in the class,” he says.

Khoza had to rely on others to pay for his fees. His church raised money to cover his first year and a bursary from MTN allowed him to complete his degree.

Surviving was not easy but he somehow managed to.

While studying, Khoza would fix people’s computers and laptops to earn extra money and his love for technology grew.

He followed his degree up with a couple of post-graduate degrees, including an Honors in Software Engineering from the University of Nottingham, in Britain, and a Master’s in business administration at Baker University in the United Sates.

Soon after completing his studies, Khoza was hired as a system analyst for South Africa’s public broadcaster, the SABC. He then left the broadcaster to join cell phone giant MTN.

“I became restless in spirit and mind,” he says.

Khoza wanted to be his own boss.

In 2008, he created his own Android-powered smartphone, which he says will boast greater security in the technology industry.

“It lets the user encode the phone. It makes the phone 99.9 percent secure,” says Khoza.

The app, exclusive to the phone for now, will help up-and-coming entrepreneurs connect with others around the world and those already established, all via an electronic forum.

Thules Telecoms has 89 employees and has received orders from as far as the United States, Britain, Mexico, Portugal, and Ghana.

“People used to look at me like I was nothing, and because of that I told myself that one day I was going to be great and get the treatment that I deserve. Yes, I suffered in life, but I decided not to live my life in anger and bitterness because it can destroy you.”

“I’ve come to realize the fact that my parents abandoned me, they don’t owe me anything. Nobody owes me anything. I’m in charge of my own happiness,” says Khoza.

Despite the lemons that life throws at him, Khoza is able to make lemonade.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter Daily Update

Get the best of Forbes Africa sent straight to your inbox with breaking business news, insights and updates from experts across the continent.
Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and services. By signing up for newsletters, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
Related Topics: #December 2016, #Faud, #Manufacturer, #Smartphone, #Thulani Khoza, #Thules Telecoms.