Lebo Malepa will long be remembered in history as a forward-thinking entrepreneur who, despite the adversities he faced, brought hospitality to a township many would think twice about investing in.
Lebo Malepa dies: What’s the cause of death?
In a statement, Malepa’s low-cost accommodation business, Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, revealed that he “passed away on Christmas Day after a period of ill-health.”
“A father, a son, a husband, a brother. A community leader, a pioneer, a trailblazer, a creative, a true entrepreneur. A giant man with so much love. Much more is to say. We are still in shock and the family asks for space and privacy to mourn the loss of this great man,” the post read.
Joburg Tourism also paid tribute to the entrepreneur, describing him as “an inspirational leader and legend in the township tourism community.”
“His award-winning establishment certainly went a long way in giving pleasure to thousands of urban tourists and putting Soweto firmly on the map as a destination for exciting, authentic experiences. He was remarkable – an original and a true gem,” the tourism authority noted in a statement.
Malepa’s idea to venture into hospitality came when he when he sold crafts to tourists on the famous Vilakazi Street in 1997, according to Mail & Guardian.
“People wanted to sleep overnight in Soweto, so I offered them my grandparents’ house in Orlando West,” he recalled in an interview with the cited publication
A chance encounter with a backpackers in Drakensburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) was his eureka moment, and from there onwards, his life’s work in bringing that accommodation format to Soweto began.
Malepa also incorporated cycle tours and ‘tuk-tuk’ services into his tourism offerings, granting international thrill-seekers an opportunity to embrace the township lifestyle up-close and personal, and not in the safe confines of a tour bus.
Malepa is survived by his wife Maria, and their two children.