Embracing Human Rights

On 26 February 2015, a 21-year old woman from Cape Town was randomly pulled over by police and strip searched right down to her sanitary pad – she was menstruating at the time – in the backseat of her car in broad daylight. The police found no evidence of wrongdoing.  Earlier this month, it was revealed that certain areas in Worcester implemented an ‘access card system’ for job seekers, requiring them to carry green cards to confirm that they have no criminal record in order to seek employment. 

In a Parliamentary address on 10 March, President Jacob Zuma called for babies to be forcibly removed from teenage mothers until the teens have completed their schooling. I am not trying to paint a wholly negative picture here. We have had many wins for a country with a history steeped in human rights violations. The fact that I have no explicit memories of being barred from any areas – except perhaps adult conversations at parties – 20 years ago is testimony to how far we have come since the end of Apartheid. But 21 years into our democracy, it is worth noting that just because Apartheid is over, it does not mean 
that it is dead. Apartheid, like an evil villain who evaded capture and went into hiding, is still very much alive and flourishing under the radar. It hides in our communities, in our homes, speaking in hushed tones, hand signals, loaded stares and closed Facebook groups. 

Apartheid lurks in taboo subjects that nobody wants to talk about: school toilets and labourer’s wages. It breeds in township classrooms with no schoolbooks and underqualified teachers, and it festers inside of us when, like good little girls and boys and decent men and women, we look the other way, sit on our hands, keep our mouths closed and swallow the crumbs that we’re still told we should be grateful to have. And yet we act surprised when it catches us unaware in shopping malls, guesthouses, on deserted street corners early in the morning and on tertiary campuses amongst young people who are pegged to be our future leaders. 

Human Rights Day, 21 March, honours a day when people stood up to the Apartheid government. Originally named Sharpville Day, it is a day when thousands of people gathered in Sharpville on 21 March 1960 to protest against the Pass Laws, refusing to carry the dompas, an internal passport designed to limit the movements of black citizens. When police saw the crowd, they opened fire, killing 69 and injuring 180 protestors.  

On that day, the government massacred the people. Today, it is often said, the people are massacring each other.We are doing this by feeding the hidden villain in our midst: When we criticize inefficient policing but buy goods on street corners that we know were stolen from our neighbours. When we’re quick to call authorities to complain about noisy dogs but turn a deaf ear to the screams of a neighbour whose husband beats her. When we condemn trade unions but underpay staff because they are easily replaceable and willing to work for pittance. When we click our tongues – or Facebook Like buttons – at the human rights violations sprawled across the pages of our news platforms, enticing us to read about it while slowly desensitizing us into inertia.

I’m not saying that the former examples are not important. We should rally against all types of injustices. Inefficient policing and laws affecting our pets all contribute to the bigger picture that make up our human rights. But it would pay huge profits to remember that human rights are not subjective, even though it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking it is. Often, we are only moved to act on or support a certain cause when we are personally affected by it. But the thing is, when we ignore and condone injustices done unto others, we are sending the same message that the Apartheid government tried to instill: that certain people and groups are not worthy of the same rights as us.  

This Human Rights Day, let us challenge ourselves as citizens of the human race to change that message. Let us look both inside and outside ourselves and see where we are unwittingly perpetuating the principles that Apartheid enforced. Let us look the past squarely in the face and embody the courage that our ancestors held when they stood up against authority and asserted their human rights in Sharpville. Those deaths formed part of the sequence of events that resulted in our current Bill of Rights. What are we willing to do to ensure that our next generation – our children – have access to an even greater version of equality and freedom?

Rhodes So White

“…It very clear that the name isn’t gonna change. Students came to Rhodes knowing its name so why did people chose to come here if there was such an issue. If students have an issue with the name, move. I think this so called Rhodessowhite is huge generalizations to alot of people on campus and to be open beginning to piss alot of people off… How can one say the benefits go to the whites. We are all at university together, therefore WE HAVE BOTH BEEN GIVEN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED.. So why not do what we came to do and focus on our academics? This has quite frankly been taken too far, creating an uncomfortable ‘feel’ around campus.”

This post, of course, although expressed with sincerity, is highly ironic. It is precisely because of attitudes such as this that the “uncomfortable” conversation has to be had about the whiteness of institutions. Alicia de Sousa is bothered because people are challenging her comfort at an institution specifically designed to cater to her needs and desires, and this is unpleasant to her. According to her, if you don’t like the institution built with public funds that caters to her and the 9% of the population that is like her, then you can go to any of the other institutions built exclusive to educate the (black) 80% of the population, none of which are ranked in the top 5 institutions in the country. Duh! Of course, the comments below the post (too many to count) shouting down poor Alicia and calling her names is not going to change her opinion on the matter. 

I shook my head at her comment, and despaired a little for all the well-intentioned Alicias of the world. Her words, in caps, “We have both been given equal opportunity to succeed,” reminded me of an argument I had with a good friend of mine, back in my first year at Rhodes University in 2005. She was white, and had said something all the lines of, “I don’t see why everyone makes such a big deal of apartheid. Here you are, and here I am, and that fact that we’re both here means we’re equal.” My jaw dropped in disbelief. I couldn’t believe someone could say something like that. Having been raised by struggle activist parents, I took it for granted that every South African was aware of the glaring inequality between white lives and black lives in our country. 

I could explain to her and others how my grandparents were forcefully removed to a township under Group Areas, or how, as coloureds, teaching was the only option for my parents to have a professional career, or how the odds were so stacked against the generations before me who lived through apartheid that my attending university at all is a testament to their hard work and determination that the next generation will be better off than the last. But that wouldn’t really be illustrative of my point. Because as hard as it was for my forebears, I am still much more “equal” to Alicia de Sousa and my first-year friend than many, and by “many” I mean upwards of half, of the student population at Rhodes University.

Coming from a middle-class home where I was raised to speak English, despite the fact that my parents’ mother tongue is Afrikaans, meant that the academic lingo required to write my essays was hardly a stretch for me. The fact that I came from a largely Western-cultured home meant that the food on the “Normal” menu option (as opposed to “African”, “Halaal”, “Fast food”, etc) wasn’t that far from what was considered “normal” food at home, nor did I struggle with a knife and fork. In addition, I am coloured, but I look mostly white, so my appearance was never an issue when I asked for customer service from the administrators, librarians, or academic staff. I never had to worry about owing the university money, as I knew my parents had all that sorted. Any money I made in my part-time jobs was for my own consumption, and I never had to send any back to family at home. My parents brought the first computer into our house when I was about 8 years old. I could operate Windows and MS Word, navigate the internet, and touch type by the time I was 15, thus researching and typing my university assignments was never an issue. I was raised to love reading, love libraries and books, and so knew how to use an index, knew the Dewey decimal system of book shelving, knew how to operate the software system that located where books are shelved. In addition, having been at a private girls high school on scholarship, I was used to navigating white spaces, used to changing my accent from the one I used at home in order to be accepted, used to being surrounded by people far more materially advantaged than I was and not feeling intimidated. 

Working for ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, with participants from all walks of life, my heart often breaks  for Lehlohonolo, who dreams of studying at UCT, Wits or Rhodes, but whose spoken English is 
heavily accented by his native tongue, whose written English is riddled with grammar, spelling and punctuation errors, and who struggles to find his way around a computer. Lehlohonolo is not stupid, indeed, he is innovative in his concepts, original in his contributions, and astute in his observations, and is eager to learn. But he will be graded as a failure by lecturers who won’t even bother to learn to pronounce his name. Without the advantages I had, and without supportive parents who understand the tertiary education system, the odds of him succeeding, regardless of how hard he works, are stacked so heavily against him in this, our free South Africa. 

So yes, there is a need for the #RhodesSoWhite campaign. Whether the name is changed or not, to me, is not the point. The point is to make people uncomfortable by starting to question the way the institution operates, the multiple ways it excludes those who do not come from an extremely narrow set of conditions, the way we have normalised whiteness as the standard and hold everyone else to be judged by it. 

The greatest form of inequality is to treat unequal things equally, so why do we continue to provide the exact same (lack of) academic support to those from advantaged households and disadvantaged households and expect them to perform the same? It has been noted elsewhere that Rhodes offers pitifully few academic support programmes, and that the four-year extended programme hardly makes up for almost two decades of support middle-class students have received at home. It has been noted that seven out of 57 full-time professors are black at Rhodes, and so who is to be the academic role model to Lehlohonolo, to tell him that he, too, can achieve great heights in academia? Who is challenging whiteness at an academic level, objecting when a Politics course on The Politics of Africa is replaced by one on American Imperialism, as happened in my third year? 

The conversation around meaningful transformation in our academic institutions is long overdue, 
and it goes so much further than a statue or a name.

Nkhensani Ntsanwisi Frees A Soul

The Nkhensani Ntsanwisi Foundation, under the leadership of Activator Nkhensani Ntsanwisi, joined forces with Correctional Services Department in Limpopo Province in mid-February to help ex-offender, Oscar Rabothata. This was part of a campaign centred around the rehabilitation of ex-offenders to be re-integrated into societies. 

“I decided to help Oscar because, when I first met him, I did not see a criminal in him. Instead, I saw this strong, humble spirit that wanted to better his life, his family and his community,” Ntswanisi said. “When I checked the motives of his arrest, I understood I wasn’t wrong and couldn’t blame him. I then used my ACTIVATE! network raise funds to help kickstart his journey back to a normal life.”

Rabothata was found guilty for dealing with explosives from 2011 and was sentenced to eight years in prison. He served 4 years of his sentence and was released on parole in 2015 due to good behaviour. During his incarceration, he wrote and passed his matric in prison and studied further to obtain a N3 qualification in Boilermaking.

Correctional Services Area Coordinator for Development, Shebo Maserumule, said that Correctional Service would assist all inmates who dared to dream. “To be a boy is a matter of birth, to be a man is a matter of choice. Rabothata has made the choice to be a man and he must live by example and teach the young ones that crime does not pay,” said Maserumule.

Rabothata was also very instrumental in the ‘BUT, ONE DAY’ School Campaigns in Polokwane and surrounding areas hosted by Vantshwa Va Xivono Youth Organisation and the Nkhensani Ntsanwisi Foundation. Because of his courage and willingness for a better life, Rabothata showed that it is possible to live a better life outside the prison walls.

Nkhensani Ntsanwisi Foundation presented him with a bursary for a six-month course worth R7000 from Avuxeni Computer Academy on his release from prison to give him a head start towards a better life.

“I consider myself lucky to have received the bursary to further my education,” said Rabothata. “I thank everyone who helped me to get this far, especially Nkhensani Ntsanwisi, who supported me, believed in me and encouraged me to work hard,” Rabothata said. 

If You Dont Talk To Your Children, Who Will?

The level of teenage pregnancy in the rural areas of Hakutama, Limpopo, seems to be on the rise, mainly because parents in rural areas don’t engage with their children about sexual activities and contraceptives. This becomes a huge dilemma as teenagers are forced to seek advice from their peers who, most of the time, have no idea about the effects and long term consequences of sexual activities. It ends up being a case of blind people leading each other to a hole. The sad reality is that in most municipalities, there are no stats to even document this.

One of the root causes of this communication barrier is culture and traditions in rural areas, particularly where fathers don’t engage with their children and where there’s an authority system that exists where everything is formal and children can’t speak directly [to adults].

Another big issue teenagers have continuously indicated is how, when they try to engage their parents in sex talks, parents automatically assume that the teenagers are having sex, which in most cases is not the truth.

“Nga Tshivenda vi vi thoho I laya thohe thethe, but we find in our society that parents tend to hold back on expressing and sharing their views about sex. There’s also a rise in issues where people grow up not knowing proper ways to express their sexual desires, particularly girls, who grow up with refined boundaries, so in essence this replicates from generation to generation.

This is something that erupted from the past, but the effects and boundaries it creates continues.

Teen clubs have become a platform to assist these young people because, as a literacy activist myself, I meet with these teenagers and listen to their concerns and views about sex but with an open mind.

There is also the issue that children born to teenagers have no idea as to what to do and are still trying to figure out who they are. The result is that the amount of attention given to nurture children’s capabilities and potential is very low because the parents who have these children mostly have no idea as to what their children’s needs are and, most of the time, the children grow up in settings where there’s literally no support, particularly towards their needs and their interests as individuals.

Section 28 of the Constitution outlines children’s rights, with one of the rights being that there needs to be proper care by parents, family members or someone else, or the child has to be taken away from the family.

What I want to highlight is what it means to properly take care of as a child. When a parent is still young and financially constrained, the child grows up with no exposure to so many important things that are vital to develop the child’s abilities.

This is why I find it absurd that there is even a policy under the Children’s Act that permits children who are 12-years old and above to have sex. The State/ Government actually makes it okay for them to have sex – can we realise the mindset being perpetuated here? Can we be surprised that we have such a high rate of teenage pregnancy? And we aware of the huge dependency that lies on government to continuously have to increase the amount of welfare grants to provide to these mothers and the mentality of poverty that this creates within these young parents?

#NYP2020: Our Future Now

In a country where youth make up an overwhelming (and growing) majority, it makes sense that there should be a plan for them. A plan that shows commitment from all areas of society: government, civil society and business. Most, importantly, it is essential that youth are empowered to feel that their future is literally within their hands and that they feel encouraged to participate meaningfully towards this.

The National Youth Policy is one such “plan”. It is a key tool and has great potential to contribute towards overcoming many of the challenges youth are currently facing. In addition, it can lay a good foundation for generations to come.

During January 2015, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela launched the draft of the National Youth Policy (2015 – 2020). In his invitation for comments, Manamela emphasised the importance of making sure that youth are an integral part of this process, “as architects for their own future”.

Policy priorities

The draft policy outlines the following areas as priority:

  • Economic participation – youth empowerment as the core of the economic transformation agenda

  • Education, skills and second chances

  • Health care and combating substance abuse

  • Nation building and social cohesion

  • Optimising youth machinery for effective delivery and responsiveness

Recommendations from youth

This kind of invitation for young change drivers, like members of the ACTIVATE! network, is gold. As many are already involved in starting, running or contributing to change in their immediate surroundings – whether it be in their community, province, nationally or globally.

Throughout the six weeks of consultations, Activators have either been gathering, facilitating or joining discussions around their thoughts on the draft policy and extending this through engagements with the Presidency on social media.

Any policy that aims to fast-track youth development needs to be radical in thinking. This is something that hasn’t come through in this draft – without a review on the success of the previous policy (2009 – 2014), it is difficult to get a good sense of what the draft is based on. Such a policy must embrace who youth are (from age, access, diversity of needs), understand the underlying realities many grapple with and explore mechanisms that are often overlooked to support their success.  In the ACTIVATE! network, for example, is understanding that many young people are already actively engaged and require resources and support to drive change effectively. Here the government and its ‘machinery’ could be a useful partner.

The National Youth Development Agency and the South African Youth Council are named as the two primary vehicles to guide the implementation process of the NYP, despite their track record of “non-performance and challenges”. This policy will require a far more robust machinery and it is essential that any strategy adopted as part of it, is cognitive of this. And that the necessary support and specific turnaround plan

Please click here to read our submission.

Way forward

Active participation during this process goes without saying, especially in the back of a State of Nation Address (SONA) that appears to be vague on how to exactly tackle ‘the youth challenge’. Youth must take the lead in influencing how the government can assist in addressing their issues.

It is expected that Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe will sign off on the policy at the end of March and an implementation plan will be presented to President Jacob Zuma. Then the real work will start to ensure that all that is “dreamed” in the policy is turned into reality.


5 Minutes With Danielle




Activator since 2014


What’s your passion? 

Young children and trying to shift young people’s focus from only seeing what is happening around them to trying to see what is happening in our world.  

What change are you keen to drive?

More development of young people in communities, helping them find out “What is my path?” I notice a lot of young people generally just do things because they’ve been told or because their circumstances dictate that to them.    

How are you driving change?

I am part of a project called YMC Squared, which stands for Youth Mentors Collaboration for Change. We take young people out of their comfort zones into different parts of South Africa and Africa and make them more aware of the social ills happening in the world. We try to make them more socially conscious and development-minded.

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change?

ACTIVATE! has given me more focus and allowed me to see that there are other young people around me who – while we may not be passionate about the same things – we share the same passion. It’s exciting because it put me in an environment where there are like-minded people that I can talk to and share with and learn so much from, which has helped me a lot. ACTIVATE! has made me stronger and given me an extra reason to push for what I want, the change I want to see.  

How do you motivate yourself?

Prayer and my mother, knowing where she’s come from – she was orphaned at six-years old – and what she’s achieving in her life now as the Programme Director of Gold Peer Education, it makes me think “Okay, my situation is not really bad”. I see I have more to give. Another motivation is other activators around me, when I hear about the things they are doing, I think “Okay, if they can do it, I can do it too”. We [Activators] are constantly checking up with each other and that helps me.    

Final comment?

You don’t need a lot to make a big difference. Whatever you have in your hands, whatever tools you have right now is enough for you to impact somebody else’s life. The passion within you, the way you think and the people that surround you is more than enough to effect change. 

Nathacia Olivier’s Marketing Help For SMEs

Background Information

What is your name and age?

Nathacia Olivier, 26

Where in South Africa are you from?

I was born and raised in Ekurhuleni and I live in Benoni CBD

Tell us a bit more about your education and interests.

I matriculated in 2007 and studied Marketing Management in 2009-2010. Thereafter I become an intern at IDMASA (Interactive Direct Marketing Association of South Africa) for a year in 2011. In 2013 I completed an entrepreneurship programme by Dimension Data and in 2014 I completed another 6 months course with The Branson Centre.

Questions about your business

Describe your business. What do you do? Who do you cater for? What products/services do you supply?

Criar Investments is an integrated marketing entity that fills in the gap for start-ups and SMME’s established and based in the East Rand. The company was registered in mid July 2012.

We offer printing, brand activation/corporate branding, signage & design, graphic designing, and promotional services to our targeted market as well as cost-effective creative concepts that will popularise SME’s to their suited targeted market. The Coffee kiosk offers and caters large to small orders of eatable treats such as platters/muffins, hot/cold beverages to different organisations for functions/occasional/events.

We aim to grow, develop and enhance entrepreneurs through the four (4) departments that exist:

  1. Integrated Technology Solutions – This department assists with Customer Interactive Solutions, Microsoft Solutions, Accessories, Application Solutions, Data Centre Solutions and Converged Communications.
  2. Coffee Kiosk – The coffee kiosk is appealing with its modern African look and touch. Clients are able to relax in the warm environment created where they can eat, work and socialise, while others book the space/venue for private meetings under economic circumstances. We also serve platters for various occasions.
  3. The Traders Group – Is an initiative specifically designed to assist young people in business who are start-ups or those who already own small businesses which have been running for less than five (5) years seeking to grow their businesses without spending a cent yet see themselves successful and has two categories in which one can chose from.
  4. Marketing & Concept Innovation – We offer branding, designing, promotional services, managing of social media accounts, creative consulting and more to our customers in order to raise awareness by coming up with cost-effective concepts and tools to popularise them to the suited targeted market.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I started the business because I saw a gap within my community and noticed how small businesses lacked financial assistance, marketing, corporate identity and support. The purpose of the company’s existence is to help SMMEs and other enterprises in order to create the change that needs to happen in their own existence as well as in shaping our country’s economy. We are moving away from traditional marketing and moving into contemporary modern marketing which is integrated with technology. Mostly we assist with positioning and coming-up with cost-effective cutting-edge concepts for SMMEs to expose them to the right target market, raise brand awareness and increase profit margins.

Tell us what experience you gained from a previous job or studies just before you started your business?

I was an intern at the IDMASA (Interactive Direct Marketing Association of South Africa in 2010 and thereafter at Aegis Global Call Centre as a Quality Assurer in 2012. I actually gained a lot of skills; especially customer experience, presentation skills, the important of sales and marketing and as well as how tackle challenges within the business field.

What is your SME’s current business situation?

At the moment the current business situation that I am facing revolves around financial challenges and market penetration.

What are your goals for your business for 2015?

Some of the goals that I have for my business are:

– To move to another city (JHB – Central) as a branch

  • Form partnerships with established companies and work on campaigns that effectively assist small businesses
  • Assist more small businesses and increase sales
  • Employee at least 3 more young people into the business
  • Have a real working relationship with corporate companies and government institutions

 Where would you like to see your business in 5 years?

Five years from now I would like to:

  • Establish a community life-style hub for socialization and entertainment with great coffee and bakery items.
  • Create an environment that won’t intimidate the novice entrepreneurs. Criar will position itself as an educational resource for individuals wishing to learn about the knowledge and benefits that the Internet has to offer.
  • Establish national annual tours through our initiative known as The Traders Group.

 What has owning your own business taught you? The hardest decision you ever had to make in your SME journey thus far?

Owning my own business has taught me to become an independent risk taker, it taught me how to deal with clients and the importance of implementation and quality delivery. The hardest decision that I ever had to make thus far is to compromise what matters to me most including my values.

What is your advice for other entrepreneurs?

The only advice I have to other entrepreneurs is to never give-up no matter what circumstance you may be facing. Work hard with integrity and always look after your clients form a strong relationship with them and always be honest.

Does Biz4Afrika matter to you, and why?

Biz4Afrika does matter to me because it is has proven how technology can be an instrument of assistance to small/growing businesses. It is a space that allows like-minded entrepreneurs in one space, share, empower and support each other.

How did you first hear of the Biz4Afrika initiative?

I heard about Biz4Africa online a while ago when I was browsing the internet, after few months I was invited to an introduction session in Midrand with other young entrepreneurs.

Who inspires you?

The one person who inspired me long before I could even start my journey was my grandmother. Since her passing the one person who inspires me is Richard Branson.?

Article courtesy of Thinkroom via Biz4Afrika