As reports of the violent attacks continued, local and international communities decried the violence inflicted on Africans from neighbouring countries, with many rallying together both physically and online to condemn the attacks and show support for the victims who were forced to relocate to safety camps set up in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. 
Like true change drivers, Activators jumped in to tackle the issue on ground level by collecting donations amongst the network and from the public, organising volunteer days at safety camps and addressing the issue on a national level by taking part in marches and public campaigns against Xenophobia. Support for the Africans displaced in Durban was spearheaded by Activator Kanyisa Booi, who was horrified by what she saw when she visited the Isipingo and Chatsworth camps. Booi took to social media to implore South African’s to stop the violence. “I went to the Chatsworth campsite today. All I can say is; in the name of Africa Stop! Stop!! Stop!!!”

Activators across the country echoed these sentiments in various ways on social media and via events, workshops, marches and flash mobs. “My name is Mokgadi Matlakala a young employees [sic] at the Department of Home Affairs, like Kanyisa Kat Booi I refuse to stand back and see Afrika going in the direction that is going. #NotInOurTime #NOTINOURNAME #AfricaBelongsToAllOfUS” is a status update by an Activator from Limpopo that was reposted many times, along with a profile picture bearing the hashtags #WeAreAfrica and the slogan ‘Stop Xenophobia’. 

Over the month of April, more Activators reached out and volunteer days were organised for those who offered to donate their time. When Xenophobic violence erupted in Germiston and safety camps were established in Johannesburg, Activators Pearl Pillay and Ise-Lu Moller organised the collection and drop off of donations as well as volunteer days at Johannesburg safety camps. In KwaZulu Natal, Activator Thabo Bophelong assisted in coordinating drop off and pick up points and Nonkululeko Hlongwane helped arrange volunteer days. One particular highlight was a visit from Clowns Without Borders to the Chatsworth safety camp, to “help bring sunshine to the Chatsworth campsite,” said Booi. The constant visibility and support didn’t go unnoticed. In a letter addressed to the ACTIVATE! network, Africa Solidarity Network (ASONET) wrote, “your prompt assistance and that of your network to the communities affected by the disaster is hereby acknowledged and appreciated”.  

Other Activators joined initiatives in their area to show support for the cause. Activator Lindelwe Dube, in collaboration with Inkulufreeheid and the Youth Interactive Club, led a march on 25 March and hosted a soapbox dialogue titled ‘Say No to Xenophobia’ on 18 April in an effort to engage with the perpetrators of the attacks. They also collected and delivered donations to the Isipingo safety camp at the end of April. Not all Activators have access to big resources, however, some took a simpler but still effective approach. Activator Yanga Simphiwe Sithebe from KwaZulu Natal said that he would “write big posters with a marking pen saying no to xenophobic attacks and place them on poles in my community.” He appealed to everyone to do the same in their communities. 

Some Activators used their talents to show their support and spread the anti-xenophobia message to the greater public. Activator Xolane Ngobozana, aka Viruz, founder of Viruz Empire Entertainment, gathered artists together and recorded and released a Say No To Xenophobia song called #Ma_Africa by Wattville Artists: Zero Degrees, CherryS Stone, Voro Da Viruz, Wattville Melodies Choir, Mashisa, Kau and Handsome Dumakude. Produced by John Bans and Chrizz-Man. The song was posted on YouTube and Viruz was interviewed on Radio EKFM 103.6 about it. The song is available for download here

One of the bigger campaigns to emerge by Activators was a national silent flash mob held simultaneously in the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape on Saturday, 25 April 2015. Activators in black T-shirts met up at various central points around the country and then dispersed in groups to traffic lights, taxi ranks and train stations where they stood with placards bearing the hashtag #WeAreAfrican in silent protest against the Xenophobic violence. ACTIVATE! is a group of young leaders who are working toward driving positive change across South Africa. As a network, ACTIVATE! condemns the violence perpetrated against our African brothers and sisters. To get involved with any of the above initiatives or for more information about the ACTIVATE! network, contact communications@localhost.

Almost 1 Million Rands Raised, But Was Forced To Drop Out.

I dedicate this story to the kids from the hood, our ghetto geniuses and kasi dreamers. And to all those who have been knocked down by circumstances, remember that where there is a will there is a way. I also feel it appropriate to write this story on Freedom Day, as a symbol of letting go, forgiving the past and moving on. 

I’ll start my story by sharing that I’m a regular township kid. Just like many others, I too am from humble beginnings. The schools which I attended were nothing to rave about. If one decided to google the schools, you would find at most contact details and a google map location – no website, no accolades.

I remember the year I passed matric, in 2000, I was 17 years fresh. The school had a rule that it would not grant anyone their results without paying their fees in full, and I hadn’t paid my fees for the year. So I went and hustled R50 to pay for my year’s tuition, that’s how much it cost.

Sounds like a small price to pay for education, but when you consider that we would normally struggle to put that amount together to feed the family, the whole picture takes a different dimension. And you can also imagine they joy I felt when I realised that I had achieved university exemption, knowing that my school achieved +/- 34% pass rate and under 10 exemptions out of a pool of over 100 leaners. To top it all, I also received my acceptance letter from Wits University and 100 % financial aid confirmation. I felt like I was ready to take over the world!

However the following year, 2001, I found myself studying for my BComm in Accounting at Bond University, which was an Australian private university that used to be in Benmore Sandton, thanks to one of my uncles who felt I could do with the opportunity. However things got a bit tough financially for us and I found myself back home the next year. During that year I tried out a few projects to generate money, and one them was a High School newspaper but after working throughout the year the project failed to launch. Fortunately I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket, and had decided to send through another application again at Wits University – And come 2003 I was a Wits Student.

My first year went relatively smooth; I was a BA Law student. I also joined the Wits Basketball Club, making it into the first team then going on to being one of the starting players. During that time I identified opportunities to improve the state of basketball at the university and decided to take initiative and run for the chairperson position, and in 2004 I was elected as Chairperson of the Wits Basketball Club. I immediately went to work on the vision and to identify sponsors to support that vision.

I’ve soon since learnt that the universe applauds action, and that providence helps those who help themselves. And I got some information from a Wits SRC member that Standard Bank was looking to increase its presence on campus and was considering sponsoring one of the clubs. With that knowledge I approached our Sports Administrator and presented her with the vision and asked for her assistance with providing information on the history of the club. She gave everything I needed, including a computer to work from. She was always supportive of my ideas and for that I am forever grateful. After spending a week researching and putting together a plan and proposal, I delivered it to her and the committee. The plan was well received and I submitted it to Standard Bank and they approved the sponsorship.

Without going into much detail regarding the deal, the sponsor agreed to pay the requested R280 000.00 for the first year. At the end of the year, they evaluated the impact of our relationship and I remember being told that they achieved 300% more sales on campus than they had projected. This was primarily due to the events promotions that we were hosting on campus.  And as a result they decided to not only commit to sponsoring the next year, but also to increase the sponsorship to R320 000.00. They went on to sponsor for a third year, the details of which I am not certain of, but was told it was in region of the previous figures. And if we work it by using the initial figure of R280 000.00, then we are looking at a total figure of R880 000.00, which for me is almost a million.

How did we do it? The answer is through hard work, team effort and passion. I was blessed to be surrounded by people who saw the vision and were willing to play their part and go the extra mile to make it work. I am forever grateful to have met and worked with each and every one. We did amazing work.

We launched the most vibrant internal league the university had ever experienced, opening up a platform for students that loved the sport but were not interested in playing at a high level to participate in the sport. We ran an awesome high school’s tournament. And we also launched the Ashraf Lodewyk Tournament, which has grown to become a major event in the national basketball calendar. We also hosted the most attended, most talked about parties, of course, we were students.

By the end of the year, we made history. I received the Wits Sports Administrator of the Year Award (chairperson of year), as a club we received the Wits Sports Club of the Year Award, and one our players and vice chairperson took the Wits Sports Player Of the Year Award. Never before had the basketball club won all the major awards in year. Looking back, that night was the height of it all, cause instead of things getting better, they took a turn for the worst.

I’ve come to accept that I was a victim of the systematic use of racism. And this is not me throwing the race card around looking for sympathy, but rather having the courage to stand up and speak out in order to help other young people who might go through or might be going through the challenges I had to face. And I choose to use my story and how I came out of my mess as a tool. I have no problems in sharing my story because I know it is the truth, and I hope it will help those that behave in this demeaning way to reflect on their actions and the lasting effects on those affected.

I also have to add that I have no intentions of challenging the university or any of the parties involved. My matter was never taken seriously in the first place, despite that I went as far as approaching the then Vice Chancellor’s office with a detailed document requesting his intervention – to which I received no response. However I do reserve the right to speak out and I feel it is time for me to say my piece.

As a young boy who was raised to be respectful of the older generation, it was very difficult for me to identify, challenge and acknowledge what was happening. The then Director of Wits Sports Administration had a habit of making things tough for most of us. At first I thought it was tough love and I accepted it as such. However, subsequent events proved that there was an underlying tone of racial discrimination behind it, which he unconsciously expressed time and again.

The first challenge was that he would not agree to pay me an honorarium for my efforts in pursuing the sponsorship. I first raised the subject to him during the time when I was compiling the sponsorship document. I felt that the money would help alleviate the financial challenges I was facing at the time since my family couldn’t afford to send me money. That in fact I was the one sending money home from time to time as a student. His response was that he would consider it if and when then sponsorship comes through. When the sponsorship came through, he said my efforts were for the club and the university and there was no ground for the university to pay out an honorarium to me. So I received nothing.

We faced our second major challenge when our team had to go compete in Mozambique, both male and ladies first teams. We spent months arranging for the trip and the funds for it were already budgeted for in the sponsorship funds, but he felt that the players should also pay an amount of R600 as a contribution towards the trip. Normally we wouldn’t have a problem with this arrangement; however our challenge was that most of the players couldn’t afford that much. In any case, what was the point of having a big sponsor if the players had to worry about raising more money? We were already in the habit of raising funds for the club through our parties. The players that could pay paid. But there was a substantial number that couldn’t.  So a day before the trip, when the funds were to be released, he called us into his office threatening to cancel the trip if all funds were not received.

An argument ensued and in the midst of it he just went on to say “you black kids take things for granted. You live in impoverished conditions but want to wear R1000.00 shoes” (remarking about the cost of basketball sneakers). I remember the committee member I was with chirping back and saying “and white people buy yachts, so maybe it’s so bad that we wear expensive shoes”. In any case we had a heated debate that lasted about 3 hours and by the end of the meeting he agreed to release funds for the men’s team only and basically cutting the ladies team out of the experience because only 7 girls pitched. Now normally a coach can run with 7 players as a minimum, but our director felt otherwise.

This then resulted in a rift between me and the ladies team, who also made a major part of the basketball committee. They blamed me, and I understood why. I was the chairperson and they believed in me. The trip was a reward for their efforts and they felt I should have done more. In a few hours I had a disgruntled committee that wouldn’t hear anything from me. Looking back, I should have stayed behind with them, as a leader should under such times. But I didn’t know better, but I do remember it being one of the worst trips due to the amount of guilt I felt and the experience I had with our director.

I continued to finish my second term under difficult conditions and at the end of it I was voted out. I accepted it as a penalty of leadership and decided to focus on my studies, which were already taking a knock. A side note – The work and the stress associated with my extra-curricular activities had already started affecting my studies negatively. I moved from a BA Law major to International Relations and Politics and what’s unfortunate was that I couldn’t see myself doing either as a profession. By this time I found myself just wanting to pass and get my degree.  

The third and final blow – Now during my terms as chairperson of the club and as a first team player, I was awarded a government funded bursary in addition to the bursary fund I had created through the sponsorship. So in principle I had enough money to complete my studies without a challenge, and that’s all I wanted to do. According to the government funded sports bursary, I was entitled to a nutrition allowance and some extra money for toiletries and such, to which I never received, and in addition I found myself having to beg our director to pay up the difference in fees at the end of the year. The next year, my final year, I not only had to hustle to get back into Wits, I didn’t have residence and had to travel from Kwa-Thema to Johannesburg (about 50 km away) daily using public transport.

I reluctantly approached him to talk about this issue and his response was simple and direct “You kids don’t appreciate hard work, everyone form the township wants a hand out. Back in my day we had to work hard for what we wanted. It’s time for you to take responsibility for your fees and find a job to support your costs”. I remember how those words pierced.

I tried to get help and reached out to few people but things were not that easy. A few people tried to help, including the Dean of Students, but she also had to throw in the towel when things got too tense. My last resort was to approach the Vice Chancellor, but as I mentioned, I didn’t even receive a letter or email of acknowledgement.

I continued traveling to school from home, but that got too costly for me, so costly that I often found myself having to squat in another student’s room. However, that also became unsustainable and I eventually decided to get a job. I lost faith and accepted that my options were very limited and I had lost the fight. And that’s how I walked out of the university owing money as opposed to the other way around. Many other challenges were still to come and to be overcome, and I share some of those stories in one the chapters of my book “Thinking Ghetto Entrepreneur – A Practical Personal Guide to Entrepreneurial Development”.

How does one lose everything and maintain his sanity? How does one learn to bounce back from complete defeat over and over again? I found battling with these and many other questions for a very long time, and when I found the answers I was able to change my life for the better. As I said in the beginning of this article, my aim is to show that where there is a will there is a way; that when one door closes it is to allow another to open. No matter how bad the circumstances, with persistence and initiative things do turn around. Our tragedies make for good content, regardless of whom we are, where we come from, or the colour of our skin.

I see my story as a necessary foundation to my journey. In less than 10 years from the time I left I left the university and with no stable financial support system I have managed to write and self-publish 3 titles (Beyond Democracy – Igniting the South African Renaissance/Thinking Ghetto Genius/Thinking Ghetto Entrepreneur); launch a high school youth entrepreneurial development and personal development project (The Ghetto Geniuses Project); launched a youth dialogue platform (Ubuntu Sessions); develop into a great speaker; became a Skills Development Consultant(BEE Corp); develop into a Social Entrepreneur (8een Concepts); and grown to become decent performing artist (Writer/Rapper/Poet). I am also currently in the process of completing my coaching qualification. 

I doubt I would have done so much development work if things didn’t work out the way they did. I probably would have continued to focus my efforts on making money, and providing for my family better. As noble as this may be, I believe have gained a much richer experience with development work, and I now have a really awesome story to share. In any case, Richard Branson once said, “Do good, have fun, and the money will come”. 

Via Ntsikelelo’s Tumblr 

Freedom and Citizenship

Freedom means different things to different people, and in a racially-polarised society such as South Africa, one can be certain that there will be a fundamental difference of what freedom entails within the different racial groups. Part of this is due to the fact that after the 1994 elections, we had high expectations of the government and institutions of democracy with regards to bringing about freedom for the “previously oppressed”. Community- based organisations that worked towards liberation at the time surrendered their work to the government. In retrospect, one can’t blame them for their naivety.  Like many South Africans, they believed that the new government would advance the plight of the people; that it would bring radical change to the lives of the black majority through the creation of an equal society. This in turn has created passive citizenship, where there is heavy reliance on the state to provide services.

The year, 1994, was a watershed moment in South African history. Many believed that the advent of democracy would usher in a change of living standards. While many strides have been made in transforming South African society, the gap between the poor and the rich has been reported to widen. As the proverbial cherry on top, the vast majority of the poor are of the African race, and they remain in the same conditions socially and economically they were in before 1994. This fact is what makes the freedom debate rather complex in South Africa and ultimately, forces one to reflect on the nature of the freedom we have or that we long for.  

The formation of the Republic of South Africa in 1961 made it very clear that freedom and citizenship was reserved for a select few. It is not surprising then that in 2015, we find ourselves having to question the notions of freedom and active citizenship. The recurring attacks on African nationals in South Africa are one of the most recent causes for the need for us to deeply question these notions. For the purposes of this piece we shall momentarily park Marikana, Ficksburg, Andries Tatane, De Doorns, and Lwandle amongst many others.

We need to acknowledge that South Africa has a history of violence; and that we generally use violence to deal with personal and social challenges. The forced removals and the Group Areas Act, the Native Land Act of 1913, and the system of apartheid were all violent methods that perhaps helped create this violent attitude in the broader society. The Group Areas Act, in essence, created a territorial attitude to the areas where people were placed. There have been many incidences where uproar has been a result of some people from a different group entering an area allocated to another, be it in a township or a suburb. This is evidence of how territorial South Africans have become over the years.

Furthermore, after the 1994 elections we did not reflect on the type of society we had become. Instead, we embodied this violent nature by instilling even more violent measures to dispel crowds as made evident by the tactics used by the South African Police Services. Moreover, a culture to celebrate this violent separation was created through glorifying the way of life in townships and using popular terms such as ‘ghetto fabulous’. Furthermore, an attitude of ‘this is mine, and that is yours’ was developing. This, in turn, gave society a superficial sense of freedom, where the structures of society and resource allocation to the various groups in society still remained unequal.


Freedom to #Hashtag

This year we, South Africans, are celebrating 21 years since the advent of democracy in 1994.  This is the right time to reflect on the maturity of our democracy and its civil liberties. If South Africa was a young person, this would be the year to get that golden key to adulthood/independence. If South Africa was an American youth, s/he would be legal to purchase and consume alcohol this year. Based on this trivial analysis alone, I can therefore assume South Africa is young, vibrant, explorative, rebellious, and with identity crisis like any young person of similar age.

On the contrary, at this young age, South Africa is expected to do so much. Even the leader of the free world, “the United States of America” (US) has not mastered or afforded to free themselves from white male, patriarchal, heterosexual superiority complex. Compared to the US, South Africa is nowhere near in age or maturity to attend to the needs of our freedom. The US is considered to be a leader of the free world with its constitutional democracy drawing back to 226 years ago when George Washington ascended to power and, after years of black oppression, African-Americans were allowed the full liberties to vote in 1965, 50 years ago.

In the US, an 18-year-old black man was shot and killed by police at a petrol station on the 24th December 2014 in a St Louis suburb, close to where unarmed teen Michael Brown was killed by a white officer that same year in August.  This led to the popular hashtags #AntonioMartin, #MichaelBrown and #Ferguson.

Last week, Freddie Gray had to undergo double surgery on three broken vertebrae and an injured voice box after he was released by the police. He died after days of remaining in a coma.  The police said that he was restrained on the ground by an officer during the arrest, but appeared to be fine when he was taken to the district station. However, a cell phone video shows that the arresting officers used force that some may see as “brutal.”  

Here we are talking about a country that is a leader of the free world with 50 years of alleged full liberties granted to African Americans, yet a white male, patriarchal, heterosexual superiority complex still persists which views a black man as a danger to society and as someone who should not be trusted, thus we have white police officers using the full extent of force to restrain them.

Hence, 21 years into democracy in SA, we find ourselves saying #RhodesMustFall and #SayNoToXenophobia, but that is pretty much it. We are a free country to hashtag in all that we do, but we do not physically and intellectual engage with substantive content that will lead us to our emancipation. It is unacceptable that in South Africa, our own people have no land, no assets, and no jobs, poorly educated and temporarily employed while the opposite is how we define the opposite.

It is unacceptable that in South Africa, we wake up and have newspapers that read:

  1. it is alleged David Forbes shot Toufiq Joseph in the parking lot of the petrol station. He then drank a soft drink and smoked a cigarette while he waited for the police to arrive”;

  2. “Djavan Arrigone, a 19-year-old model and University of Cape Town student, allegedly claimed he didn’t “see anything wrong with urinating on the top of a black person” when he refused to apologise to a Khayelitsha taxi driver for allegedly urinating on him from a nightclub balcony”;

  3. “early November two men were involved in a racially charged altercation at a mall in Green Point. The incident was said to have started after a seemingly drunk white man called a black man the k-word near an ATM”;

  4. last year, Cape Town salesman Andre van Deventer reportedly assaulted, racially abused and spat in the face of his ex-girlfriend’s domestic worker Gloria Kente in Table View. The incident occurred when Van Deventer had been arguing with his ex-girlfriend and in his outburst, grabbed Kente’s pyjamas and spat in her face after telling her that he “hated all k****rs”, including her”;

  5. “on November last year, Muhammed Makungwa, a Malawian national and gardener, was allegedly beaten with a sjambok by a white motorist while on his way to work.The motorist, Jan Van Tonder – a dentist working for the SANDF – allegedly beat Makungwa viciously with a sjambok after nearly running him over with his car. Van Tonder had reportedly heard a sound near his vehicle saw Makungwa running and thought the gardener had broken into his BMW X5”.

Not yet uhuru in Azania, not yet uhuru for natives of this land, not yet uhuru for black lesbian women of this land, not yet uhuru for black go-getters who get suppressed by the white, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal, heterosexual and Christian system.  

So as South Africans, as we commemorate 21 years of token freedom, let us remember those who died for the true liberation of our people and stop hashtagging and start challenging the system. In that quest, do not settle for the master’s terms but your own, for it is not in the interest of the oppressor to free the oppressed, for they themselves need to be liberated from their white privilege.  

Mayibuye iAfrica!

iAfrica! iZwelethu! iZwelethu! iAfrica!

We are all related. #notoxenophobia

BEHIND THE FACES is deeply saddened and shocked with the recent explosion of xenophobic violence in South Africa.  We urge and support all South Africans to demonstrate, through public action, that South Africa is part of Africa and we are all connected.

We are a pan-African Women’s Storytelling Movement.  We connect women from different parts of Africa, building connections and creating awareness of women’s contributions, breaking barriers and celebrating the diversity and similarity amongst African women. Through this we facilitate healing.

Yesterday, BEHIND THE FACES spent time with Lezerine Mashaba who chaired a meeting to assist in planning a national flashmob and campaign against xenophobic violence.

(Lezerine belongs to ACTIVATE! a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. Connecting youth who have the skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges and initiate innovative and creative solutions that can reshape our society.)

The campaign will be kickstarted with a flashmob on Saturday 25th  April at 11am to add voices in condemning the current wave of xenophobic violence.  The campaign aims to stand in solidarity with the majority of South Africans who reject xenophobia and violence. The campaign invites all who live by our Constitution “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity”.  Details of the campaign can be followed on #weareAfrican or contact Lezerine Mashaba on 087 820 4873.

We asked Lezerine some questions.

Q: South African-perpetuated violence against African foreign nationals has come under intense scrutiny lately. As a young South African woman, how do you feel about this?

A: I think the underlying issue of the xenophobic attacks comes with lack of knowledge around how other African countries have contributed to our economic growth as a country. The people causing this kind of violence see no relation between us and the continent in general.

Q: Africa, and indeed the global community, is formulating a picture of South Africa as a hostile, violent place where its people think nothing of physically attacking nationals from neighbouring and other African countries. What would you like the world to know about South Africans (like yourself)?

A: South Africa has a lot of young people who have the potential to influence change especially around social issues. The principle of ubuntu is understood by many and practiced by few because of our diverse cultures and beliefs. We are passionate about transformation and change; and the reason this is not visible is because we have different challenges and issues we are working on at the same time. Implementation only becomes known and seen when people have one common issue they are dealing with. Young people in this country are powerful when united and are capable of making things happen for themselves and society.

Q: Are all South Africans like the ones we’ve seen in the media lately – hostile, violent, racist and angry?

A: Not all South Africans are angry, violent and racist. Its only a few individuals who live under radically hard conditions and who are less privileged then others who blame their struggle on other people; hence they see the need to attack and discriminate.

Q: How does the South African mindset need to change?

A: We need to learn about and build on our relationships with other African countries.  The concept of ubuntu needs to be emphasized from the primary school level as a principle guide to change.  It’s important for South Africans to understand they are part of a continent, not isolated.  We need to start working with people beyond our borders.

Q: The South African government has started using the term ‘Afrophobia’ to describe xenophobia, ‘the unreasoned fear of that which is foreign or strange.’ The criticism is that this has been done to water down the issue in the eyes of the world. What do you think about it?

A: I think the government needs to focus on the issue and not the concept. South Africans still make these attacks because they still believe themselves to be different from the other Africans especially the East, West and Central Africans. This is an issue which needs national intervention.  Government and citizens need to get to the underlying cause of the violence.  What are the root causes?  We need to put them on the table and discuss them and not try and hide them.  The violence needs to stop.  What is the government doing to halt the violence?  The most important thing for us to focus on is peace and development.  Saying, “Stop The Violence” is not enough.  We are running this campaign to share our views with other South Africans and the world, and to highlight what the people on the ground are saying.  Africa is our home. This violence and killing and looting must never happen again.

Q: How have the xenophobic attacks made you feel?

A: Sad, ashamed, embarrassed and disappointed. Nelson Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite”.

Q: Coming from drought, war and famine, foreign nationals seek better lives in South Africa, yet what they find here is often far worse. How do you think South Africans could come to understand this better?

A: South Africans need to see foreign nationals as people, human beings who strive for similar values, safety and livelihoods.

Q: Xenophobia stems from an inability to recognise the shared humanity between us. What do you think we as Africans share?

A: We share ubuntu, the land, our diverse cultures. Our beautiful history. Our ancestors married across cultures, across nations. Some of the tribes were born in Africa combining different nationalities. Our languages are indigenous and all related.

Q: As he steered the Rainbow Nation into existence, Nelson Mandela stood for values of respect, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. How or why do you think we have since lost our moral compass? How can we again find our way?

A: UBUNTU! and compassion – it is a strong concept which is completely lost.

Q: What would you like to see more of in our nation? How can we as individuals make a change in the current situation?

 A: We need to see each other as people first. We need to learn about each other’s culture, and to realize that we are all related, and foreigners, in this continent. We need to regain our African pride and humanity.


5 Minutes With Sandiswa

A smart social entrepreneur, a flamboyant trendsetter, fashion designer guru, an extremely focused social change driver and very active young business leader.  

These are some of the phrases that best describe the founder of two fashion labels African Child and Vintage Collection, Sindiswa Ndywili. 

Both Ndywili’s business are based in one of Cape Town biggest townships, Khayelitsha. Both clothing labels specialise in classic, trendy styles. Sales are mostly done online. 

African Child clothing label offers custom-made urban African looks that range from t-shirts to blouses, pants, skirts, blazers, dresses and accessories. On the other hand, Vintage Collection is a combination of vintage and retro pieces that bring out a person’s individuality. 

Just like many driven young business leaders, the soft spoken Ndywili’s passion for fashion started at a young age by sewing Barbie doll clothes, and was later backed by her mother’s inspiration and support as she grew older. 

Ndywili said her journey to stardom was a rough one but her perseverance and overall support from her friends and family made her what she is today.  Ndywili said one of the things she has learnt as a young female entrepreneur in the creative industry is that, to start and maintain a small business isn’t easy, more especially if don’t have the right equipment, tools and capital.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Raymond Ackerman Academy graduate’s hard work and determination afforded her the luxury of sharing sponsored office space with some of Khayelitsha’s young entrepreneurs at the Khayelitsha’s Hubspace and free marketing guidance from SEDA.Ndywili says being an entrepreneur isn’t easy but she gets her motivation and inspiration from her immediate successful fellow business owners. The ambitious ghetto queen’s short term goal is to open new branches beyond her Khayelitsha surroundings. 

Lwazi Nyanakancesh Nongauza spoke to Ndywili about her online trading business. The intention was to find out how a young entrepreneur can make use of technology in business. 

Lwazi Nyanakancesh Nongauza (LNN) What informed your decision to do your business online only?

Sindiswa Ndywili (SN) 
A: I don’t have a store nor can I afford to rent one, I saw an opportunity to use social media (Facebook  and WhatsApp) as platforms to market and sell my clothes. It has worked for many businesses, I didn’t see why it couldn’t work for me.

How easy or difficult is it for you to get customers online?
For me, it’s been very easy because I enjoy making new friends and most of them I meet online, and it’s those friends who later become my clients.

What are the advantages of selling your clothing range online?
With online, I don’t have to pay rent or any marketing costs and I’m able to reach a wide number of customers from different provinces and that’s what I wanted.

How has technology evolution help your business?
It has helped strengthen my relationship with my customers; communication has become simple and cheap. Furthermore, I’m able to send documents, videos and images to my customers anywhere in the world at almost no cost and I’m never out of reach unless I want to be. 

What are some of your challenges so far as a township based fashion designer?
One thing that has always been a challenge for me is not having a proper working space, a place where 
my customers can come and view what’s available

What is your advice to other young, up and coming fashion entrepreneurs?


Keep on keeping on despite the challenges and setbacks along the rough journey to success. Fashion needs passion and patience. If you love what you do, keep pushing and things will eventually come together, they always do.

How has being part of the ACTIVATE! network helped you as an entrepreneur?

ACTIVATE! has helped me connect and build relationships with people/Activators who share the same interests as me.

Connect with Sindiswa Ndywili: 
African Child: 
Vintage Collection: 
Whatsapp: 0781909296

#WeAreAfrica Stop Xenophobia


HUNDREDS of foreigners have been left homeless and in fear for their lives following a recent spate of xenophobic attacks in the greater Durban area, the past few weeks. Reports about what started the wave of attacks in Isipingo on 30 March are mixed, with some assigning blame to King Goodwill Zwelithini who announced in a speech that foreigners should be deported, while other reports indicate a South African labour strike turned violent against foreigners. 

The initial spark quickly ignited into a furnace of violence and hatred as sporadic attacks broke out in areas including uMlazi, KwaMashu, Chatsworth, Greenwood Park and Inanda with African foreigners, many of them shop owners, the victims of violence and looting. In an effort to prompt action against the attacks a march was organised last Wednesday, with the intention of walking from King Dinizulu Park to City Hall where a memorandum would be handed to the mayor. However, the city, fearing further attacks on the protesters, revoked the permit to march at the last minute. Chaos erupted as police fired tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowd with some continuing the march to city hall in defiance.

That same day, the Diakonia Council of Churches also held a prayer vigil at City Hall, praying for peace and harmony. Those displaced by the attacks and threats of further violence have been moved to refugee camps set up in a number of areas including Chatsworth, uMlazi and Isipingo. On hearing about the plight of the families who have lost everything, Activator and co-founder of the African Community Development Initiative, Kanyisa Booi, investigated how she could help. “I saw a horrific picture on Facebook of a person in Durban, burning, and I knew I had to do something.”

Booi contacted close friend, Diaku Dianzenza, Chairman of the Africa Solidarity Network (ASONET), about what she could do. ASONET, which falls under the Democracy Development Programme (DDP), has been working closely with the victims. Dianzenza explained that one of their members was a victim of the attacks and so they have been very involved in on-the-ground assistance. “We have been working with people from the Chatsworth and Greenwood Park camps, finding out what is needed and approaching people for assistance. The biggest need now is for blankets, mattresses and tents as some people are having to sleep without cover,” he said.

After Booi made contact with ASONET, she got in touch with ACTIVATE! – a network of young leaders people who drive positive change across the country and to which Booi belongs – and mobilised a collection for foodstuff, cosmetics, nappies and clothes for the victims. Booi, who is currently also involved in community development in the Pinetown area, feels that opening conversation on the issue is the only way to resolve it. “I’m lobbying to get a discussion going on radio. We need to provide a platform for people to discuss what’s going on.” She said that, after visiting the Isipingo refugee camp last Tuesday, she was deeply moved to help.
“There is just such an air of sadness. Men are sitting around and you can sense they feel they should be elsewhere. The children know what’s going on and don’t want to be there.” Although the city has provided shelter and medical care, Booi is working to get trauma counselling to deal with the underlying emotional suffering.

Fellow Activator, Nokukhanya Zulu, said she has been working with Kanyisa, rallying support on social media. On visiting the Isipingo camp, Zulu chatted to the families to find out what was needed. “There is such an unsettled feeling in the camp. What affected me was the realisation that all these people had lives, they had work, they had things to do. Now they are so unsure. There is a brokenness.” ASONET’S Dianzenza praised ACTIVATE!’s involvement in victim support, saying the positive participation of all stakeholders is the only hope for a “peaceful and durable” solution.

ACTIVATE! also works closely with fellow community-driven organisation, the DDP. Executive Director of the DDP, Dr Rama Naidu, said they had hosted a meeting with the leaders of seven African countries on the weekend. “They have formed a committee which will be able to instruct us as to exactly what is needed.” He said the DDP has set up a fund to ensure those displaced are kept warm and safe. The fund is also being used to transport people back to their home countries, if they so wish, as many of them are unwilling to stay. “Some of these people have been in South Africa for 10 or 15 years, and now they just don’t feel safe.”
Dr Naidu said that, tragically, several of those in the camps had to flee their homes without taking passports or any form of identity documents and they are worried they’ll be viewed as illegal immigrants.

“There is a feeling that reaction by the KwaZulu-Natal government and police has been slow and that there is no serious willingness to help their plight. “We are trying to assess exactly what is needed and are organising donations of food and clothes. Many of the people left with literally the clothes on their back so the need is great.”

To get involved or make a donation to the victims of Xenophobia at the Isipingo safety camp, please contact Kanyisa Booi on 061 601 7734 or kanyisa@localhost.

Driving Change In Government

Despite growing up with various challenges, Activator Mokgadi Matlakala knew that if she wanted to achieve something in life, it would be up to her. Mokgadi, who joined ACTIVATE! in 2013, travelled a very dusty and difficult road that could have easily made her give up on life. She was raised by her grandparents after her mother went back to school, fell pregnant at 18-years old, which meant that she couldn’t attend varsity after passing matric.

Through these misfortunes, Mokgadi still found a reason to wake up every day and make something of her life.

The 26-year old from Botlokwa, south of Polokwane, was recently co-opted to be the National Chairperson of the Youth Development Forum within the Department of Home Affairs. The formation of the forum came after national parliament mandated all departments to establish platforms for user-friendly services towards youth.

Her journey with the Department of Home Affairs started as a front office clerk and, after hearing the need to establish youth desk at the Limpopo Department where she works, she quickly used the opportunity to pursue her ultimate passion.

“I realised the need to be involved in the establishment to represent young people across the province,” said Mokgadi, and further added that being a young person on the forum’s committee is an advantage because it helps in identifying challenges faced by fellow young people in the province. “We are the mouthpiece for young people of Limpopo province,” she said.


Mokgadi has always been passionate about youth development and has been heavily involved with local youth projects in Botlokwa. After realising that she could not further her post matric schooling, she kept active by getting involved in numerous local youth projects in Botlokwa.

As a poet and actress, she participated in a project in 2011 in which they took children off the street and kept them busy with activities that could cultivate their talents.

“The project was mainly to help local youngsters identify their talents through activities conducted at the centre,” said Mokgadi. “Not all of us are destined to be doctors and lawyers, so other talents may be relished and nurtured through these kinds of projects,” she added.

The most recognisable programme for young people in Botlokwa is ‘Botlokwa Career Day’, to which young people from Botlokwa and neighbouring villages are invited to be taught about the varieties of careers to be pursued. Mokgadi is the founding member of this career day, which is an annual event now in its fourth year. Due to work commitments, however, Mokgadi could not continue full time on the project, but still serves as an advisor for the organising committee of the career day.

In 2012, Mokgadi was also named Young community Builder of the Year at the Botlokwa Arts and Youth Award. “The award certified my capabilities within me of what I am and I have never looked back,” she said. She later became a member of the organising committee to give other young people the chance to showcase their community development capabilities.

In 2013, Mokgadi, along with a few energetic young people, formed another group called the Actioneers. The aim was similar to her previous projects – to keep young people away from street through activities at the centre. Activities rendered at the centre included Gumboots dance, Debate, Drama and Indigenous games.


Despite her busy schedule, Mokgadi always makes time for her family. She has recently been married traditionally to Gavin Mafa and has been blessed with two kids. “Family has always been a value close to my heart,” she stated, and further elaborated that maybe the love for her community hails from the ability to look out for the people closest to her.

Like many other neighbourhoods, Botlokwa faces challenges such as substance and alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy, but the biggest challenge according to Mokgadi is ignorance. “Young people at Botlokwa need to learn from mistakes. It may even be mistakes from other people, but they need to be observant and take lessons from those mistakes,” she added.

Back at the Home Affairs department, Mokgadi and her colleagues in the youth forum have managed to form a relationship with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). “We have not yet set out the kind of relationship we will have with NYDA, but we know it will be a fruitful one and will benefit Limpopo youth,” she said.

“On top of everything that I have done, joining ACTIVATE! in 2013 was a stepping stone,” she added. “I have learnt to be a good leader with good presentation skills and articulation and to accept my history, because history helps one to find a path to the future.”

Mokgadi has recently enrolled for a Public Relations course with the University of South Africa after failing to do so numerous times previously. She also aspires to be public relations officer at the home affairs department.

Her motto is “TOMORROW IS MINE AND I AM TAKING IT TODAY”, which is what she is clearly doing.


Umuntu umuntu ngabantu (You Are Because We Are)

Activator, Sthembile Zondo (25), wakes up at 4:30am each day and chooses a busy Johannesburg street with people going to work and school just to tell them to believe in themselves. She has two boards written- “Enjoy Your Day” and “Believe in Yourself”. She stands in the middle of the street with her board, aiming to pass a message to fellow South Africans. “My aim is to encourage people to have a beautiful-productive day and erase the stigma that if you are standing on the street you are poor.” said S’thembile. 

She started this campaign in her township, Soweto, in March last year. She looked at the rate of poverty, unemployment, inequality, women abuse, etc. and saw the need to encourage people not to lose hope. “My mission is to make a world a better place by bringing the smile and hope to people.” she explained.

Being a part of the ACTIVATE! Network has reinforced the idea that that revolution does not come in one way.  Growing up in a township, where there is unity and solidarity taught Sthembile “Ubuntu”. The words of Nelson Mandela that “a fundamental concern for others in our individual space can go a long way in making the world a better place,” are always in her mind.



Lighting up peoples’ day is very important to Sthembile. She believes that how people start their day determines how they do their job when they get to work or school. “I am doing this to make people smile and to uplift their day,” she said.

Her dream for South Africa is that all people support and encourage each other in their various endeavours. She acknowledges that driving change is not an easy task, and still believes that in order to build democracy, everyone should play their role. “If we want the world to be a better place, we need to collaborate and support one another- no one has done it alone.”    

“Some people think I was given a form of punishment to go and stand on the streets, this shows how much we have accepted the fact that we do not care about each other.” Sthembile believes that it is her responsibility as a change driver to challenge anything considered as a normal (but not) for the betterment of the society.

While her project has gotten very positive responses – especially from commuters who see her sign, Sthembile does not always receive positive responses. . Some believe that she is wasting her time and seeking unnecessary attention. “Going against the norm is not easy, people always look at you like you are crazy, but I will not stop until the message reaches everyone in the world.”

So far, she has been to various streets in Gauteng, including Pretoria, Johannesburg Park Station, Braamfontein and Vereeniging. People who support her campaign are using the hashtag #EnjoyYourDay on social networks to show their support. Some people wave and blow kisses to her as they pass her standing in the middle of the road.

Sthembile’s initiative has also garnered some media attention.  Earlier this year, she was interviewed by Soweto TV and Shift on SABC 1. Her story has also been published on the United States Embassy website. Sthembile always tells them one thing: “I want people to smile, and make the most out of their day.”

Sthembile would like to have other people across the country to join her campaign. To get involved with this campaign, it’s as easy as writing your positive message on a board, choosing a busy street and then displaying your message. You can use the hashtag #EnjoyYourDay on Twitter to contribute on social media.

Sthembile Zondo is the founder and managing director of Solutionaire Phase Pty Ltd. Her company organises events and promotes art. In collaboration with other companies, she has organised Poetry Slam at Cumba’s lounge and Mr & Miss Meadowlands.

Connect with Sthembile:

Cell: 0719012773
Facebook: Sthembile Ahadi Zondo
Twitter: @d3171bec5e124df