Lebo’s Backpackers and Vombo Tours win big at the Lilizela National Awards

Managed and owned by the soft-speaking Khimbini Hlongwane, the ecstatic winner in his own words remarked “if feels good to be honoured by peers”.

And the winner…Lebo’s Backpackers duo Lungile Mbangula and Thami Khumalo posing with their accolades at the National Lilizela Awards ceremony in Sandton. Images SLM.

Once a cattle herder from a little village in Mpumalanga and now the managing director of a tour company Hlongwane, bears evidence to what can be achieved through determination and passion.

Vomba Tours & Safaris, a tour operator based just outside the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga was established in 2015.

“Now more responsibilities have been added with this prestigious award. Although we’ve been doing fairly good in terms of business, this honour means more attention in terms of how we position the brand and responsibilities by my staff out-there.

No room for errors or oversight. For the masses of Mpumalanga who have been behind the company, this is for you,” he chuckled feverishly.

In his usual tranquil mood Hlongwane, who unfortunately did not read the memo (the invite stated African attire) clad in jacket and jeans- also attributed this achievement to the Mpumalanga Tourism Parks& Agency who played a significant role in shaping him.

The sixth edition of the National Lilizela Tourism Awards was hosted by broadcast veterans, Xolani Gwala and Leanne Manas, held at the Sandton Convention Center last Saturday night.

Lebo’s Backpackers (Soweto) also won their fourth Lilizela Award in the Backpacking & Hostelling category.

Representing the company in the absence of founder Lebohang Malepa, the duo said bagging this award shows commitment in keeping people happy, safe and having a time of their lives with Sowetans.

Lungile Mbangula and Thami Khumalo (clad in respective African regalia) in unison retorted they don’t take things for granted and will always strive for excellence to promote and market the brand and Soweto to the outside world.

“It is a real privilege to be here with you to celebrate your successes and achievements. That’s what tonight (Saturday) is all about: recognizing and rewarding tourismplayers, businesses and the people on the ground who collectively make South Africa the great global destination that it is,” said Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, who has been labeled ‘Chawe’ by locals in the Eastern Cape.

South African Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona during his address said: “A thriving South African tourism sector contributes to the economy, to employment, to the culture, the quality of life and the prosperity of our beautiful country. We’re reminded of the diversity South Africa has and how privileged we are to have such amazing experiences to offer global visitors.”

In our pre reportage we did indicate to both Vomba Tours and Lebo’s Backpackers that they will be honoured with national accolades. Voila

Recipients of the National Lilizela Tourism Awards 2018 received art piece by various local artists represented by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and Artist Proof Studios.

Bongani “Stevie Wonder” Mbambo- due to his blindness, Zakes Bantwini and the legendary Sipho “Hot-Stix” Mabuse led the evening’s entertainment.

ONCE in Joburg (Braamfontein) won the Best Backpacker accommodation in the whole of South Africa. They have another establishment in Cape Town.

ONCE Business Development Manager, Sophie Bagheri says each city has its own personality and the same goes for each hotel.”

“Joburg is the sleek and stylish business woman that likes to let her hair down on the weekend after a week of hustling. Cape Town is the laid-back hipster sister that likes to take things slow, enjoys drinking beer and watching the sunset. Skateboarding and hiking are also her favourite past times.”

For a full line-up of winners go to

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