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.

Empowering Communities Through Media

On 01 June 2015, Activator and Media Founder Noxolo Mthethwa will be launching Nongoma FM, a new community radio station that aims to be a catalyst of change in the community of Mcebo, Nongoma, in KwaZulu Natal.

While this is her first broadcast venture, the 26-year old Activator is no stranger to the media industry. In August 2012, she launched a newspaper called The Provoker News, which is published weekly and distributed nationally with a strong emphasis in Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu- Natal.

“When I grew up, I always told my parents that I was not going to work for somebody else,” said Mthethwa. “In high school and varsity, I deviated from that and did accounting, but I had also started drafting a media business plan in high school and was perfecting it frequently as I had a keen business interest in the media.”

Today, The Provoker News is listed as America’s seventh largest magazine in Africa and lives up to its mandate to provoke.

“We have a strong emphasis on youth development, education, entrepreneurship and nation building and believe in provoking young people to reach beyond their perceived limitations and potential,” she said. “We use provocative content to channel the reaction we cause and ensure that our readers are equipped to take centre stage.”

The company’s figures so far show that Mthethwa is on the right track. The publication currently employs a team of 40 high- impact individuals and is self-funded by subscribers who pay R400 per year for a subscription. But she says launching a publication is no easy task.

“There’s no straight formula for starting a newspaper. For me, I just had to execute an idea that I had since high school, and that meant breaking a lot of barriers and going against all odds. The industry is also very hush and not open for new entrants, especially in the commercial space. The large players are secretive with information and what makes it even worse is that statutory bodies are funded by other media houses who make it very hard to breath and thrive in a conducive environment.”

Mthethwa added that while the reaction to the newspaper has been good, it took a lot of work to build up the readership to what it is now.

“There are those who weren’t familiar with reading newspapers and those who wanted to know why they had to choose ours,” she said. “Both these types of consumers provided us with the opportunity to educate and raise awareness around reading informative newspapers and also increasing product knowledge.”

Now, almost three years later, Mthethwa is branching out into broadcast media and launching a community radio station.

“We decided to launch a radio station because people in rural areas don’t have a voice and the idea of rural development that is forced down our throats is not ideal. In fact, it’s there to leave [rural communities] poorer than they were,” she said. “Community broadcasting becomes that voice and ensures that communities become actively involved in their development.”

Mthethwa also reported that the community is very excited about the radio station.

“It’s the first of its kind in the community and we’ve been getting a lot of support and encouragement. The interesting factor is helping them understand this radio phenomenon and encouraging active participation.”

The radio station will also be accompanied by a business and law clinic that will help the community with paralegal law issues and refer people to relevant institutions if the need persists. The clinic will be launched in conjunction with the radio station.

“This was inspired by my dad who is serving in the Department of Justice as a law expert, as well as Module 3 of the ACTIVATE! training programme where we were introduced to using the paralegal law guide to help communities with their legal issues,” Mthethwa explained. “People in rural areas don’t know where to go for their legal warfares and we thought that – because they already come to us with their problems – we need to provide a remedy for their legal challenges. We are hoping that this will also open an opportunity for law firms to do pro bono work in rural areas. The business aspect will deal with entrepreneurship development.”

Mthwetha’s vision for the radio station is to make a positive difference in the lives of people through educating and empowering them to reach their potential, with a special emphasis on young people.

“Young people are often painted with a colourless brush as if they cannot contribute effectively in advancing education, politics, growing the economy or simply assuming leadership roles. We need to create platforms that will package young people for who they are. I am simply partnering with other young people to create those platforms.”

Connect with Noxolo Mthethwa:

Tel: 084 467 9265


Personal Branding With Diesel Masia

As a brand speaker who goes to corporate and other non-governmental organisations inspiring people on the importance of personal and nation branding, I am always obligated to answer the question about what branding is and what value can one’s brand bring to society. A Ghanaian friend of mine, Bernard Kalvin Clive, defines it as “the combination of one’s skills and potential, which produces value and perception in the minds of others.” I want you to take particular notice of the keywords “SKILLS”, “POTENTIAL”, “VALUE”, “PERCEPTION”, and “MINDS”. In your journey as a young person, what will determine the value that you are supposed to bring to society is solely dependent on your skills and potential, whether obtained from formal education or from birth. 

Every one of us is a brand in our society, and we are supposed to model our individual brands in a manner that the people in our community, school and workplace will benefit from the value that comes with your brand promise. If you have a desire to build and become a compelling unique brand in your community and/or workplace but you do not know where to start, here are a few tips to get you started. 

Clear Vision 

Brand life starts with having a clear sense of vision. All the icons such as Nelson Mandela, Michael Jordan and Cassper Nyovest became who they are today because they had a clear sense of vision. What is that one thing that you want to achieve in your society, workplace and organisation? What is it that you will not mind doing whether you get paid for it or not? Lock yourself in your closet and answer these questions because this will determine whether you will be a person of value or not. My personal vision is clear and is to “INSPIRE LIVES AND BUILD BRANDS FOR EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE”. In everything that you do, you need to have a clear sense of vision and this is what the world, employers and potential customers are looking for from you. Localise Your Vision Once you have defined your role in society, you need to implement your vision right away in order to bring value. How do you this? By telling the person next to you what your role is and what you are good at. Often, people think branding is about putting yourself out there to the world, but branding starts with the people within your immediate sphere of influence – in your community, workplace and organisation. Once these people know what your role is and what you can do, they will begin to share your role with others. This is how value is added in society and the most famous icons that we know about today started with playing a role in their immediate surroundings in order to become people of value. 

Clearly Communicate Your Brand 

The things that you do automatically build a brand whether you’re aware of it or not. Once you have defined your role in society and told people about it, it is important to keep communicating your brand 
consistently to grow your sphere of influence and market. There are many platforms available today for building your personal brand, especially social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The important thing to remember when utilising these platforms is to always be consistent in your messaging so that people can start recognising you. The challenge we have with many young people out there is that they want to be all over the show at once. Many want to become the jack of all trades, but in today’s world we are looking for specialists who know what they are doing. Also note that it takes years to build a brand and just a second to destroy it. Always be careful about what you are posting as just one bad picture could destroy all your hard work. 

Commit to excellence 

Consciously building your brand means being aware of the content and messages that you are putting out to people. When you commit to excellence, you must commit in both word and action. It is not enough to do excellent work but when you advertise it, you make spelling mistakes or your messages are unclear. Big companies such as Adidas and Nivea spend millions of dollars to make sure that the messages they send out to the world are 100% correct. Similarly, you need to treat yourself like a million-dollar product and make sure that your messages are correct and consistent. And if you are unable to do this yourself, then you must find someone to assist you with it.


Contact details:

South African youth can improve their employment prospects

MORE than one quarter of the South African labour force is unemployed. This discouraging fact was revealed in Statistics South Africa’s latest Quarterly  Labour Force Survey which indicated that, of the 35.8 million people of working age, 5.5 million are unemployed while 14.8 million are not economically active (these include people who are able to work but are not, such as students and those caring for children).

It is particularly concerning that the majority of the 26.4 percent unemployed South Africans are in the youth sector (ages 15 to 24). The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) issued a report in April this year entitled “Born Free But Still in Chains” which highlights the situation of the 27 million South Africans – half the country’s population – born post-1990. It states that unemployment among male born frees of working age, including discouraged workers (those who have given up job seeking) totals 67 percent while 75 percent of females are unemployed. Dishearteningly, statistics also show that unemployment has risen drastically by 159.3 percent since 1994 and continues to rise. 

And the problem is not just a local one. The SAIRR report reads: “This means that South Africa and Greece currently have similar unemployment rates – except that the South African rate follows five years of economic growth, whereas the Greek rate follows six years of recession.” In an effort to counteract this, 74 000 Born Frees in South Africa have started up local businesses, the majority of them micro-entrepreneurs. However, this figure is still relatively low and barely makes a dent in the overall unemployment rate. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor states that only 35 percent of South Africans discern entrepreneurial opportunities whereas it averages about 70 percent in various other sub-Saharan countries. Frans Cronje, CEO of SAIRR, said the unemployment rate was linked to South Africa’s lack of domestic competitiveness, specifically the cost lof labour in relation to the product manufactured. “This is an example of why our clothing industry has suffered such a decline,” explained Cronje.

Advising the youth, Cronje said that, before deciding on what to study, people need to investigate what employers are looking for. “Primary and secondary industries that would primarily employ less skilled people are in decline. The high-skilled tertiary sector is doing relatively better. Employers increasingly require high levels of technical and other skills.” Although there is no denying that the South African unemployment statistics are dire, South Africa is not alone. The International Labor Organization’s “World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015” indicates that there are 201 million jobseekers worldwide, an increase of one million from last year. This is, in a large part, a knock-on effect of the 2007 global recession which drastically slowed the growth of employment. 

Internationally, youth unemployment reached 13 percent in 2014, almost three times higher than the unemployment rate for adults. The report reads: “Many countries are projected to see a substantial increase in youth unemployment…The largest increases in 2015 will be observed in East Asia and the Middle East with an expected further increase over the following years.” A shortage of skills is often linked to the high unemployment rate but this appears to be problematic even in developed countries. According to ManpowerGroup’s “2015 Talent Shortage Survey”, hiring managers in Japan reported an 83 percent talent shortage while Peru noted an almost two thirds shortage (68 percent) and Hong Kong a 65 percent deficit. The global average of talent shortage is 38 percent with South Africa sitting below the average at 31 percent. 

Although these statistics do not promise an easy road for South African job seekers, there are success stories that give hope to others. One such story is that of Activator and event planner, Innocentia Sibanyoni, who – despite having studied Mechanical Engineering at Ekurhuleni East College – found herself unemployed and struggling to find a job. “I thought about my options and realised my passion is for co-ordinating events so I decided to start my own company,” said Sibanyoni. Through serious determination she built up her events’ organisation, PaperChase Entertainment Pty Ltd, recognised as one of Ekhurhuleni’s best youth-owned businesses, as well as a development platform, Youth Vibes Business & Leadership Initiative. Advising youngsters on finding a place in the job market, Sibanyoni said internships were a great start. “Many organisations offer internships to unemployed graduates giving them real insights into how an organisation works. Internships will not only build up your knowledge but also introduce you to some big business contacts that could secure your future career.” She suggested finding a way to communicate achievements in a powerful way. “Young people need to start thinking in terms of achievements and not activities. When it comes to CVs, application forms and interviews, you don’t want to tell them what you did but how well you did it.”
Collecting evidence of achievements such as powerful story examples to discuss in interviews, press clippings, awards, video, audio, blogs and references is a great way for applicants to differentiate themselves. “Realise what employers are really looking for, regardless of what the job says,” she explained. “The employer wants to know that you can do the job, that you will fit in and that you will add value.”

In line with Sibanyoni’s advice, The National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA) encourages young people to both volunteer and network to improve job prospects. Media liaison executive at NEASA, Shantall Ramatsui, said suggestions made by labour market analyst, Loane Sharp, make a lot of sense. “He says that volunteering always makes for a good interview topic and shows commitment and time-management skills,” explained Ramatsui. “While networking strengthens relationships, allows people to hear about job opportunities and raises your job profile.” Networking can even be done online via Twitter chats or various networking groups. Ramatsui said that employers prefer candidates who have experience, particulary if the candidate’s education qualifications are poor. “Waiting for those young people who already have some experience allows employers to benefit from the training that job seekers might have received elsewhere. “Experience can also be evidence of the employability of a young person.” Job seekers can also turn to useful sites such as and, which give practical tips on how to write a CV and where to look for jobs.

5 Minutes With Sade Lochenberg

What’s your passion? 

I am passionate about community development, especially with kids, and tackling poverty, education and unemployment.

What change are you keen to drive? 

The change of thinking differently. Our community has always been known for gangsterism and drugs. I want to empower my community because I know there are so many good people here.I feel, once they can start making a difference – some people just need help and motivation – it’s going to get better and better.

How are you driving change?

  • I’m on the executive team with the Merewent youth desk. We’ve done a cancer drive, blanket drive and toy run where we go into different homes and organisations handing out toys and having fun with underprivileged children who don’t get anything for Christmas. 
  • Doing puppet shows at Chance Haven, a children’s home.
  • I volunteer at the resource centre, a place where children and youth in can get help with their homework, or access computer lessons. We also run holiday programmes where kids are cooking, baking and go to the beach.

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

ACTIVATE! has given me support and the backbone to stand up and say “I’m driving change and I’m making a difference”. ACTIVATE! has also given me the knowledge of networking, identifying myself and I use the flash cards when I’m doing projects.

What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country over the next five years? 

Education and poverty – if youth have been educated, it will drop the unemployment rate. And to be a developed country where we don’t need to be dependent on other people and other countries. It’s hard to say “no poverty and no unemployment”, but there is a chance if everybody is dedicated and on the right path for peace and love.

How do you motivate yourself? 

I don’t sit and overthink things.  I talk to myself. I say “Sade, you want to do this. You’re going to do it. It’s going to be a success”. I also hang around with positive people and surround myself with people who are going to support me. 

Final comment? 

Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life, it’s about what you inspire others to do, so keep at it. Be strong and never give up, you don’t know who you’re inspiring. 

Global Citizenship education starts at the community level

During the 196th session of UNESCO’ Executive Board, countries gave their support to UNESCO’s work on Global Citizenship Education (GCED), which lies at the heart of the Organization’s effort to develop a culture of peace. Emphasizing that GCED is an important part of the post-2015 development agenda, countries encouraged UNESCO to continue to lead global debates on Global Citizenship Education and reinforce networks of policy-makers, experts and practitioners among its Member States.

The Director-General was invited to strengthen UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education programmes that will contribute to peaceful and sustainable societies by helping to prevent violent extremism, genocide, and atrocities, and counter all forms of discrimination, as well as the destructive manifestations of racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance and hatred.

Understanding GCED as a multifaceted, human-rights based approach that can be delivered in various ways depending on local needs and contexts, countries underlined the importance of GCED in developing knowledge, skills, – including non-cognitive skills – values and attitudes to equip learners for a better future and to respond to current needs.

Through relevant policies, pedagogical guiding tools and curricula and other activities, UNESCO will continue to facilitate the mainstreaming and implementation of GCED in formal and non-formal education systems, and share good practices, among others, through the UNESCO GCED Clearinghouse hosted by the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU).

From July 2015 onwards, UNESCO is organising regional GCED capacity building workshops, starting with Senegal, Chile and Southern Africa, to support Member States’ efforts to integrate GCED in their education systems.

UNESCO reaffirms its commitment   to   promoting Global   Citizenship   Education as one of the three priorities of the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), and will work to mainstream GCED at all levels of education and engage all relevant stakeholders, particularly young people.

GCED at the Community Level

In Cape Town, South Africa, Dean, Andiswa and Juan are three young people turning peaceful communities into spaces for mutual understanding, through dialogue, music and dance. For them, Global Citizenship Education plays a key role in addressing contemporary challenges, and encourages them to take actions in their daily lives and within their communities in a responsible way.

Dean Jates used to look around in despair in his Cape Town community of Bonteheuwel in South Africa. The unemployed 32-year-old would see street corners populated by gangs, vandalized houses, and bored children hanging out with nothing to do.

“I was looking at the moral decay that went down in my area –people vandalizing, not taking pride in their responsibility and I thought to myself I don’t want to fall into that category,” explains Dean. “So I thought let me do something about changing my situation and environment. I needed an outlet to express myself but I also wanted it to be a project of social change.”

The project Dean came up with – My Plek, My Hoek (My Place, My Corner) –, which comes under the umbrella of ACTIVATE! – a programme dedicated to young community leaders driving change across South Africa – is a classic example of the way in which global citizenship education can transform lives, offering hope and providing people with new opportunities in addition to having a wider impact on the community in which they live.

Started in 2012, My Plek, My Hoek, takes gang corners and transforms them, turning them into performances spaces for local artists, dancers and musicians. “I selected the corners primarily based on the gang activities happening – so if they were selling drugs or there was gang graffiti or vandalism happening on that corner,” explains Dean. “Then I would try and convert that corner into a safe performance space mostly aimed at younger children.”

It wasn’t always easy but crucially the project has bigger concerns than just promoting artistic performance. This helped Dean to win his community round. “One of the key activities was the conversation between myself and the public,” says Dean. “We talk about issues that affect us, from gangsters to HIV and racism, our current political situation or our local economic system. And we talk openly and freely without bias – without offending people, trying to move towards a conclusion or find a solution towards what we’re currently going through. But we also recognise that we are to blame for what we have created within our own area and that we must try not to repeat that.”

Story via UNESCO

Jozi Urban Network Annual Expo

Dozens of youth development formations, government stakeholders, business sector representatives,media stations and activators gathered at the Jozi Urban Network Annual Expo, hosted by Blaq Apple Communications at Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg, on the 25 April 2015, to network, connect and showcase their product and projects.

Jozi Urban Network is a youth entrepreneurship networking platform with reformist activities like arts and crafts, gaming booth, food court, skate ramps, live performances, networking sessions and resource hubs from many local businesses.  According to the event organizer, Tebogo Suping, last year the Jozi Urban Network assembled great young minds with the intention to connect with one another so that they can share information, opportunities and resources on their way to stardom and creating great social change impact to other young people in their areas. 

Tebogo said “We wanted to show that there are young people out there with talents and skills that can contribute towards growing the economy. We wanted the very same young people to start seeing each other as primary source of skills and resources to fill the gaps or address some of the challenges they face when starting up their businesses. Basically to connect; exchange and create a resource value chain among themselves as well as stakeholders in the SMME; co-operatives and social entrepreneurship sectors.” 

Tebogo said that this years’ expo connected more than 250 young people in the name of business and Gauteng provincial government official representative, Tshepo Pilane, who was at the Expo said that the reason he attended the event was because government wanted to get a sense level of entrepreneurship in the province. Pilane said another major reason for his presence at the event was that provincial government also wanted to hear young entrepreneurs’ grievances and give clarity or share relevant information that might be helpful. There was no selection process. All young people in the start-up and developing (medium) phase of their business with a product or service to offer were most welcome. That is the reason why there were some young great emerging entrepreneurs from other provinces like Kwazulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo etc.   

Eastern Cape based social entrepreneur Koko Zaka applauded the event organizers. Zaka said “The event helped us to connect with other entrepreneurs and reach more clients and prospective clients. It offered us an opportunity to market our brands and products to a variety of people. The event helped us widen our reach and we made meaningful connections. I was summoned by people that believe in me. So I couldn’t disappoint. Zaka Inspirations has clients all over the country and it’s sometimes difficult for people to get my products, so this was an opportunity for me to deliver orders, display more of my product and talk more about Zaka Inspirations services.” 

A Durban social change driver Nonkululeko Hlongwane said the expo opened a lot of doors for her. “The Jozi Urban Network expo for me personally was an eye opening experience. I managed to network with valuable young people and foster productive relationships. The reason why I decided to attend the Expo was to promote my product and be able to collect a database of clients as well as tangible support in the form of a petition. “

Hlongwane said the Jozi Urban Network event inspired her. “After the weekend of the Expo I started playing around with possible programmes that could be launched for activators in KZN.” Over the years the Jozi Urban Network has received support from structures which include but are not limited to: Constitution Hill; YDIDI; Department of Economic Development; Momentum; Red Bull Amaphiko; Activate; Alpha Conference Centre; Gauteng Enterprise Propeller and Premier Gauteng. There were also stands set up to collect all forms of donations for the victims of this year’s xenophobia attacks.

Getting into the fitness groove at INK Body Workout

THE sounds of high-energy, rhythmic beats vibrate throughout the Inanda Ohlange Sports’ Ground, urging some 500 fitness enthusiasts to keep going. And setting the pace at this INK (Inanda/Ntuzuma/KwaMashu) Body Workout fitness event is organiser and Activator Mlekeleli Khuzwayo.

ACTIVATE! is a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. The dance choreographer and now owner of Triple B Fitness Family Indoor Sports Centre, based in KwaMashu, is driven to improve the health of his fellow INK residents through fun fitness rallies.

Talking about his journey to this point, Khuzwayo recalled his introduction to dance. “I was taught to dance by Eric Shabalala who ran an after-school programme teaching township children dance,” explained the energetic choreographer. Shabalala was part of the Phenduka Dance Theatre Company which Khuzwayo joined from 2001 where he received formal dance training.

He quickly danced his way onto the competitive stage, winning KZN Dance Link’s “Breakthrough” dance award in 2005 and joining the choreography team for the renowned Jomba! Dance Festival that same year.

He continued to collaborate with a number of South African dance companies including the Cape Town Jazzart Dance Theatre, Durban Flatfoot Dance Company and Durban Flying Fish Dance Company where he choreographed a number of impressive pieces, awarding him the attention of an international dance organisation.

From 2007 to 2008, Khuzwayo joined the German-based dance group, Afrika-Afrika, which saw him performing alongside top international dancers throughout Germany as well as other parts of Europe. He took the role as lead dancer and also assisted in teaching choreography.

On returning to home soil, Khuzwayo continued to dance and choreograph, eventually opening his own company, Dreamfinders, in 2011. However, he felt the need to encourage fitness within the INK community, so in August 2014 he opened Triple B Fitness Family.

“There are lots of gyms around so I decided to mobilise people, no matter what gym they come from or even if they don’t have a gym, to participate in a fitness rally which encourages a healthy lifestyle.” So in November last year, Khuzwayo hosted the first INK Body Workout fitness event in KwaMashu where anyone and everyone could come on the day and participate in a free gym session. “We had 200 people attend and it was a huge success, so I decided to do three a year, one in each of the INK areas,” he explained.

The second INK Body Workout fitness event was held in Inanda on 2 May, attended by some 500 men, women and children, all driven to live healthier lives. Both events were attended by KwaZulu-Natal’s first lady, Thembeka Mchunu, the wife of KZN premier, Senzo Mchunu, and herself an ambassador for healthy living.

“It is so important that we get everyone living a healthy lifestyle with events such as these,” said Mchunu, getting ready to participate in the gym session. “By exercising and getting fit, we are reducing the number of people being hospitalised with high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Mchunu – who is about to launch the Anti-Obesity programme aimed at decreasing childhood obesity – said the INK Body Workout programme was heeding the government’s call to live a healthier lifestyle. The event received the support of eThekwini Municipality with ward councillor, Vusi Gebashe, leading the way and getting involved. Gebashe, who also had high praise for Khuzwayo’s initiative, said: “I think it’s an exciting programme. People are engaged in exercising and getting healthy which means we are taking people off the streets and focusing them on positive tasks.”

One of the participants of the day was 62-year-old Makhosi Qhobosheane, a KwaMashu resident and now member of Khuzwayo’s Triple B gym. She said she became hooked to the gyming lifestyle after participating in the first INK Body Workout.

“I had high blood pressure, arthritis, heart problems and am a chronic asthmatic. I didn’t listen to the doctors who told me to go to the gym because I thought it was for younger people. I was being admitted to hospital three times a year.”Qhobosheane said she finally made the decision last November to get involved in the fitness rally when she realised she was continuing to get sick. And the results have been astounding.

“I used to use my pump every day, now I only use it when I have an asthmatic attack. I feel a lot healthier. At first it was hard but now I really like it. I go to gym five times a week and run on Saturdays.”

She said the improvement was so impressive that fellow teachers at the school where she works as a teacher’s assistant, have joined the gym. “On the weekend when I go running I am motivated because people hoot at me and say ‘Go gogo!’”

Pumla Mkhwanazi, who attended last year’s event as well, said she really enjoyed getting fit. “My favourite part of the day is the thai bo. I try to gym every day when I get a chance.” Vusi Makhanya, Khuzwayo’s fellow dancer, was also getting his heart rate up. “It’s great seeing the young people coming out and getting fit and healthy.” And to ensure the event benefits a cross-section of the INK area, Khuzwayo organised a business exhibition at the event, providing a much-needed platform for small businesses to showcase their products and services.


Marcia Ngidi, of Kukie and Marcia’s Tailoring and Dressmaking, said she hoped the event would open her company up to new clientele who would not have heard of them before. Commenting on the day, Khuzwayo said it had been another huge success. “The next one will be held in Ntuzuma sometime before October and it will be even bigger!” he promised.



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