14/05/2018 14:18 SAST | Updated 14/05/2018 14:18 SAST

Minister Lindiwe Zulu Vows To Uplift 'Resilient' Herb Farmer

"The first thing they need to learn from Mam' V is just getting up and starting something for yourself."

Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu went to visit a small herb farm in Alexandra on Monday morning, where Violet Mabaso runs her co-operative.

Despite the wet weather in Johannesburg, the minister made it a point to keep her appointment, at which she announced plans to assist "Mam' Violet" — as the plucky urban farmer is known to many — to grow her business.

"This is what small business is about; you start small and then you grow. With government support, you will grow," Zulu said to the farmer.

"We came here to find out what are the needs. When I leave to my next meeting, [government officials] will sit down with you. You break it down to them," the minister said.

She believes there is a lot that entrepreneurs can learn from Mam' Violet.

"The first thing they need to learn from Mam' V is just getting up and starting something for yourself. Don't wait for anybody to say: 'This is what you can start.' We are saying small business is big business. She is an example of the resilience of somebody who decided: 'This is what I am going to do'," Zulu said.

Pontsho Mabena

Last month HuffPost wrote a story about the work that Mabaso is doing through Malobanyane Cooperative, which led to the minister's interest.

Mabaso farms about 47 herbs including basil, thyme, lemongrass, parsley and five different types of mint, which she sells to restaurants and markets around the Sandton area.

However, she does not have the resources to create branding for the goods that she produces along with other women in the community.

"What I think I like is that herbs are being planted here, they are being planted and dried here."

This is one of the problems that Zulu wants to assist her with.

"I can already see it for myself; look at the environment here. The stove is squashed; everything is squashed — I think, even for health and safety.

"The chances and possibilities of growth here are big," she added.

Pontsho Mabena

It seems the future is bright for Mam' Violet and other herb farmers in Alex.

"You [HuffPost] were here a month ago. I did not know that somewhere along the line the minister will see the post. Thank you Mam' Lindiwe," Mabaso said as she embraced the minister.

"Becoming an entrepreneur; it has to come from your heart," she said.

The minister walked around the one-hectare farm picking herbs and taking in the aroma.

"What I think I like is that herbs are being planted here. They are being planted and dried here. I like the fact that you already have a bit of a market. The marketing starts with how you have packaged your product. This is why we are here today — I am happy to be here," she said.

Zulu said it was important for government to find small businesspeople like Mam' Violet who have "taken their own initiative, worked very hard and worked very smart, but who do not have the resources to create the environment for production".