Enhle Khumalo’s magic lies in her mystery – being at the right place, at the right time.
Everyone has a golden thread: a recurring theme wrapped in serendipity, an invisible stitch that sews the randomness of life together, a link that only makes sense when you connect the dots. Golden threads tie your narrative together, subtly sprouting through your timeline until the pieces fall into place.
What is Enhle Khumalo’s golden thread? She shifts her weight on the garden chair and considers the weight of the question. “I’m attempting not to be cheesy, but I just do it,” she says. And a part of Enhle’s “just doing it”, the golden thread that ties her different, diverse parts together – the entrepreneur, the activist, the daughter, the sister, the friend – lies in the magic of showing up, being present and watching the rest manifest.
“There was always an emphasis on showing up,” says Enhle, a Wits University master’s graduate in political science and now an advocacy and campaigns coordinator for the South African Federation for Mental Health.
“For whatever reasons the opportunities that presented themselves in front of me, either in business or in social justice, are as a result of me showing up in those spaces,” she says.
“Once you show up, the rest follows.”
Her first job, in 2015, was au pairing and that pushed her to buy a R27 000 scrap car that rumour has it is still parked at Wits to this day.
“I hated being an au pair,” says Enhle, a smile revealing she is only being half serious, a delicate balance of sincere and sarcastic. She is a petite 25-year-old woman with the features of a fox, her angled cheekbones framed by black glasses, faux locs tied in a bun above her head.
Enhle then applied to be an intern at PowerFM in 2017 but she was not offered the job. The disappointment crushed her but little did she know an opportunity was waiting for her as they always seem to do.
“I love that golden thread of showing up. I got rejected but I didn’t even know that a week later I would be going for an interview for a job,” says Enhle.
She landed a job as a social media strategist and community manager in 2017 at Ginkgo Agency, the strategic content collective responsible for the culture projects 21 Icons and Beautiful News South Africa.
Enhle’s role at Ginkgo, the place she would call her professional home for two years, required ‘round the clock creative copy, patience and an understanding of how stories connect people seven days a week, 365. It takes a certain type of person with a certain strain of maturity to manage these virtual communities, and even though Enhle is only as old as South Africa’s democracy, she had the ability to make it seem seamless.
She laughs at her luck, something she seems to do often. It is not a nervous laugh, but it is a bit self-deprecating, the only crack in her composed armour. It is as if she is in slight disbelief that she has actually managed to achieve so much and emerge with no regrets.
As impenetrable as Enhle’s calm may seem, there is a vulnerability that makes it hard not to see that she has her own stakes to grapple with. She has people she does not want to disappoint, especially herself, and so she puts her best foot forward and she shows up, every time.
With people who are larger than life in so many subtle ways, it can be hard to recognise them as human and not as bulletproof.
“People look at Enhle today and all she has – she has the businesses, and she has a nice car, a nice home and a nice relationship – but when I met her just two years ago she didn’t have that,” says Jonathan Sinclair, Enhle’s former co-worker at Ginkgo.
“When I met her she was still relying on public transport, she was still relying on other people for her living situation and she has achieved all of this in only two years. It is because of that constant striving,” says Sinclair.
Enhle was on the Wits SRC as the research and policy officer in 2014. She ran an on-campus initiative called MbalEnhlesis with her sister Mbali in 2016 where they sold doeks to raise funds for sanitary products for girls in schools. This year she opened an affordable mobile food trailer at Wits called Roaming Stove. This is what constant striving looks like, being able to manage the pressure cooker of being many things at once.
As someone who seems to know herself inside out, no stone of self-discovery left unturned, it does make one curious if there is anything Enhle does not know about herself.
“I don’t know if she knows she’s enigmatic, and it makes her special because you become curious about her, it makes you wonder what she’s really like,” says friend Saneli Mavundla, a third-year BCom politics, philosophy and economics student Enhle met in 2017 at an open working space in Maboneng Precinct.
So what is Enhle really like, between the many hats, the different faces and the multiple roles she occupies as an entrepreneur, feminist, friend and co-worker? She is lamb and lion, a hunger to be as dynamic as possible but a gentleness when she is earnest about what she cares about the most: making an impact on people’s lives.
“I always say two years can’t look the same and if I’m still in the same position next year, I’d probably panic, which is not the best way to live,” she smiles sheepishly as if she knows her affinity for constant movement is a gift and a curse.
“But it is also what has gotten me here,” she says.
“I know my responsibility in life is just to do what I need to be doing, following what my heart says to do, and a lot of it relies on luck – whatever gets this luck,” says Enhle.
Fortune favours the brave and for someone who has taken more risks than most millennials, Enhle Khumalo’s luck does not seem to be running out any time soon. She knows either way, she will end up exactly where she needs to go, almost as if guided by her own golden thread.
FEATURED IMAGE: Enhle Khumalo, 25, is in her element at the creative hub Spaces in Rivonia. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.