Lionhearted Engen dealer pens inspirational memoir
Proud husband Xolani Kalani with his wife Nomthandazo Vena Kalani and her three children Zintle, Sindile and Lisa

Nomthandazo Vena Kalani’s inspirational debut novel, Precious Stones within our Flaws, is the story of a brave woman who conquered excruciating hardship and countless barriers to lead her best life.

In her book, invites readers to join her on her journey to find the precious stones within their own life journey.

Precious Stones within our Flaws will be officially launched on 30 April 2022 at Isango Gate Boutique Hotel and Spa in Gqeberha.

“The title of my book resonates with me because it’s all about acceptance,” says Tandi candidly.

“I have made many mistakes in my life but with hindsight I have come to realise that there were also many beautiful moments interwoven with the sorrow and to now stop beating myself up for any wrong turns.”

Tandi grew up in Siyanda, an informal settlement in the Eastern Cape town of Gcuwa (formerly Butterworth).

Despite her humble origins, her entrepreneurial spirit emerged at a young age as did her ability to bounce back from bumps in the road.

“When I was in primary school, I used to sell sweets and chicken heads and feet to help support my family,” she says proudly. “I also learnt a lot about how easily a business can fail when I opened my first spaza shop while still at high school.”

Life changed when Tandi fell pregnant at the age of 17 and she was forced to make some big calls.

“I was disappointed with myself, but I was determined to make something out of my life, otherwise my son would have to live the same life as mine,” reflects Tandi, who left soon school and moved to New Brighton in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) where she found employment as a domestic worker and later as a cashier at local taverns in Kwanobuhle.

During this “bleak time”, she overcame numerous battles and demons in pursuit of a better life for her and her family.

“My first taste of the petroleum industry was in 1995 when I became a petrol attendant and then a cashier at a local garage.

“I found that I had a knack for the industry and worked my way up to eventually become a 50% owner of the garage.”

But difficulties in her marriage to a man who owned the other 50%, led her to sell her share in the petrol station and seek alternative employment to support her three children.

Despite not having a matric or any formal training, Tandi found she had natural leadership ability and could inspire others around her.

Opportunity knocked in 2011 when Tandi was offered an Engen dealership following a stringent assessment and evaluation process.

“Engen assessed me on my ability and never judged me for not having matric, whilst supporting and preparing me for the road ahead.

“I attended a course at Stellenbosch University and was fully supported by Engen so that I could seamlessly take over as the proud owner of Engen Cape Road Convenience in central Gqeberha in February 2012.”

When asked why she decided to write her story, Tandi says her mother had a saying “even the smallest lion is big and powerful in its empire”.

“To me this means that even though my story might not be much, it may bring hope to someone else faced with similar obstacles.”

Determined to deal with debilitating self-esteem issues, Tandi managed to obtain her matric certificate in 2017 at the age of 42.

She wrote her memoir in English, her second language and has managed to secure a book deal, thanks to her publisher, Inspired Books.

“I’m proud of my journey and can thankfully say that I have managed to conquer some of my fears and insecurity.

“Writing my book is my greatest achievement because I have managed to reclaim my freedom.”

Today, Tandi is happily married to Xolani Amos Kalani, and her three children are thriving.

Her personal philosophy is: “You only have today, you don’t know your tomorrow.”

Which in essence, she says, is “use up today like it is your last because your tomorrow isn’t promised, and you don’t know what tomorrow will deal you. When I am under stress, I remind myself that there are better days ahead.”

Engen wishes Tandi every success with her debut novel and congratulates her on her phenomenal success as a businesswoman and a shining example of her community.

Tandi’s poetic and insightful book is available at