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The Profit That Comes From Gore And Grime

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It’s a business that people hardly knew existed 20 years ago. It is also not for the faint hearted. Some call it the business of death, but it is broader than that. Murders, suicides, and decompositions are just some of the scenes that Eileen de Jager and her sister, Roelien Schutte, attend to most days.

Their business, Crime Scene Clean Up, started 17 years ago, when Eileen and Roelien saw a need to start a business that would save people from the trauma of having to clean up crime scenes of their loved ones or friends.

“We discovered this idea after we saw one of our neighbors had to clean her daughter’s suicide scene. We decided we needed to do something to change this,” says Eileen.

When the sisters started out they used to travel to scenes around the country with a minibus equipped with everything, including a kitchen sink.

“The only thing we were short of was a shower,” Eileen chuckles.

Today, the business employs about 32 people and has nine branches across South Africa. The Blood Sisters, as they are popularly known, started the business with only practical experience. In a challenging and demanding field like this, the sisters felt a need to further their skills by studying. Roelien and Eileen’s husband, Francois, who is the CEO of Crime Scene Clean Up, went for waste management courses, while Eileen studied environmental health.

Studying further was important to grow the business.

“Having the knowledge and professional skills to do the job enabled us to understand this work better,” says Francois.

Crime Scene Clean Up Eileen and Francois de Jager

Eileen and Francois de Jager (Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla)

They are the last to arrive at a crime scene. Eileen says they do their job so thoroughly it can be difficult for law enforcement officials to extract evidence afterwards.

Crime scenes vary in nature – some are more suited to a woman and others a man.

“Women are usually labeled as cleaners in a household, hence I never found it difficult to adapt, but sometimes there’s an emotional attachment that we sometimes leave behind,” says Eileen.

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Before becoming entrepreneurs, Francois, Eileen and Roelien had nine-to-five jobs. Francois was a motor mechanic, while Eileen was a foreign exchange trader. Despite the blood and gore, Eileen says crime scene cleaning can be easier.

“What I am doing now is less stressful than what I used to do when I was in the corporate space,” says Eileen.

An ordinary day of work can border on the bizarre for these entrepreneurs. One day, Francois called Eileen while she was at a scene, wearing her mask and bloody gloves in the middle of a cleaning operation, to ask what she wanted to eat for supper.

“Can you imagine how ridiculous this is,” the couple say simultaneously, as they share a chuckle.

This profession is no laughing matter though. According to Eileen, cleaning a crime scene without professional help may lead to respiratory problems and post-traumatic stress.

“You must be compassionate and this field must be something that you want to do,” Eileen warns.

There is also bureaucracy to deal with. After fighting for years for their business to be recognized by the law in South Africa, the three say they still have to fight every year for their renewals.

“Like any other business in the country, there are fake ones that register for the same business and mess it up, making more problems for us with the government,” says Francois.

Eileen, Roelien and Francois aren’t just in this business to make millions, they’re also working hard to bring tranquility to a troubled period in someone’s life.

READ MORE: The High Price Of Addiction

This Woman Could Save Your Life

It’s a sunny August morning in Midrand, 30 kilometers north of Johannesburg. In a calm, yet busy, environment sits a crew responsible for despatching the emergency services that could save your life.

Nokonwaba Mgcoyi, a 35-year-old mother of two, has been working for the 10111 center – a 24-hour crime reporting call center – for more than 10 years. Today, she takes us through how the center operates.

The Gauteng regional centre, where Mgcoyi works, is South Africa’s largest. It caters for the 12 million people that live in the Gauteng province.

It’s a faceless profession, which some have seen as non-functional for decades. Though it is not listed under essential services, it is crucial for the public.

“10111 has become part of my life as I spend 80% of my time serving the public through the center,” says Mgcoyi.

Women are sometimes perceived to be vulnerable and incapable of handling pressure, but Mgcoyi seems to be calm and confident while on duty.

Mgcoyi deals with trauma on a daily basis, including domestic violence, accidents, murders, robberies and gang violence. The call center’s agents, like Mgcoyi, deal with up to 200 phone calls a weeknight and as many as 10,000 on a weekend night.

Although the public constantly complains about the effectiveness of the 10111 center, Mgcoyi says they work very hard in a challenging job.

“For us it takes up to 10 minutes to take a call and despatch a van. What happens after that is up to the police,” she says.

“10111 has two divisions, the call center that answers the calls, and the despatching department that despatches the vans according to the location of the emergency.”

READ MORE: The Criminal World Of Dog Eat Dog

A lack of resources can make a difficult job even tougher.

“A shortage of vans in police stations is one of the major problems that we face,” she says.

Hard decisions also have to be taken. Mgcoyi has to prioritize emergencies according to their importance.

“We categorize the emergencies from alpha complaints, which are known as priority number one, down to the least threatening situations. This helps in ensuring that high priority crimes are given preference.”

In South Africa, where a high crime rate is the norm, and the roads are perilously dangerous, the service that people like Mgcoyi offer is vital.

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IN PICTURES | Truck Entrepreneur Drives Style Movement

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Collaborations are key for the development of Africa’s sports economy


On a busy road in Soweto, in the southwest of Johannesburg, taxis go about their daily drill, stopping to pick up passengers outside the apartment-tenements of Chiawelo. Here, a truck of a different kind is stationed next to an old container and a car wash.

It’s owned by Siyabulela Ndzonga, a small entrepreneur dabbling in fashion, who has turned it into a concept store, on wheels.

Ndzonga,who brands himself Siya Fonds (S/F) – after a nickname his mother gave him as a baby, has been associated with the South African Fashion Week and with reputed designers such as Ole Ledimo, the founder of House of Olé, and stylist and fashion guru Felipe Mazibuko.

I didn’t even study fashion but it’s interesting how I’m actually making an impact and contributing a lot in the fashion industry, says Ndzonga. 

It was around 2011, when he sold second-hand clothes on the trendy streets of Braamfontein in Johannesburg, where only the cool kids would hang out.

“I was big on thrifting; selling second-hand clothes. I would thrift, resell,thrift, resell.”

His hard work earned him a stall at one of the flea markets in Johannesburg. At this point, Ndzonga was still employed at a retail store. After work and on weekends, he would be hustling on Johannesburg’s streets, all for the love of fashion and because people loved his work.

Ndzonga saw a business opportunity, quit his retail job and registered his brand in 2013. Later that year, Toe Porn socks contacted him and requested he consult for them.

“Brand consulting means that I come in and take their clothes and use them to translate the current fashion trends, translate them to how I think [people]should be dressing in terms of fashion. I actually became a designer because I set trends before they would trend. I would set the tone, narrative and navigate where fashion should go in the whole world, not just in South Africa,” he says.

His fame slowly grew and he started making clothes for others, traveling by taxi to CMT (cut, make and trim) factories in Germiston, 42kms from his hometown. 

“In 2015, that’s when I really saw that I am growing as a brand and that’s when I started consulting for international brands like Palladium Shoes, Fila and Ben Sherman.”

The business grew but he had to travel to others parts of country and that exercise was taxing.

He stopped making clothes and paused his business.

“The whole of 2016, I focused on consulting and saved money to set up a truck. I needed a store so people could come in and purchase Siya Fonds from the truck. This whole thing of delivering is not me, I can’t do it,” says Ndzonga.

“I initially wanted a container, but the truck was a better, fresher alternative. I’m not the first to do it, but I’m the first in Soweto. I set it up and people love it because it’s bringing popular culture to Soweto. I had to trust myself that’s it’s going to work and it did.”

The truck had been lying unused when Ndzonga purchased it, and he overhauled it with a lick of paint and an infusion of color and character.

I got another truck to pick it up and bring it to the current location in 2016.

In March 2017, the truck was launched as a concept store and he called it Block 88, as it encompasses other brands as well.

“Business was not so great after the launch. It only picked up after a few months of selling a few international brands that I consult for. We had seven brands in the store.”

He sells t-shirts, caps, jackets and jumpsuits. A two-piece suit sells for R1,400 ($97).

The next step for Ndzonga is to have stores in all the neighborhoods in Soweto and major South African cities.

Since the inception of his truck, he has also injected some vibrancy into the community.

He organizes art development programs and conversations around social issues on Fridays outside the truck, gathering youth and children.

“Conversation Fridays is like TED-talks. It’s bringing conversations to the township instead of having them in the city or suburbs and speak about what creatives are facing in the creative space and industry,” he says.

Now, he works as a consultant with a consumer agency and collaborates on a number of brands, also doing research for them. As the hustle and bustle quietens down at sunset in Soweto, Ndzonga’s trendy truck shuts shop. Tomorrow will be another day as a beacon of hope and vibrancy on a Soweto street.


Siyabulela Ndzonga of Siya Fonds. Picture: 
Motlabana Monnakgotla

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Two’s Company; 30 Under 30 Alumni Collaborate

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Under 30 alumni, born on the same day and with similar stories of entrepreneurship, are collaborating to disrupt industries and shape the future of Africa.

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