Nikelwa Tengimfene was born in Cape Town, though her parents were based in the Eastern Cape at the time. She received her primary education in the Transkei and matriculated at Mzomhle High School, Mdantsane in 1983.
She enrolled at the University of Fort Hare in 1984 for an undergraduate degree. This was disrupted during the student uprising. Nikelwa obtained a three year Diploma in Social Work from the National Social Welfare Training Institute in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Furthermore, she enrolled with the University of South Africa graduating with a Master’s degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology in 2009. Her dissertation topic was “The work-family conflict experienced by South African women of different race groups: A Phenomenological Study”.
Nikelwa started her career as a social worker and a community development worker at various non-governmental organisations within the Western Cape. She later joined the Parliament as a researcher attached to Select Committee on Public Service and Administration. The Office of the Premier (Gauteng) extended her work exposure in developing strategies for direct engagement between the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) and its citizens. It further incorporated overseeing public and corporate events management for GPG milestone achievements against set priorities and or programmes. She was also responsible for the overall coordination of protocol, stakeholder management and intergovernmental relations
She loves reading, gardening, entertaining and travels extensively to recharge her energies.