ONGWEDIVA – Despite not receiving formal education or any sort of mechanic training, Gabriel Nghotokepo has the heart, mind and hands of a game-changing innovator.
He turned scrap metal, electric wires and an old motorcycle engine into a fuel-efficient rugged vehicle, which he calls his “Landcruiser”.
He estimated that his vehicle, which has neighbours’ tongues wagging, can run up to 20km per hour, and it can reach up to 80km on two litres of petrol.
It also has a sound system.
“I was taught to design my motorcycle from scratch in my dream. The designs would then manifest in real life – just the same way I envisioned in the dream,” said Nghotokepo (30) as he narrates how he single-handedly built his car from scratch.
Coming from a poverty-stricken home, growing up stateless and attending school at an advanced age, Nghotokepo, a resident of the Onawa informal settlement in Oshakati, continues to defy the odds and rallies against his circumstances by practically following his dreams.
Originally from Onekwaya west village in Ohangwena region, Gabriel has been a cattle herder until the age of 20 when he registered for literacy education at his village.
At 26, he dropped out of school, as he was anxious about going to school with children half his age. He then got a job as a security guard.
New Era caught up with the young man as he shared the invention he built within two months.
Demonstrating how his invention works, Gabriel turned it on by connecting some wires under the bonnet, and then he jumped into the vehicle and stepped hard on a pedal made from metal.
He then disengaged another metal, which looks like a handbrake before he sped off.
“This isn’t your average Landcruiser,” he shouted while spinning his invention.
His remarkable idea came to life last year when his motorbike broke down and he attempted to fix it himself.
“For so many years, I have been dreaming about fixing cars and motorbikes, and I never really understood what that meant. So, when my motorbike broke down last year, I got a vision in my dream about how I could fix it, and the following day I put my dream into practice. Surprisingly, it worked,” he recounted.
Fixing his motorbike gave inspiration to his curious mind.
“…I noticed such things are not difficult, and a few months later I created my own invention,” he said.
He said when he was creating his automobile, people assumed he was going insane, but that did not prove to be a hindrance to him.
“They obviously didn’t believe in me because I am just a security guard, who just came from the cattle post. They will see me going to dumpsites to look for materials and ask what was going on with me – not knowing I had a vision,” he lamented.
Last month, Gabriel completed his innovation.
“Even those who thought I was crazy were surprised. I didn’t really know people would like my innovation until I drove it to town one day. I am just glad to know there are people out there who appreciate and love my idea,” he added.
Gabriel uses his vehicle for errands at nearby shops in his location.
He also used to drive it to work until the law enforcement officers stopped him.
“I was warned by the police not to drive it in public, as it is not roadworthy. So, I only drive it to town for display with the permission of the police”.
Gabriel’s dream did not stop after the innovation.
Last month, he started a business where he fixes motorbikes.
“I didn’t know people would take me seriously until they started approaching me to fix their motorbikes. I turned that into a business to support my family,” said the father of three.
“My skills keep advancing all the time – and sometimes I don’t have to wait for visions to execute my work. Now it just comes naturally because I keep training myself,” he said.
So far, Gabriel has fixed about 20 motorbikes.
His only challenge is a lack of sleep due to the nature of his job.
“My innovations require me to have enough sleep at night. But that is now a struggle because, at night, I have to work,” he said.
Like Gabriel, his story depicts the lives of many young Namibians, whose plans were limited to working in informal sectors on low wages due to the lack of formal education.
“That is not my story, and I am going to rewrite it. There’s something big in me that I can’t comprehend. I know I am destined for greatness,” he said confidently.
Gabriel envisions having a garage and becoming one of the best mechanics in town.
He also plans on going for vocational training to advance his knowledge.
“Right now, my finances are limiting me from going to school or coming up with other innovations, so I am pleading with good Samaritans who can assist me in advancing my skills or support my small business,” he concluded.