FOR more than a century, residents in Mount Fletcher had to travel at least 120km to access private pharmaceutical services – but that is now a thing of the past – thanks to Vumile Mzinzi.
Residents from the small town in the former Transkei had to cough up R70 for a taxi fare to travel to and from Maclear – the nearest town which is 62km away – to access pharmaceutical services.
Others had to pay a R100 taxi fare to and from Matatiele which is 70km away.
Mount Fletcher is a rural town in the Joe Gqabi District Municipality situated at Elundini Local Municipality. The only available pharmaceutical service in Mount Fletcher was the local Taylor Bequest Hospital which was strictly restricted to patients.
But 30-year-old University of Western Cape pharmacy graduate Mzinzi brought the services closer to residents when he opened Ithalomso Pharmacy (Colbert Trading Enterprise) in April last year.
Mzinzi graduated in 2010 and had been working as a pharmacist at Nelson Mandela Central Hospital in Mthatha before ”his life-changing decision” to open his own business in Mount Fletcher.
However, he concedes that starting the business, especially in a place where there was none before, is “hectic” to say the least. In fact, he argues that it actually required a lot of research and consultations to ensure that he was investing in a business that would be viable.
“I decided to take a risk and open the pharmacy here and I realised that there has never been a pharmacy in this town. I travelled across all the towns of [the former] Transkei and found Mount Fletcher as a suitable place to run the business and I see prospects of growth. My business is now over a year old and so far it’s doing well with a promising future,” says Mzinzi.
By opening the pharmacy and thus bringing the much-needed services closer to the community, the Ngcobo-born pharmacist also created employment opportunities for eight residents from the surrounding villagers.
The Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) helped finance and draw up his business plan as well as with the necessary information to approach other financial institutions.
“The business plan helped me because it opened doors of other funders and here is the pharmacy operating,’’ a proud Mzinzi says.
ECDC head of risk capital Phakamisa George says financing Ithalomso’s business plan falls perfectly within ECDCs risk capital function. This facility assists entrepreneurs with the development of their business ideas up to a stage where they are able to meet the often stringent requirements of financiers.
“This support takes the form of facilitation, feasibility studies, development and testing of prototypes, regulatory compliance costs such as Environmental Impact Assessments, water licences and business plans. ECDC is pleased that it fulfilled this obligation with Ithalomso allowing the pharmacy to secure third-party funding,” George says.
When the pharmacy was opened last year, residents rejoiced as that meant they did not have to go to other towns for the service.
Mthatha-based King Sabata Dalindyebo municipal councillor Archbishop Tshepo Machaea, whose parental home is in Mount Fletcher and frequents the areas, described the opening of Ithalomso Pharmacy as a financial relief for residents.
“The people of Mount Fletcher got sick like people of any other area and would go to doctors who would just write you a prescription to take to a pharmacy,” said Machaea.
“Those people had to travel about a total of 140km [to and from] Matatiele or of about 130km [to and from] Maclear and had to pay between R70 and R100 on taxi fares to only get prescribed medication. Now that a pharmacy has been opened right here in town, residents who want to access pharmaceutical services will save a lot of money and time on transportation,” said Machaea.
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