Success is not final, failure is not fatal — it is the courage to continue that counts.


Tourism & Hospitality


City Lodge Hotel Group

Tholakele Maureen Mthembu, 24, comes from a leadership background. She is an alumnus of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and a member of the student representative council.

When she arrived at the School of Tourism and Hospitality, she blossomed in her grades and was a top achiever, earning her a scholarship with the City Lodge Hotel Group. This scholarship gave her an advanced step into the hospitality industry.

In her first year as a graduate intern she stood out with her friendly demeanour and work ethic. She was recognised for this and soon after was given the position of food and beverage supervisor for a City Lodge flagship hotel, the Courtyard Hotel Waterfall City. Tholakele was remarkable in her ability to start a department from the ground up and showed a deep willingness to learn.

She went on to become an assistant food and beverage manager for the group at the age of 23. Tholakele is currently a junior assistant general manager, ensuring that guests receive a high-quality standard of service and motivating staff to be their best. She also researches different market trends and applies them to the operation. Tholakele is a trailblazer and tutors learners in her spare time.

  • High School: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls
  • Diploma in Hospitality Management, University of Johannesburg
  • Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Management, University of Johannesburg 
  • BA Honours in Tourism and Hospitality Management, University of Johannesburg 
  • Masters in Tourism and Hospitality candidate, University of Johannesburg

  • Food and beverage supervisor, 2021
  • Assistant food and beverage manager, 2021
  • Junior assistant general manager, 2022
  • City Lodge bursary recipient 

My background is what has spurred me to this level of achievement. My mom was a domestic worker and worked tirelessly to get me the best level of education. There had been news going around the school that the Oprah School was looking for the next candidate. I worked hard because I wanted to relieve my mom of paying for my studies and since grade 7 she has never paid since. When I got to tertiary I worked hard to receive the City Lodge bursary and it has carried me through my studies to masters level.

To be kinder to myself because my worries aren’t as important as I think they are and I must be myself.

I would like South Africa in the next five years to have a more balanced economy, have more citizens with jobs, and more black individuals with access to tertiary. More jobs that allow for training on the job and do not require 5–7 years of experience from an entry-level participant.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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