Dont kill the world

The “infamous” Cape Town weather did not stop an active group of learners from marching to the Kraaifontein South African Police Services (SAPS) to submit their demands for social change in commemoration of Youth Day on Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

The event was organised by two Activators; Wandisile Mbabalo (25) and Zikhona Mnyatheli (26) in collaboration with the SAPS and it was part of the interventions from their organisation: Uluju Youth Development which aims to drive change through positively redirecting the youth in Kraaifontein and instilling self and social cognisance in order for them to benefit their respective townships within the area.

The peaceful march was themed “Don’t kill the world”. It was aimed at mobilising young and old Bloekombos/Wallacedine residents and getting them to unite against the primary challenges faced by Kraaifontein holistically. Student representatives from six schools each submitted and presented their demands to government officials who were there from the Departments of Social Development, Education, the Community Police Forum (CPF) and the SAPS. These demands from the learners included requesting the SAPS to be more involved in school patrol and controlling gangsterism and substance abuse. Tatum Samuels of Bernadino Heights said “We understand that no school in this area is immune to issues such as alcohol and substance abuse, we have had our fair share of learners coming to school under the influence”. 

The learners further demanded that there be frequent unannounced searches for illegal substances and weapons in schools as this makes them feel unsafe at times. Siyamthanda Saul of Wallacedine High stated that the students do not feel safe within school premises as their fellow schoolmates carry dangerous weapons and occasionally use them within the premises, “teachers are also ignorant of this fact and they do not take responsibility”, she said.  

Another issue of concern that was raised by the community members was the fact that school girls are now the primary targets of drug dealing and substance abuse as they are not primary suspects of such. “These guys approach young girls and use them for drug dealing, and eventually abuse them sexually too”, the concerned Yamkela Nyanda of Hector Petersen High School said. 

Government officials were then given a platform to respond to the youth’s demands and suggest action steps that will remedy the current predicament the students are in. The response was rather promising to community members and learners as the officials seemed aware of some of these social ills. Mr Sila of the Kraaifontein CPF commended the learners and community members for having a peaceful march that aims to address such harsh realities, “I have hope because I have seen that without destroying anything, you were able to come together and unify against such issues, this means we can invest in young people as leaders in the future”, he said.  He further stated that submitting these demands directly to the officials is good because it triggers a sense of urgency amongst them, resulting in quick and efficient action being taken. He also promised to create a youth desk that will discuss and address all these issues- ensuring that each school has a representative.

Mr. Fritz Gezwind of the Department of Social development told the learners that they should see that day as the springboard for further action, and the beginning of many more similar gatherings. The community members cheered with hope.

The Department of Education was represented by Mr. Appolos and he encouraged young people to take action themselves by being part of impact structures such as Uluju Youth Development, neighborhood watch and School Governing Bodies. 

After the gathering, learners and community members marched out of the hall with cheer and started chanting victory songs. The elders of the community were pleased with the Activators involved and their initiative. “I am motivated and inspired by these young people. I have never met Wandisile and Zikhona but knowing that they are responsible for this made me love them as my own and be proud of the Kraaifontein  youth community”, said Nontsapho Matiwane (54) of the Wallacedene phase 4 area.

Gift Kgosierileng (also an Activator) was there to support fellow colleagues and he said that change in this country is not just a need but also a priority as we are sadly fighting the principle of darkness. He further stated that it’s always amazing to be part of youth who advocate change and act upon the need.

Wandisile and Zikhona are passionate Activators who met at church and shared common passion in youth development and education as well as being part of the ACTIVATE! network. They both believe that ACTIVATE! has helped them be able to narrow down social ills and take relevant action and they have met a number of people who share the same passion and that is inspiring. 

Here’s a video of Wandisile Mbabalo briefing on the event (covered by the SABC).

FULL CIRCLE: Lessons from failure

During, February in 2014, I was named as one  of the 10 showcase winners for a project called “Edu-bank”. After having gone through the ACTIVATE! training programme in 2013 with no sense of direction in what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, this was an achievement. Someone or rather people had seen potential in my idea, in me and had invested R10 000.00 towards my vision. The issue is that when you’re unemployed, your idea of the value of money and the reality of it are 10 different things. Though ACTIVATE! had taught me different tools including that leadership, the most important tool for myself and the youth in general, was not incorporated into the programmed or rather emphasised enough, that tool is that of the “value of financial sustainability”. With the R10 000.00, I found myself buying a laptop, getting a graphic designer, stationery, covering transport costs and registering an NPO called “P.I.N.K Volt” which dealt with advocating the rights of women and children and then it was done. The poor reality was soon to set in.


After realising that I was out of all funds, my dependence was directed towards the route of finding funding. Once again, when you’re unemployed the reality of what you think is genius and what other people think is genius is 10 different things. Pitch after pitch, emailed proposal after emailed proposal, I felt I had failed myself. Nobody was interested in funding the idea, the drive soon turned into disappointment which soon turned into resentment. The whole concept of social development moved from changing one room at a time to the idea that I had to beg people for them to do what was morally right and what was expected of them. For me, that was the true definition of insanity. So I stopped. A month after that, after the radio interviews, I never spoke of “Edu-bank” again, up until I could find something that I could personally do to fund the project, I would not even mention it.

After a year of research, during February 2015, I started developing a brand of menstrual cups called the “Pink Volt Menstrual Cup” as a healthier, cheaper, more convenient and eco-friendly alternative of sanitary protection. I had found my ‘why’ before my ‘what’. A project and business I believed in whole-heartedly and that would be the exact product that would assist me to financially sustain my Edu-bank project I pitched a year ago. The truth of the matter is, up until you’re able to take care of yourself you won’t be able to take care of other people. What tends to happen within the network is that we promote leadership and social responsibility and we end up telling people who walk the street with torn shoes to advocate against poverty and hunger where as we; in essence are setting them up for failure. The way I see it, you have a better chance of preventing hunger by teaching the man how to fish, rather than preaching the Gospel of being full. A year later my focus is on creating a sustainable business through the Pink Volt Menstrual Cup so I can in turn help women and children through my “P.I.N.K Volt” NPO. A ‘Full circle’ later.



Massive turnout at Ntuzuma Youth Uprising Event

The Ntuzuma Youth Uprising Event, organised by Ubuciko Bomlomo Infotainment – whose members consist of a number of Activators – was open to youngsters from seven to 28 years and provided a platform for children, teenagers, adolescents and young adults to show off their skills, express themselves and tackle tough social issues.

The organisation, which has about 30 members, aims to empower youngsters through entertainment and education while promoting active citizenship in the Ntuzuma community and surrounds.

Event organiser and Activator, Silindelo Irvin, explained the origins of Ubuciko Bomlomo Infotainment, formerly Ntuzuma Poetry. “A few of us who met at Ntuzuma Library started a poetry club in 2012. It has since grown into an organisation that encompasses art and culture as well as youth development,” he said.

Irvin, who is also the chairman of Ubuciko, explained that the club started purely for arts but a number of members were experiencing social problems that they felt needed to be addressed.

“We don’t only entertain, we educate to make sure we uplift and promote local talent. We make sure we keep the youth busy after school, on weekends and during school holidays.”

They run a number of programmes weekly, including poetry sessions and Ringi Vari (held in conjunction with loveLife), a youth dialogue platform open to any youngsters who want to discuss social issues.

Every public holiday Ubuciko hosts a youth event initiative where local singers, performers, speakers and poets can engage with a wide audience on any medium. This Youth Day event, which was an overwhelming success, incorporated the spirit of the struggle heroes remembered for their sacrifices made on 16 June 1976.

“We are redefining the struggle,” explained Irvin. “The youth today are marginilised, they have no direction. We are redirecting their energy into studying and performing, giving them a platform to express themselves.”

The day’s programme included an open mic session, performances by 34 groups and talks by loveLife and ACTIVATE! members.

Ntokozo Ntleko was one of the Activators addressing the youngsters on the day. “This is such a significant day because we are redefining our struggles. We have education, our struggles are now dealing with teen pregnancy and drugs,” he said. “Programmes like ACTIVATE! provided much-needed direction for youngsters.”

Fellow Activator and speaker on the day, Phelelani Tsamba, echoed this sentiment, saying, “two people can kill a snake”.

“We need to work together, to put pressure on government and call on the leadership to create jobs.”  

Tsamba added that youngsters are facing a situation where, even with further studies, job opportunities are scarce. “There are a lot of youth on the streets. We need to provide jobs.”

The talent of Ntuzuma youngsters was evident by the rousing songs, energetic dancing, moving poetry and informative talks that held a captivated audience throughout the day.

Poet and Activator, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, performed his untitled poem which resonated with Tsamba’s comments.

“The focus of my poem today is on the lack of government grants for students,” explained Mkhwanazi, himself a student of Civil Engineering at Springfield College. Mkhwanazi often performs with fellow poet, Sanele Mgobhozi, making up the duo of “Crazy Art”.

Another group which got an impressive audience response was the traditional dance group, “Ihawu Lesizwe”, a collection of youngsters who have performed at a number of these events.

Phumlani Mkhize, 16, the drummer of the group who attends Senzokwethu High School, said they really enjoyed the opportunity to perform.

“It’s great because people get to know you and you get to explain yourselves,” said Mkhize. “We also learn so much at these events.”

Another performer, Nelly Hlophe, relished the chance to recite her poem on the topic of an ‘unkind sister’. “We can honestly express our feelings here. I really like writing poetry,” explained the young artist.

Sbusiso Mthembu attended the day to support his fellow Activators. He said occasions such as the Ntuzuma Youth Uprising Event were vital in remembering our shared history.

“Our national history and past struggles show us where we came from and guide us with where we are going. We need to reflect on what happened on 16 June so that we can decide what we must do to have a better future.”

He said the platform provided by Irvin and his team was engaging and fun for the youth.

“It’s not just speeches, it’s innovative. There’s drama, poetry and song which children can relate to.”

Irvin said that, judging by the phenomenal turnout on the day, they might have to consider a bigger venue for the next event, to be held on 9 August, Women’s Day.

Empowering Female Entrepreneurs

The Annual Young Women Thrive Business Conference was organised by Criar Investments, a marketing and technology company based in Benoni, Johannesburg, founded and run by Activator Nathacia Olivier.

The conference, held at Constitution Hill, was aimed at assisting aspiring and emerging female entrepreneurs between the ages of 16-35 years old. Olivier says that she decided to host the event after identifying a lack of knowledge around business sustainability as well as low investment opportunities, emotional and moral support and effective mentorship for female entrepreneurs.

The guest speaker’s list was made-up of seasoned and emerging inspirational woman within various business sectors and included: 2015 Miss South Africa second princess Nontsikelelo Mkhize,  entrepreneur and University of Johannesburg lecturer Dr Buyi Sondozi, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Communications Manager Nelisa Ngqulana, Kopano Paltry Farming board member and the founder of events coordination company “The Events Girl” Mpho Maphologela, Gauteng Youth Chamber of Commerce & Industry provincial secretary and construction company co-owner Tumelo Serepo, football coach and the founder of Olifant Project Lmaude Motloung, founder and CEO of EnziAfrica Palesa Makhanda and Tebogo Suping director & founder of Blaq Apple Communications.

Guests were also entertained by sounds from Soulful Sessions Entertainment, while The Design Parliament founder Sarah Madingwana and Lukhanyo Lezwe Trading & Projects CEO Kwandile Sikhosana were the Masters of Ceremony. 

Some of the important topics that speakers highlighted were: dealing with the perceptions about how young African women are portrayed in society, particularly in relation to entrepreneurship, challenges women face working in male-dominated sectors and how they can become successful and at the same time make a valuable contribution to society, what stops women from living out their dreams and what should change within various industry sectors regarding women and why social entrepreneurship is important and how to make and sustain an income from it. 

Olivier said that another reason her company organised the event was because many female entrepreneurs and their enterprises are scattered around and there is no solid network.

“It is an open secret that most women in business encounter many challenges in their own isolated corners. Unfortunately, during those trying times they ask themselves too many questions like ‘What do I do now?’ and ‘How do we overcome these challenges?’ A women-only focused reliable platform where seasoned entrepreneurs will meet and support each other will make sure that such challenges will be the thing of the past.”

Olivier also mentioned that the program and the information that was disseminated wasn’t meant for entrepreneurs only. “There are many other career aspects that female students struggle to overcome, including finding mentors, especially in careers such as engineering, agriculture, mining, etc. This was an issue also covered by our various speakers on the day.”

Nelisa Ngqulana said that ACTIVATE! Change Drivers decided to collaborate with Criar Investments because part of ACTIVATE!’s mission is to support initiatives that advance the empowerment of young women, give Activators an opportunity to network with each other and to support a fellow Activator’s event. “Events like these allow Activators to share what they know and connect with other like-minded young people,” she said.

University of Fort Hare law student and Eastern Cape based Activator Isa Mbely Jwarhakazi Mdingi described the event as “breathtaking”.

“I do not regret buying my bus ticket and being here. I met beautiful women with beautiful hearts who have done so much to make a mark and leave a legacy. I learnt a lot about the importance of my own brand as a woman, which I did not think mattered that much. Dr Buyi’s speech also really explained how to respect and love what I do no matter how small the world may think it is. The Women Thrive in Business conference has been a great experience for me.”

Another Activator, Johannesburg performing artist and businesswoman Sthembile Ahadi Zondo said, “The speakers were entertaining and on point. One of the most important lessons I took out has to be fellow Activator, Mpho’s (The Events Girl) point that one always has to live the brand. EnziAfrica CEO Palesa also hit the nail on the head when she said ‘When the learner is ready, the teacher will appear’.”

Olivier was extremely pleased with the way the event turned out. “It was simply an amazing gathering of young women who want to see themselves become successful and driving ripples of change within their communities by reducing the crisis of unemployment. I believe that investing in women is a great economic revolution and would like to thank all those who invested their time and resources partners with us in unlocking opportunities, changing mind sets and encouraging women to grow in every way possible within various phases of their business ventures.”

Look out for news of Criar Investment’s next event in August.




My heart weeps for Manenberg Youth

Human beings are different but yet the same. We are differentiated by culture, religion, politics, sexuality, social class, education, gender and many more facets that make us different from the person next to you.

You see, in the Xhosa culture for a young person to transit from being a boy/girl to being a man/woman, there are rituals that have been socially constructed and date back centuries ago that even today are still practised in communities such as in the Eastern Cape to give rite of passage. Similar rituals can be attributed in the “Western culture” in the form of Sweet 16 and 21st birthdays, similar to the confirmation ritual in the Catholic Church, which signifies that one is mature enough to make spiritual decisions and know their statement of belief. For a Xhosa boy who goes to the mountain to be circumcised as part of the initiation process, it signifies the end of boyhood and the beginning of a journey to manhood, and this process is physically testing, emotionally demanding and spiritually fulfilling.

People from most corners of South Africa always ask what cause we, as young people, are struggling or advocating for, in relation to the Class of 1976. Answers vary that the youth of today are spoilt, apathetic, lazy, confused, you name it. I consider that question unfair and presumptuous (although that is an article for another day). The answers on the other side are troubling and disappointing to put it lightly.

The youth of 1976 had one thing in common and that was eradicating the introduced Bantu Education Act 1953 and subsequent projects implemented with it. Verwoerd said, “there is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?” This statement, amongst many other influences of the time, united young people. While this was emotionally draining for parents of the Class of 1976 and the class itself, because of the spirit of unity, nothing stopped them and today I pay homage to them. In paying tribute, I weep for the youth of Manenberg, although make no mistake, Manenberg is a small piece of a bigger puzzle.

You see, the reason I am weeping for the youth of Manenberg, is because I am suffering from what Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi called, “a danger of a single story”. A story that Manenberg is a violent and violence ridden community. That when I search Manenberg on Google, I am overwhelmed by “gunshots, screaming in Manenberg overnight, Manenberg gang member dies after shooting, Manenberg residents renew calls for army to end gang, Manenberg turns into warzone” and many more. How can I not weep for my brothers and sisters who reside in the neighbourhood, who come from both ends of being perpetrators and victims of the perpetuating violence and usage of drugs?

I will foolishly assume that 99% of gang members are males and the reason they are part of gangs is for one reason, it’s not education, unemployment, apathy, laziness, etc., it is the lack of a rite of passage that is meant to socially construct boys to men and be righteous members of society. Joseph Campbell writes, “boys everywhere have a need for rituals marking their passage to manhood. If society does not provide them they will inevitably invent their own”.

So I ask, in my weeping, what is the rite of passage for the Manenberg boy?. Here is a thing; if you are a young man and not admired by an older man, you hurt. The industrial revolution robbed us of our fathers, our fathers are out from the early hours of the morning to work and back late when they are exhausted and temperamental, and this hurts a young boy growing up deeply who then seeks comfort elsewhere. Hence gangs are a group of young men with no older men around them. In the Xhosa community, “abakhwetha” is a group of young men who are undergoing the rite to manhood and are united by the anticipation to cross to the other side. This creates a sense of longing to be a better man and, without details, the process moulds these young men to be better men to lead and head their families and communities. The equivalent of that for a young man in Manenberg are gang groups and you are spoilt for choice with the Americans, Hard Livings, Wonder kids, Junky Funky Kids, Nice Time Kids, Junior Mafias, Bostons and more.

So to answer your unfair question about the cause that the Manenberg youth is advocating for, it is developing a constructive rite of passage that will channel the energy to think deeper and do better, as Jessica Breakey from the University of Cape Town would put it. These gangs provide emotional support for the wounded boys, offer physical strength as they enter in gang territorial wars and spiritual fulfilment as they learn inside language, tactics and anthems.

Senzo Hlophe is a Junior Researcher at the City of Cape Town (Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department) and a Masters Candidate at the University of Cape Town in the Political Studies Department specializing in Public Policy and Administration. His interests vary from South African politics and African history to his passion, which is public policy development and analysis in the developing countries context. He joined the ACTIVATE! network in 2014.

5 Minutes With Athi

What’s your passion?
Developing disadvantaged communities, beginning with mine. 

What change are you keen to drive?
Empower youth and redirect their energy towards the positive values that have been lost in society.  

How are you driving change?

As a social activist, I’m involved in:

• Private and non-private tutoring to help learners who are struggling, especially with Maths and Accounting.
• I collect varsity application forms in batches and quantities and distribute them to my school, which is something that wasn’t done for me. 
• As the Chairperson of the house committees at the Res at my school, I assist in organising youth events for the whole Residence.  

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change?
ACTIVATE! bridged the gap between the vision that I’ve always had and the passion that I have to give back to my community. I have experienced the harshness of poverty and not having certain services that others have. The question “What are you going to do?” has always been echoing and then ACTIVATE! came along with the answer that “No, no, no, you are postponing the vision, you can be doing things now!”

What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country over the next five years?
The first one that I personally have devoted myself to is to reclaim values, because I’ve seen that the root in most of our evils in society is that we have lost the value of respect, the value of responsibility, the values that we used to be taught at home. Like corruption, it’s not a computer done thing, it’s a human done thing. It all revolves around human intentions. If we can bring back values, we can save the country for the next 20 years. 

How do you motivate yourself?
I pray, I talk to my mother who is my stronghold, and I am thankful for what I have. I’m humbled and encouraged by people telling me, “You’re doing good work.” 

Final comment?
One of my biggest challenges is that leaders don’t take me seriously as I’m young and an individual, but they will take us seriously when we are a united front of young people. We mustn’t give up when we want to achieve something.