It is my democratic Right

I don’t vote during elections, nor do I loot private businesses, burn schools destroy clinics and kill foreigners during demonstrations. I’m just a citizen who believes in the freedom to choose which democratic right to exercise at a particular time.

I don’t have to stain my nails to show that I’m a patriot nor do I have to drape myself in colours of any political party to be a citizen while justice and morals suffocate to extinction. However, with all that being said, I might sound ungrateful for the liberation movement, ordinary South Africans, liberals and the international community who afforded me one of many democratic rights – a vote. I’m not promoting apathy but I’m against those who coerce, intimidate, blackmail and manipulate the masses to advance their political aspirations while playing god on my emotions. As if those like me – who choose to do gardening instead of going to the polls – have forfeited their citizenships. They manipulate the masses by portraying voting as an obligation, and fallaciously promoting voting as the only supreme democratic right.  However I’m aware that voting is not the only tool to exercise my democratic right and influence justice.

There are many other meaningful ways, like: public demonstrations, petitions, joining/forming an NPO, actively participating in uplifting community activities etc.

Before deciding on a particular mode of participation, one should weigh the political environment against his/her beliefs, for participating in any democratic activity is an expression of self and beliefs.  For an example, imagine a Christian who votes in a political environment that endorses abortion, is that not hypocrisy of the highest order? Your vote has power as a statement.

Maybe it’s time our masses are conscientised on how to play a meaningful role in their democracy, how to vote right and why one should vote. Instead of manipulating the situation by reminding the masses of the dark days of oppression. Until then, we remain canon fodders in the ruthless arsenal of corruption, self enrichment, low morals, injustice and inequality -to mention but a few- that destroys the same majority of voters, the poorest of the poor.

Kofi Annan once said, “Democracy is not just about one day in every four or five years when elections are held, but a system of government that respects the separation of powers, fundamental freedoms like the freedom of thought, religion, expression, association and assembly and the rule of law … Any regime that rides roughshod on these principles loses its democratic legitimacy, regardless of whether it initially won an election.”

I choose to Vote for who is worthy of my vote and if there is none, it is no sin to abstain and explore other democratic channels where I can make a meaningful contribution in our beloved country.   

Regards,

Unathi, a concerned citizen.

Photo credit: Traveller24

The Meaning of Freedom & Democracy in our time

Are we Free or are we DOM? With that being understood, 27th April marks the commemoration of Freedom Day in South Africa, which seeks to unite and remind South Africans of the journey that our people have gone through to have this day set aside, and reflect upon.

Freedom is highly correlated with a wider range of choices and greater ability to do various things. Meanwhile, democracy is a universally recognised ideal as well as a goal, which is based on common values shared by peoples throughout the global community, irrespective of cultural, political, social and economic differences. It is thus a basic right of citizenship to be exercised under conditions of freedom, equality, transparency and responsibility, with due respect for the plurality of views, and in the interest of the society.

Fortunately, Tsepo Ya Rona Mofokeng, an independent artist joined me in unpacking some of the challenging questions which seek to evaluate how far we have gone in sustaining our democracy and freedom.

What values underpin leadership and democracy?

Mofokeng says, “The idea of leadership premises itself, on the foundations of serving. When we speak about values of leadership, we are implying that we must be selfless, generous and most importantly, not to be found wanting. Leadership is about leading, sticking one’s neck out and making decisions that have the potential to change the status quo. The values of leadership demand that we have the ability to see ahead of our time, to be bold and have the nerves and tenacity to tackle ahead on the challenges that come with being a leader”

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to engage Siphokazi Pangele, founder of Ambassadors in Action, who argued that, “The thing about democracy and freedom really raises an alert to an individual that wants to be crowned a leader. First of all, the values that underpin a leader not only underline the word leadership, but actually break it down, and take it to a point whereby you are given the actual responsibility to lead a ship, and having an understanding that a ship actually carries a large number of people.”

How do we make our democracy inclusive with everyone sharing the responsibility to do better and be better?

“Everyone sharing the responsibility to do and be better actually making democracy a people’s forum, that way democracy is not only initially hand-held by a person who fought for democracy or by people who lived under oppression. Democracy is a freedom for all, freedom for all is allowing people to voice themselves and be heard. Democracy does not only mean we are free, therefore whatever you are thinking in your mind has a right to be heard by other people,” adds Pangele.

However, Mofokeng says, “What I’m certain about is that it is the responsibility of every citizen to play their part, without being told what part it is because it stands to reason that if we are all invested in the same vision, if we all agree that this is our future, certainly we should not then have to outline the face and smile of that future because it is ours.”

While we try to make democracy inclusive, madam premier Helen Zille still thinks that colonialism wasn’t all that bad, afterall, these sentiments came from someone who was a beneficiary of colonialism. So what do comments like these do to our democracy?

Mofokeng comes to our rescue to say, “Leaders like Helen Zille suffer from amnesia. But we cannot speak about amnesia and not reference the ANC. What Zille said about colonialism is not different from what the Zuma government is forcing on us, to be passive objects of Zuma’s fantasies, while Zille dreams about fantasies that were great for her and whiteness. So even though both leaders have a right to write what they like, it is up to us democrats to remind them that we are not tabula rasa’s- which is to say- we are not blank documents that need to be filled by their inconsiderate and poor vision of leadership. We will rise and raise our ox baritones to what we perceive to be injustice.”

What is the criterion for nation building?

I personally think nation building is a farce. We cannot speak of it as something that can be attained, although we can speak about the idea of imagined nations, imagines societies and so on. Nation building supposes that there is one nation, yet in a complex and sophisticated cultural country like South Africa, how do you speak of one nation? You cannot because we are too diverse, however, surely you can speak of one country and multiple voices. Meanwhile, Pangele has a different view, “Nation building means us understanding and acknowledging that issues such as racism will still exist, and will maybe, if I may say, forever exist. What are we going to do about that? Will that be our stand point? Will that be the barrier between us joining forces with other races into creating this nation that we want to feel free and call it a democracy.

Freedom of expression

South Africa has been held at ransom by a series of events surrounding freedom of expression. This has been evident in Parliament, if not social media (Penny Sparrow), then arts (Ayanda Mabulu paintings) and everywhere else. The good thing about freedom of expression is that, it has allowed people on the ground to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate conduct/s portrayed by those in action. Interestingly enough, the recent Mabulu paintings had gone viral to an extent of potentially pissing off loyalists and appraisers of Nelson Mandela.

I spoke to Lunga Mantashe, a PHD candidate and lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Recently, Mantashe had expressed his view on social media citing the right and wrong side of freedom of expression.

In our engagement with Mantashe he said, “I agree that we all have rights. Additionally, I agree that rights must be exercised if they really matter and have meaning of existence. Artists have rights to express what they may not be able to express in words. They may draw artistic work depicting a president as a person they still perceive as a rapist, despite the court judgement acquitting him” says Mantashe.

He adds that “They may go further and draw a picture of him raping an innocent woman to drive their point home. Of course they may go on and draw the president actually taking a shower after that”.

“However, I have disagreements with the manner of their drawings. First, I believe that all individuals have a right to be treated with dignity. This does not mean that we cannot disagree with the president and other people. Depicting a president naked, with his penis revealed in the picture and all other body parts exposed is not only an over expression of a right to express, it is an intolerant over expression” Mantashe concluded.

Freedom and Democracy is no longer about the theory, but rather the engagements and implementation of the theory that has been gathered. We have seen the role of the youth in this current generation where they are all about action. I think it is important to hold those accountable to the majority to book. The youth by their nature must disturb, agitate, anger and disorientate the way things are. If the youth does not rise up to the circumstances of their generation, they would have failed in passing their heirloom of history to generations ahead. 

 

 

Activators celebrating democracy through community building

Sandile Tsie Activator 2012 Gauteng

“Democracy means everyone deserves a better chance to improve their lives regardless of where they come from or their age” 

“In the past young people were never given a chance to show their leadership skills or be part of decision making at their schools but now all that has changed under the new South Africa. Learners are now part of the SGB and get to say what they think will work for them or what they need as young future leaders and that’s where my project Nthethe consulting services comes in. The projects encourage young people to exercise their rights as they work under the RCL (Representative council of learners).

Since we would be celebrating 23 years of freedom this month we will be working on a new programme which will include RCL members of all the private schools in our township so that we can discuss social cohesion and better education for both government schools and private schools”

Tambo Mohapi Activator 2016 Free State

“In this democratic country water is still an issue even thou it’s a basic human need”

“Well with freedom day coming up, I really don’t see anything that I can say we are free about because in my area there is still a huge gap between white people and black people. We know certain spaces are for certain people. The only thing great about democracy is that young people can now tap into business previously reserved for white people.

The project that I am currently busy is purified water. Seeing that our province has a problem with providing purified water I saw the opportunity to create jobs for young people by offering people purified water. This has helped because our municipality provides people with salty water so it’s like killing two birds with one stone.”

Gift Methule Activator 2014 Mpumalanga

“Democracy means every citizen has the responsibility to protect children from the abusers and become whistle blowers of child abuse.” 

“It has been 23 years since our country has become a democratic country. It is with sadness that the powerless and vulnerable human beings in our societies still live in fear and pain. My project helps the victims of abuse with counselling and a boot camp that is filled with lots of activities that will help them heal.

Since we as a country are celebrating 23 years of freedom this month, we should also not forget those children who don’t know what freedom is due to abuse, as for me I would be spending my freedom month at Tekatakho drop-in centre helping the children of the centre to experience freedom.”

Kabelo Manamela Activator 2016 Gauteng

“Democracy came with prisoners being given a second chance to learn from their mistakes and to become part of the community they once belong to”

“In the past prisoners were given death sentences and never given a chance to apologise to their victims and go back to their communities. I’m currently running a project called Bua Motsha which is about giving gangsters a chance to apologise to their victims and welcoming them back to society. Freedom came with a chance for criminals to learn from their mistakes and be rehabilitated, while in the past it was all about death sentences.

 On this freedom month I would be spending time with a former gangster leader and other former gang members to talk about how we can make the democracy work for young people without being involved in crime.”

Scelo Mbonani Activator 2015 Gauteng

“Democracy is about equality and having your voice heard with no fear”

“Well they call this month freedom month yet I don’t see any freedom. We might be living in a democratic world but not everyone knows what democracy is or what it feels like and to tell you the truth our country is not yet a democratic country, we still have a long way to go. Our government introduced all those agencies that fund small businesses but they did not train people on how to sustain their businesses while white people grew up knowing these things and had all the support to start and maintain their businesses. Until wealth is equal among us I cant say we are free.

I am currently helping township businesses under the organisation called Township Entrepreneurs’ Network (TEN). This organisation is about helping small business owners from the township to sustain and grow their businesses and get investors.”

First round of A! Engagements kick off

Dynamics are a fundamental tool of comprehending diversity, a diversity astute in contemplating how, when and where effective change can be implemented and how out of that change personal and societal development can be birthed. But what better way is there to articulate this aspect than a platform where ideas converge and diverge in a bid to create a common purpose based upon shared common interests than the A! Engagements which took place this past weekend in Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Western Cape. 

The event was marked by young leaders, networking and understanding the various successes and challenges that young people face in their various walks of life. The purpose of these engagements was to shed some light on the 2017 ACTIVATE! strategy, delving into what Connect, Inspire, Provoke and Influence means to Activators and their roles. Almost 200 Activators attended.

Upon an observation of what was taking place it was apparent to see that the purposive thematic element of the event, was mainly inspired by individuals immersed in taking action, fostering change and driving their various mandates forward. Not only are these mandates driven by the desire to maximize partnerships between Activators, but are further proliferated by the desire to witness and foster effective change in the various aspects of life that Activators are involved in.

A prominent feature of the A! Engagements is to establish a common purpose around Activators in the same field of interest. Issues of youth development, entrepreneurship, education, art and health came out as overall themes. Out of these topical issues, successes and challenges were brought out so as to paint a clear picture of what the A! Network is succeeding at, struggling with and how to collaborate.

Under the banner of youth development, critical issues like the aspect of focusing on education and providing an avenue of self-empowerment and development amongst the youth was important. For instance, the Isibani representatives present at KZN put it on record that their initiative of tutoring and advancing students and learners the opportunity to better comprehend the curriculum and participate better within the academic space.

Out of this space that was occupied, Musa Ncane articulated his vision for the prosperity of the youth through platforms like the A! Engagements. He passionately spoke about the surge of whoonga use by the youth within communities across the country and how this has derailed much needed progress expected to be fostered by young people. Though he did have a clear vision as to how social ills can be dealt with from his point of view, he did articulate the challenges of capital deprivation which is essential to carry programmes forward.

In addition to the issues of youth development, entrepreneurs articulated their position as fundamental in fostering entrepreneurial unity so as to aid one another in one way or the other. This includes and encapsulates assistance in branding and registration, farming, feeding schemes, service providers, online and digital marketing. 

The leaders at the event converged to further discuss the on-going hot topic regarding education. It was conveyed that out of the ten people who start grade one, only two people will reach matric level. The various challenges as to why this occurs were discussed. Firstly it was established that financial aid and financial procurement is fundamentally difficult to access thus it has proved fundamentally cumbersome to foster the education drive. It was also brought to light that the curriculum is not effectively reflecting and responding to the needs of the predominantly underprivileged black masses. It was then established that there is a need for internal structures to effectively deal with change that is long overdue in relation to the curriculum. 

The event marked the power of the convergence and divergence of ideas to create a platform where leaders of the various stakes come up with soluble outcomes engineered by the action of Connection, Activation, Influencing and Provocation. As we conclude it is vital to comprehend the words of the third president of the Republic of Kenya who uttered:

‘’Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed’’.

Young leader changing her rural community

On 17 April 2017 in the community of Hoedspruid, Limpopo- Maruleng Municipality, a young leader with a love and passion for her rural community held a dialogue to discuss the shortage of clean water, access to health care, bursaries and crime prevention. “We still drink water from the river, which is not clean enough,” explained Motsatsi Mmola.

The community is situated in the heart of the impoverished Tzaneen and faces outrageous living conditions. For this reason, Motsatsi courageously rose to her feet and mobilised young people, community leaders and members to discuss the possible way forward for all grade 12 learners who cannot see beyond matriculating or Limpopo due to a lack of resources such as access to the internet for post-matric options. “I have a matric certificate and N4-N6 in Public Management studies but still I am unemployed,” Motsatsi added.

After several attempts of seeking help from political leaders in the community and her local municipality, Motsatsi took the bold step of registering for the 2016 municipality elections as an independent candidate gunning support for, “The community first before personal interests.”

When asked why she does all this without expecting any financial or political gain she responded, “A person needs her people, the love and the respect I have for my community coupled with changes I want to see motivate me to keep on doing good.”  It is appalling to wrestle with the gripping reality that people still drink water from the river along with cattle; that matriculants cannot see beyond grade 12 because of a lack of resources as minimal as arguably- access to the internet and that people from the most impoverished of communities are faced with crimes and nothing tangible is being done by leaders of communities who have Party affiliations and loyalties vested in their various political structures as opposed to the key stakeholders who put them in office – the people.

She has overcome threats from political parties after registering as an independent candidate for the municipal elections to a point where they now revere and respect her for the honest and empathetic leadership she displays. “We will have follow-up dialogue that will be near the 14-19 May in our community which will be close to the budget for local municipalities where community members who want to see change will attend,” Motsatsi added. The young leader attributes her success to the support from the community of Hoedspruid, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers and God. In closing and with pride in her voice she said, “Dream big but take baby steps.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom and democracy, the relationship status

As we usher in 23 years of democracy, we are faced with serious questions as regular South Africans. I mean, with the political instability games heating up and the economic set-backs we receive from them, as we watch as our nation, up in arms marching and petitioning votes of no confidence to our current president and his irreversible decisions during his last years in office. We are forced to evaluate our current status and ask ourselves, “Is freedom, democracy?”

While talking to some of my friends, namely Bali Ntunja and Buhle Ntshinka who are doing small, big things in their communities, our  topic of conversation had moved toward politics and how that affects the little people and how they saw freedom and democracy.

The response that caught my attention was from Bali, one third of the musical act Soulbijazz and a volunteer at our church soup kitchen, he said, “Freedom and democracy are major campaigning gimmicks, hidden behind policies and procedures which still remain inaccessible to most people in the Eastern Cape. It is a disgrace really that we have come so far and our democracy is so young that we have forgotten why our predecessors took up arms and what still needs to be done.” His comment hit home more when Buhle pointed out that change is needed and it begins with the youth. We, the youth need to be individual change drivers in our own communities, saying that as history has dictated, it is either we learn from our predecessors or we fight the smart fight by working from the ground up, building our communities and strong community bonds. With the conversation rolling over, I realised there might be truth in the statement when one considers the Soweto uprising that saw students of a community take decisive action about decisions made on their behalf. They inspired a nation and a global message of a strong community.

This initiated a question on what type of leaders are we to be? What can we learn and modify to fit our era’s current struggle? And how do we move forward from the current status quo?

As we celebrate Freedom month, we need to look at our past leaders and see what we are missing. On the topic of freedom, Nelson Mandela said, “We do not want freedom without bread , nor do we want bread without freedom,” highlighting that an ultimate freedom was required where citizens are able to make decisions to better ourselves without sacrificing their freedom. This was his holistic view of freedom where equal and unilateral opportunities were afforded to everyone. He further declared that it is important not only to attain democracy but to retain it as well as it goes hand in hand with human rights. This is the solid pillar in which our ruling party is built upon, and yet it has done nothing as a single mans prerogative to shuffle his cabinet and throw years of steady ratings and investments down the tube – one mans freedom to choose. How do we then decide as a country that his freedom is greater than our democracy?

In light of all these questions, I decided to ask someone who has lived through the apartheid era, the liberation of South Africa and the Zuma era. A woman who has seen the changes and still has hope that we are an evolving state still plagued by the racism and oppression of the past, Mandiswa Sweetness Geza. Her revelations of what they, the people who elected the ANC into power expected were simple. That the poor be empowered, that the old be taken care of in their frail age and that there be no corrupt systems. Even though these ubuntu virtues have been harshly deformed and corrupted, Mandiswa shed some light saying the struggle against apartheid was not won over 23 years, so the stability of freedom and democracy will not take 23years to establish balance.

We will only see the true strength of our nation the moment we realise that the ANC did not win the struggle only on their backs, but that the PAC, SACP, FEDSAW and SAIC (to name a few) were their supporting allies. This proves that unity in communities is the beginning.

To move forward as a nation we need to learn from Mandela’s humanity, Hani’s compassion for his fellow people and from Uncle Cathy’s steadfast belief in the young people of this country. We preserve their memory by uprooting corruption and discrimination in our community leaders because if we hold the leaders of society accountable, fostering accountability on a national level will be achieved because we put people who put us first in leadership roles before the benefit of the rich.

Photo credit: SABC

The power of the hashtag

If you had told a struggle hero in the 1900’s that political wars will be fought through the internet and using hashtags they would think you’re insane. The youth of today seem to have found a new and powerful tool to address and communicate social and political issues, social media.

Today’s society has moved to more digital sources of information, the internet itself has developed to become more accessible and interactive with society. Sharing information and debating about social issues has been made much easier in response to the developments in technology. Making conversation with a wide range of people is almost effortless now, it literally takes the touch of a button. If you add a hashtag and have enough people reposting or having discussions using the tag, you have got yourself a movement on your hands.

Social media has had an undeniably great influence on social dynamics as we know them today. The greatest achievement that Social Media and its users has had is creating trends, these trends are introduced into the public through hashtags most of the time. These trends become a focal point in current affairs for extended periods of time until a new topic for discussion comes up. Social Media has allowed its users to give their opinions and comments about these trending topics, of which in South Africa politics stay at the helm. Users of social media, which is mostly the youth of the country, actively take part in political discussions on a daily basis making them very active in the mobilisation of political change. According to jetscram.com out of the 1.2 billion users on Facebook, the Youth ( Aged 18-35) make up the majority of the overall users which amounts to 86 million users.

The most prominent political events driven by our youth through social media include, #ZumaMustFall and #FeesMustFall. These are perfect examples when youth actively took notice of social ills and took corrective action, a classic case of when thoughts turn to action from the web to the streets. In 2015 we saw the first tertiary education uprising with hashtag on its face, in response to prospective fee increases across universities. Our youth took to the internet and spread the word about their dissatisfactions, a country wide protest and university shut down soon followed. This was a testament to the ripple effect social media has.

Leaders and participants of this movement, with the aid of social media have created a change in political and social structures. As of today, they have made the government create measures for which their dissatisfaction can be addressed. One of the measures include the seizing of an increase of fees in 2016, an increased funding scope for NSFAS and a missing middle aid that pardons the middle class from the 8% fee increase in 2017. Although fees haven’t fallen yet, there is change and we have the youth to thank for that.

#ZumaMustFall has taken the country by storm after the Finance Minister and his deputy were relieved from their positions on the 30 March 2017. The rand also took a knock and our country subsequently downgraded to junk status by Standards and Poors on 3 April 2017. The President was under fire yet again and the hashtag was trending. Through various social media platforms opinions and comments about the President’s actions were exchanged and plans for a nationwide strike made public. On the 7th of April 2017, civilians were out and about on the streets chanting their dissatisfactions and making the social media vision for the day come to life. It was a classic case of people taking back their power against a seemingly unjust system. The results of the protest are yet to be seen.

In light of the month  of April , which is the month of commemorating the country’s struggle for democracy, the recent activity on social media are testament to the ongoing struggle for a democratic land. In this new age democracy, people are proving to be living by the saying “The people shall govern” as they continually fight to take back their power from the seemingly autocratic leadership which they live under. The youth through social media are fighting for a living democracy that only exists on paper. The youth are building their own democracy, a #ValueDemocracy where words  are being brought to life.

It is undeniable that the youth have transformed the face of politics as we know it, they have made it more accessible and easier to participate in. We can also not deny that the weight of social media opinions and disgruntlements is heavy, and equivalently the youths opinion. The Youth is slowly shaping the way political and social systems work, this goes to show that our youth are less than passive in acting on the daily issues our country and the world alike go through.

The youth is changing the country one tweet at a time, with hashtags, emotji’s and memes, the internet is their battle zone and their boardrooms. They are chairmen of a worldwide organisation of people who are constantly driving change, and the world has no choice but to keep up. This is the youth’s way of starting movements and continuing the constant struggle towards liberation.

Photo credit: Pheladi Makgeru.

Empowering through networking

Name:Unati Tutani

Province:Eastern Cape

Facebook:Unati Tutani

Twitter handle:@UNA

Business name: Dunacan Village Youth  Developmental initiative

Why did you join the ACTIVATE! Network?

To network and learn from other young leaders that are doing amazing work in their communities.

Why did you join the Switch programme?

To  make my project a successful  project and implement the skills learnt from the programme.

What do you hope to gain through Switch?

Networking  and new technical ways of  managing a successful project.

Are you a social entrepreneur?

Yes

What contribution do social entrepreneurs bring to society in your opinion?

Empowerment through coordinating and facilitating platforms that address skills development, unemployment and poverty erradication.

Sum up your business in five words?

Innovative,Inclusive,Effective,Friutful and Sustanable.

When was the business started?

2014

Who started the Business?

Unati Tutani and Khulile Jacobs

What motivated the initiation of the Business?

Community challenges such as unemployment ,poverty and lack of skills in our community.

Name some of the challenges you face

Resources that are sustainable

Name some of the successes?

School dialogues, Career Expo and wining a 1st prize at SAB Hook up dinner.

As a social entrepreneur, where do you envision your enterprise to be in 3 years?

To have helped about 700 SME and NGO to be effective and sustainable.

The coming of age of SA’s democracy

‘’It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity, or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.’’ – Nelson Mandela.

Political analysts, activists, economists and millions of citizens have over the years shared fascinating views about the coming of age of South Africa’s 23 year old democracy. Activators from all over the country also shared their views about what is working, what needs to change and the role of the youth in South Africa’s democracy.

What is working in our democracy?

Free State based community development practitioner and social change driver, Kabelo Mokoena says gender, race and social tolerance are some of the things that are working well in South Africa’s democracy.

“South Africans place too much emphasis on political and economic issues that aren’t going right in the country, which by the way is correct but that should be done in such a way that it strengthens social issues that are still keeping us going. Our country’s democratic tolerance levels, more especial for minority groups like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities keep growing. For me, that is a sign of a growing democracy that should be celebrated in our 23 year old democracy,” says Mokoena.

What needs to change in our democracy?

Johannesburg based activist and social change driver Lesego Cruzemania Mokobodi finds it difficult to pin point exactly what is going right with our country’s democracy.

‘’I can’t think of any good thing to mention about South Africa’s democracy. I mean, I find it very sad that in this day and age, young people who constitute the majority of the population, continue to be censored by spineless and visionless old sell-out political leaders. Maybe the fact that we can still express our displeasure, even though no one seems to care is still the only good safety guarantee our soon to be gone democracy can boast about,’’ says Mokobodi

The role of the youth in our democracy

Cape town based activist and social change driver Asavela Peko sighted what he referred to as “anti-poor capitalism and business as usual approach” from three pillars of government (judiciary, legislature and executive) as the main aspects that need to change in South Africa’s democracy.

“The current leadership has abused powers and maintains a disregard for democratic processes. So they must go. The capitalist system that promotes corruption and safeguards the elite economic power must change. Most importantly, in order to avert further nationwide action like a revolution, young people need to be integrated into influential positions of power. I dare say purely because we (as young people) will soon inherit it. We are more interested in the future of this country (rather than being too conflicted by the shenanigans of the current self-serving aging leaders) says Peko.

Independent political analyst and Centre for Politics and Research Executive director Prince Mashele warned all patriotic South Africans to be careful of what he referred to as, “systematic dictatorship” which might destroy the very few remaining key pillars of South Africa’s democracy.

“Some of the things that need to change quickly are the judiciary and treasury’s complete independence. Things like transparent and a fair voting system that gives citizens direct power to choose the right people to lead instead of political parties making those decisions. The most important thing that needs to change very quickly (and by the way the country has been downgraded) is getting rid of the political party and its cadre deployment syndrome who have handed our country over to “malevolent Gupta mafias.”

South Africa’s democratic economic outlook 

According to Wits University Associate Professor of Economics Christopher Malikane, South Africa’s democracy is at a “volatile stage” where anything can happen and results can either be prolific or severe. In an interview with Power FM, Malikane sighted the country’s vibrant political election system as one of the major strengths that the country can build on. Malikane also noted the ongoing directionless governance as a serious threat that needs to be addressed as matter of agency. 

“South Africa’s democracy has hit a stagnant stage. This of course is based on the 9th edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index which classified South Africa as a “flawed democracy,” after dropping two places to 39 on the democracy index. The report entitled Revenge of the “deplorables” might commend our country’s free and fair election system but the most worrying part of that report is the fact that it sights functioning of government and political culture as the major challenges to South Africa’s democracy. Now that sounds like a volatile economic stage of our country. So, the big question is, can we fix those challenges sooner or is the country going down the drain?” asks Malikane. 

Photo credit: CETRI

Success starts with a small idea

Name: Claudius Mabidilala

 Province: Limpopo

Facebook: Claudius Mabidilala

Instagram: Claudius Mabidilala

Business name: Mabidilala Investments Pty Ltd

Why did you join the ACTIVATE! Network?

To connect with young people across the country, who have ideas and dreams for a prosperous South Africa.

 Why did you join the Switch programme?

To learn how I can start and run my own business. More so to develop my entrepreneurial, managerial and leadership. 

What do you hope to gain through Switch?

I hope to learn entrepreneurship skills and how to implement my business ideas.

 Are you a social entrepreneur?

I think so. 

What contribution do social entrepreneurs bring to society in your opinion?

It brings peace, restores the dignity and integrity of the people.

Sum up your (potential) business in five words?

Success, better life, Innovation and opportunity. 

My business wishes to address unemployment, poverty and inequality in a huge way. 

When was the business started?

I haven’t started my business, it is still an idea.

Who started the Business?

Claudius Mabidilala

Vhutali Mabidilala

Mokgadi Mabidilala

What motivated the initiation of the Business?

Poverty in rural areas, particularly in areas around Vhembe where I am coming from.

Name some of the challenges you face?

Lack of Funds

Name some of the successes?

Job opportunities and ownership of land among blacks

As a social entrepreneur, where do you envision your enterprise to be in 3 years?

The fasted, growing and biggest growing business in the same phase with Vodacom and the like.

The ACTIVATE! Network making democracy work

A country to end up in ruins does not happen because of an accident or bad luck, this undesired situation is visited upon a country because ordinary men and women let things slide. South Africans cannot then afford to find itself in this situation and we, as Activators across the country must never allow this beautiful country to get to this point.

For many years our history as a people has been cloaked by tales of warrior men and women who never took for granted their solemn duty to protect and safeguard their lives to build a better future for themselves and the generations to follow. The recent march for the removal of President Jacob Zuma re-affirmed the accepted belief that indeed South Africa is a great country to live in because democracy always reigns supreme and is respected. For the past 22 years since the attainment of freedom, democracy as a principle has widely been accepted as a tool to measure the functioning of a country and South Africa is no exception to this notion.

Democracy in South Africa is still a relatively new concept and it remains a work in progress for us as a nation. Resolution 18/6 adopted by the Human Rights Council states “democracy is based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social, and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives.” (The Human Rights Council. 2011)

Democracy as a concept alone cannot thrive without the active participation of those who seek to build a truly prosperous country in making it work. As Activators, the obligation to ensure that our South African democracy develops, matures and works for the entirety of the populace is much heavier. This obligation is much heavier on us as Activators because we emanate from communities where the majority of its inhabitants remain hopeful that the fruits of democracy like economic emancipation, poverty alleviation, land redistribution and better health care will eventually be their reality.

As Activators, we must make democracy effectively work for the people of South Africa and specifically the disempowered members of the communities we live in and come from, everyday of our lives the rallying call summoning us to the front lines of constructing a better world must be that of service to the people. The creativity we display in the work we do in our private spaces, the wealth of networks we continue to create in business, political spaces and social spacesactivate we find ourselves in should serve as resource tools in our journey to construct a prospering country.

The ACTIVATE! cohort is in a great position as change drivers in their communities due to the wealth of resources they possess amongst each other and beyond the network. We are fortunate that through the network, cross-engagements and collaboration, many high profile platforms have had the fortunate presence of Activators. These platforms include but are not limited to the launch of the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa, the South African Youth Parliament and the prestigious observer status during the South African Local Government Election in August 2016. All these democratic platforms the ACTIVATE! network found occupying which are aimed at building a better and prosperous South Africa for all it’s people should inspire many more of us in the network to want to do more.

The ACTIVATE! network continues to grow every year and this inherently should translate into the growth of the impact the network should and must have in the country. Our duty as young activists is to secure the future now in this democracy so that the many people who died for it cannot be in vain. Together holding hands in our different provinces across the country, in our big and small towns and the rural areas, we shall leave no citizen behind to realise the grand ideals which should accompany the dawn of democracy.

As we leave the training sessions, as we connect on Facebook and on Twitter, as we meet in various physical spaces where Activators are, we must continue to drive the message of change and to put in practice the famous ice breaker song of ACTIVATE! during training sessions  “Le ACTIVATE! abaya-ziyo abazange bayibona” loosely meaning this “ACTIVATE! that they do not know, they shall see it,”   and see it they shall through our action in our communities to build a better and prosperous South Africa.

Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Themba Vryman is a social activist and writes in his personal capacity as a member of the ACTIVATE! Network.

The ACTIVATE! network shares their views on the #CabinetReshuffle

Over the past week, there have been numerous calls to shut down the country in protest to President Jacob Zuma reshuffling his cabinet. As we enter freedom month, and as part of our #ValueDemocracy campaign, it is of utmost importance for the youth of the country to make their voices heard in democratic processes because the trajectory of the country depends on young people.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp provide opportunities for the youth to voice their opinions in a manner that suits them. After President Jacob Zuma’s reshuffled his cabinet, there has been a great deal of discussion among Activators on various platforms voicing both discontent and appeasement around his decision. #BlackMonday and #NationalShutDown Friday as a consequence of the cabinet reshuffle has polarized the network and the country as a whole. The polarization affords us the opportunity to learn from each other and understand our very diverse perspectives informed by lived experiences.

We encourage all youth citizens to actively participate in processes that will better the country. In developing platforms to make the voices of Activators heard, we looked at the opinions of Activators on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to gauge the thoughts of the ACTIVATE! Network around the cabinet reshuffle. This is what they had to say:

Facebook comments from Activators:

 Tshepang Mokgatla: “My opinion, is that we as the citizens are victims of a power battle between the state and white monopoly capital. Both with zero integrity at this point are busy pointing a finger and saying the other is bad. And we are forced to choose sides when our contribution holds little influence to change things. The first thing we need to do. Define what we want. We all know what we do not want, but the fundamental? is that we have not clearly defined what we want. The president leaves today then what? The Rand will recover, everything back to normal meaning the rich get richer and the poor suffer in silence. What are we saying about the monopoly capital that manipulates the currency and rating agencies giving false ratings. 

Nqaba Mpofu: “It’s all good and well to call for unity against wrongdoing and injustice. Yes, we want change in Mzansi, and it must be meaningful change. Not some cosmetic frill that refuses to address the systemic and structural issues.”

 Pedro Wright: “The protest on Friday is being turned into an “us” and “them” issue that I don’t like that. It removes the freedom of choice because it comes with a threat. If you protest then you run the risk of appearing anti-black.”

Nhlanhla Ndlovu: “I think the issue that bothers me is the fact that it is now in our face. We do not have power at all as citizens which means that this thing we call a democracy is really nothing but sheep skin worn by a wolf to blind us to the truth. If we lived in a democracy, we would be the board and the president, only a chairman and his ministry our service providers. This is true democracy. So how do we Activate 2030 effectively through politics without real political influence? We should start asking for clarity of what democracy really is and what it means for us youth. As Activators, we have people who sit in committees that discuss You-th Making Local Government Work, how do we use them as a resource to further our interests on those platforms?”

Casca Johnson: “I think we should be asking ourselves what is the underlying agenda behind this reshuffle? What is the rationale behind firing Pravin and keeping Bathabile? What is the political motivation behind this move? Are we trying to open the floodgates for looting?”

Rammolotsi Kgotso Sothoane: “My view on the issue of the cabinet reshuffle simply that it is the president’s constitutional prerogative to appoint and dismiss ministers as he pleases as cabinet ministers serve at the behest of the president. I do recognise however that as a network, we must seek to influence society at both local and national levels. In this light, we have an obligation to continually make honest and serious assessment and evaluation of how far our programs have succeeded in addressing the challenge of youth empowerment in South Africa.

Molatelo Machaba: “I’d like to send a message to all young people around this Zuma thing which is ruining our future. I want to do exactly what 1976 did, that’s my plan. And I see ACTIVATE! as a weapon. There are so many leaders in their own way and if we as non-political young people stand against all this so called government based history. Now is the time to do something, I’m done with government and the history in leadership.

 

WhatsApp comments from Activators:

Shakespear: Zuma is the first President in South Africa to directly assault white privilege. That is hella impressive. Some of ya’ll don’t understand what’s really happening, you just reiterating what you see in the headlines without critically applying your mind.

Matt: What I realized that so many people in this country do not know what to do. Or know how to do anything… So if anything, this will give us an opportunity to literally see who shares our thoughts/feelings/protest. For me, this is more about unifying the people. For divided, we will fall.

Bulumko: I’d like to know where these souls where during the marikana period. When penny sparrow, hellen zille and the countless other racists made public their private leftist conversations. Where are they as the poor majorities continue to loot the property and dignity of other african nationals. Where were day last week on what should have been termed black week for womxn and little girls all over the country. 

Avu: 2019 is too far to deal with this nonsense of Zuma

Dee: I think the ANC is dead

Zilungile: Leaders could this possibly indicate a demise in our economy considering that the rand took a dive? What is the good that will come out of this reshuffle?

Ntlantla: We have a country that is being run by one man. I concede there are many issues behind this. The move shows that he rules with an iron fist and cares nothing for the people of South Africa

 

Comments from Twitter

@PrinceNofoto: We may not all agree with the recent reshuffle but we must rally behind the ministers and support them as young people on the ground. 

@Ndlovu_N1: Our country is being run by one man. I concede there are many issues behind this. This is the ultimate expression of an iron fist.

@Khastelle: This is like the Nkandla report, it means nothing to you if you are unemployed and stuck in the hood somewhere.

Activators review Kalushi

Brian Qamata – Cape Town Activator

What I didn’t see in the movie was mostly based on the part when they went to exile, I was expecting more action. I was hoping before watching the movie that I would see more of the street violence from the police towards the blacks but that has been seen before from movies like Sarafina, but on the real, the movie was great and it covered well interpretations of the struggle.

The casting was great and I feel that the director did well by casting local actors only and giving them a shot to shine on the big screen.

Sihle Phungula – KZN Activator

Kalushi is one of many untold authentic South African stories. An emotional and moving account of our country’s dark past. When watching the movie you cannot help but put yourself within the context of those days. The question of what I, as a youth would have done in the struggle for liberation and would I be willing to sacrifice my own life for the liberation of my people. Self-less leadership and self-discipline are themes that echoed throughout this movie. It was also heart- warming to realise the pivotal role of our fellow African states in supporting and providing much refuge during those trying times. Now in 2017 we too need to support our fellow African brothers, denouncing xenophobia and also rise up to challenges faced by our communities just as the youth of 1976 did. The movie “Kalushi” showed me that we are soldiers and our mission is to drive change.

Zilungile Zimela – Eastern Cape Activator

The story line was moving in that it did a fair job in capturing the essence of the vibrant history of this country and the gripping reality of the injustices that were suffered in South Africa were brought once more to the fore. Delving deeper into the motion picture itself, I was left wanting, needing more from the scenes in exile. The rendition of reality as depicted there is a bit fictional and Western. The songs and the languages spoken were all South African, the heart and essence of the movie was largely inspired by a South Africa true story however it lacked believability in some scenes e.g. When Kalushi appeared in court for the last time to listen to his judgement, he gives a remarkably moving speech then at the end shouts “Amandla!!” and nothing happens up until his second attempt when his Indian lawyer shouts “ Awethu!!” – extremely unrealistic I found that scene to be. The mere fact that he was tried in a court where there were other Black people in an era of booming political solidarity such as that, should have seen the court shaking in its pillars from the rumbling of “Amandla, ngawethu!!!” 

Koketso Marishane-Limpopo: I didn’t feel the content was enough to conscientise people (especially youth) about who the ‘highly praised political youth activist’ was because the storyline was just not deep enough.  When the youth group decided to leave from their homes to go abroad- having crossed over to the Mozambique border illegally, the scene made it seem so easy (no fence, no big river, no challenges from the patrolling official etc).This is not the case even today.

Getting deeper: When Kalushi and friends silently adopts the kid whom they named ‘Coca-cola’: The scene is not detailed on under what grounds they decided to recruit the kid. We later experience the kid being a silent messenger for the crew but, still, under what circumstance is this kid being trusted to the level of being a messenger for a highly sought after political rival? During the day, Kalushi is reading a book whilst his friends are playing- why? Why is Kalushi carrying a book he did not bring with him into exile? Worst still, how did the group find settlement in Mozambique without induction into exile life? After all, you don’t just leave from your home country without direction and find refuge in another country not knowing what to expect.

As if these weren’t enough, the group later receives positive response from the underground ANC military which recruits young soldiers in exile- when they’re immigrated to Angola. This scene too, is not clear. How did the underground ANC soldiers know that the people writing them those letters are the real ANC people? We later see Kalushi becoming friends with the senior soldiers- which isn’t clear as to how fast was the transition between Kalushi and the senior soldiers? What kind of relationship did Kalushi have with the senior soldiers before being transported to Angola? Why is he the only person within the group having the platform to speak out? Why is he given special attention?

Kalushi and friends later return to South Africa- Soweto, using fake identities. At the border post, they manage to convince the officials that they’re visiting family, despite the fact that his image was in the media as one of the most wanted assassins in the country. This scene unfortunately, does not paint a clever picture of the South African apartheid intelligence (of which was known to be the strongest). In other words, Kalushi and friends managed to fool the national intelligence? This is, unfortunately false!

Kalushi and friends are later involved in illegal shooting: This raises the question of, in a township like Soweto, where whites hardly visited, even during days of apartheid, how was the shooting triggered because Kalushi and friends in that scene, were confronted by their fellow black Africans? Instead, Kalushi and friends are suddenly involved in an unnecessary shooting spree.

Kalushi and friends are arrested: Surprisingly, Kalushi is again the centre of attention, receiving the highest attention even from the judges. One would ask, how could a single young man cause such havoc in an intensified situation like apartheid? At the end, Kalushi says the most remarkable of things that reverberates the political economy of the country: Freedom shall prevail.

Kalushi is being portrayed as the sole master of intellectualism, bravery and heroic stature for people of his generation, which is not factually true. The ANC is being portrayed as the single most powerful political movement that worked inside out from exile, which is also not true, because other political parties were involved. So in short, there’s too much void in the movie.

 

Opportunities for underexposed artists

Name: Hein Melvin Scheepers

Province: Western Cape

Facebook: Ras Hein Scheepers

Twitter handle: @Ras_Hein

Instagram: @Ras_Hein

Contact details: 084 7878 033

Business name: GUIDY WORX

Why did you join the ACTIVATE! Network?

I saw the network as a relevant entity in line with my grassroots activism as a young developer and community empowerment catalyst.

Why did you join the Switch programme?

To structure my social enterprise with the relevant information and ideas around my Cultural entrepreneurship that aims to uplift community-based artists and arts projects. It is the perfect opportunity and programme to help me as a young and aspiring entertainment promoter/ Arts manager.

What do you hope to gain through Switch?

Experience, knowledge, progress in my initiative, social capital and a highly sophisticated arts-based social entrepreneur start-up by end of 2017 after following the advice and instructions as presented in the Switch programme.

Are you a social entrepreneur?

Yes, a social entrepreneur in the arts, culture and creative industries.

What contribution do social entrepreneurs bring to society in your opinion?

Bring about awareness of social issues, they address the structural inequalities and their activities usually aim to raise the consciousness of communities and society in general around the factors that cause social discrepancies. They bring an anti-individualist approach to business that usually places profit before people. Social enterprises demand that private sector must take greater responsibility in alleviating poverty, ignorance and disease.

Sum up your (potential) business in five words?

Arts-based Social Development Projects.

When was the business started?

Been up and running –informally- since 2014 when I started organising arts events showcasing music and poetry.

What motivated the initiation of the Business?

The lack of exposure of community-based, non-formally trained artists from working-class areas. These artists have the talent but lack the support and channels to mainstream their craft. Because of socioeconomic status and backgrounds, I find that talented artists with untapped potential are marginalised and even excluded from private/public sector platforms. My social enterprise is the firm that creates opportunities for the under-exposed artists to reach for the stars.

Name some of the challenges you face?

Sponsorships for events to cover logistics and pay the artists. My social enterprise is to ensure the economic development of artists benefiting from their craft. I also experience challenges with artists that do not understand my vision and think that I only want to exploit them for my own pocket.

Name some of the successes?

Africa Day Festival 2015 and 2016 in George-A three day outdoor festival that showcases mainly reggae and hip hop acts has been a success and currently busy organising Africa Day festival 2017 which will take place on the weekend of 26-29 May 2017.

I have successfully organised various booking opportunities for artists that work with me, whereby they get paid by other events organisers. I also hosted various free open air shows throughout George communities, these events are called “Park Jams” and they aim to raise the social consciousness of the spectator and audiences that attend.

As a social entrepreneur, where do you envision your enterprise to be in 3 years?

I will be a heading an arts-based firm that has partnership with local government departments throughout South Africa more specifically Western Cape and George. I will be able to mainstream artists at various Festivals that happen all over South Africa and Africa though my social capital and networks. I plan to work hard on my events company that is a arts-based social enterprise so that I can host international artists at my own Festivals and also be able to refer my community-based artists to platforms such as Cape Town Jazz Festival or Klein Karoo Nationale Kunste Fees etc.

 

Our role in accountability

Global accountability spaces and youth engagement: experiences in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

“Young people are, and will be, the drivers of innovation, the defenders of human rights, and ultimately the leaders of the global development agenda. While we comprise the largest generation of young people in human history, we are more than a demographic dividend. We are diverse, we are at different stages in our journey to adulthood, and we are subject to different forms of discrimination that stifle our growth. However, we are not voiceless and we are empowering ourselves to make our voices heard and to claim our human rights.”

This was a portion of the statement I delivered on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative and youth-led organisations at the Human Rights Council in Geneva (HRC34) on March 6, regarding the Rights of the Child resolution. Although the entirety of the statement was directed towards Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), it is still fair to conclude that the statement hits home and reflects on a personal level to young people who are active citizens, constantly navigating human rights defending spaces.

Young people are treated as a homogenous group, and we are being so far removed from essential decision-making tables, with the most power, and that is blanketed with the “youth” sections at conferences and in these big commissions and platforms. The lack of inclusive dialogue on engaging youth in human rights defending work is resulting in the huge gap we see in youth policy making. Finding one’s feet in an overwhelming space full of jargon like the United Nations can make one ask a lot of questions, but more than that it answers a lot of questions we have been having. Who sits in the policy spaces? Who speaks for youth and who tracks implementation?

One would expect that as the largest population of youth in this lifetime we would be in those spaces, and actually be listened to. However, one gets to ask themselves accountability related questions such as the use and importance of these spaces. What will the Rights of the Child resolution do for me and my work? What will the South African Universal Periodic Review (UPR- a process through which HRC member states review a country and recommend better approaches to implementation of various processes/resolutions etc.) do in fostering policy change and implementation? The answer is simple: nothing-if we do not know how these global processes work for our rights and how we can hold states accountable. So, my work there is actively on advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for all folk, and having done the bit of advocacy with South Africa alone, I have come to learn that young people (particularly women’s bodies) are actually part of geopolitical trade games.

We witnessed it first-hand last council (HRC34) in 2016, where South Africa was negotiating with Russia and voting against our national and regional SRHR commitments. These are inclusive of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and adolescent sexual health and right as priorities. Not only that, but engaging with the South African delegation on their stance around CSE within the Rights of the Child resolution, and learning that they are not able to define it, see it’s worth, and that they acknowledge that there are other factors of “development” that are of urgent attention that women’s rights or adolescent sexual and reproductive rights. No young people are present in these conversations that directly violate their rights.

The South African Government has pledged to “put children first” by becoming a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and by according children special recognition in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution. This commitment aims to ensure that children’s rights are upheld, and that provision is made to enable all children to reach their full potential. This is especially important in the formative school years, during which providing special attention to children’s optimal health will improve not only their survival, growth and health, but also their learning outcomes and development.

Coming back home, I was welcomed by an article on The Sowetan about a school that is forcing teenage girls to sign pledges that they will not be pregnant in the year and if they are, they must be kicked out. The whole idea is problematic yes, but the saddest part is the fact that young girls ACTUALLY took these forms home, and there was resistance in a number of ways such as some parents stating that the boys should have also signed. Some parents were happy with it and agreed to sign. So, the question would be, where does the issue of preventing unplanned pregnancy through education and implementing the integrated school-health policy be? Moreover, these young people take these forms home and get their parents to sign because they DO NOT know that this is violating their right to education, they do not know that such is against the constitution.

We, as youth, women, people, are not taught or told much about our rights, and we cannot fight for rights we do not know that we have. I guess this is where our task is as change drivers. How do we ensure that our engagement as youth is not in a homogenous sense and that the term in itself, “youth engagement” does not limit us in terms of the spaces that we occupy? particularly in defending human rights and influencing policy. The task is ours to show up and be active, but there will be resistance when trying to break those closed doors with hogged spaces we should be occupying. We must be ready.

Foreigners Doing More Good In South Africa

Xenophobia has once again become a hot topic in South Africa. This is right after a series of violent attacks targeted specifically at foreign nationals erupted in parts of Gauteng. Residents from Rosettenville accused foreign nationals of trading illegal drugs and enforcing prostitution. Following this were homes and businesses, belonging to Nigerians, being set ablaze.

In Mamelodi, residents led an anti-immigrant march to express their disapproval of the employment of foreign nationals and their alleged illegal occupation of RDP houses. The residents strongly claim that Zimbabweans and Pakistanis are stealing jobs and blocking the development of their community.

Though not yet proven true, these allegations are an indication of how many South Africans view foreign nationals. Nelson Mandela’s prophetic words, “South Africa is for all those who live in it,” are now sadly forgotten. The question is, are our African brothers and sisters, who are just outside our borders, really that bad for wellbeing as South Africans?

According to former minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, many foreign nationals make a positive contribution to both our society and economy. In 2015, during a National Assembly discussion on xenophobic attacks, Gigaba reminded South Africans of the significant role that foreign nationals play in enhancing the country’s economic and social status.

“Immigrants contribute towards our country’s economic development by investing in the economy, supplying critical skills including in our health facilities, teaching our children and youth in schools and universities and thus transferring their knowledge and skills to them”, he declared.

The minister also stated that foreign nationals pay tax, meaning that they contribute to country’s national fiscus, while others travel to South Africa to buy groceries to resell in their respective countries.

Findings from a research study conducted by the African Centre for Cities (ACC), which was examining the role of migrant entrepreneurs in the informal economy solidify Gigaba’s claims on foreign nationals. For the study, over 2000 migrant business owners in Cape Town, Johannesburg and other provinces were interviewed to test the myths and stereotypes around migrant economy activity with hard evidence.

The findings revealed that migrant entrepreneurs serviced the needs of poorer consumers who can only access affordable goods, which are often available in sizable quantities; at places and hours mostly convenient to their consumer’s needs.

Immigrants also introduce new products, business activities, opportunities and bring scarce skills like manufacturing, particularly into the township economy. Furthermore, these entrepreneurs contribute by paying rent largely to South Africans or the City Council.

On the other hand, these findings dispute the notion that foreign nationals take employment opportunities from South Africans. Generally, entrepreneurship creates employment opportunities and the research further revealed that foreign informal operators were twice as likely to employ people compared to their local counterparts.

Also, foreigner-owned businesses are more likely to succeed because foreign nationals usually establish networks and build their way up in the communities they operate and live in.

The widespread belief that foreign nationals are in South Africa to “steal” jobs from the local citizens is perpetuated by the fact that foreigners are willing to take certain jobs for cheaper remuneration. This is often because they are more willing to take any job when they arrive to South Africa and many of these jobs are jobs South Africans usually look down upon.

Another vital contribution from foreign nationals is that they bring more diversity into our nation and they bring more understanding of not only a diverse South Africa, but a diverse world. 

Social entrepreneurs impacting social change

Name: Baamogeng Hube

Province: Northern Cape

Facebook: Sepeke Hube

Twitter handle: @bamza87

Instagram: amo_hube

Business name: Amo Agri-breeds

Why did you join the ACTIVATE! Network?

I joined the ACTIVATE! Network to expand my network in order to driver change in my community. I have realised that often we get stuck by a small challenge which could be easily conquered through the power of numbers and having people of the same mind and thinking together. Joining ACTIVATE! was mainly to put fuel in a burning fire which needed just fuel for self-sustainability.

Why did you join the Switch programme?

I have had a dream to join business world whereby I would be able to create employment for my counterparts. Joining business without necessary set of skills or exposure has never been an easy tool to break the ice with. With the Switch programme, I wanted to gain a set of entrepreneurial skills and improve my approach to business.

What do you hope to gain through the Switch programme?

Already one had more ideas to venture into business but never had those ideas put into action. I anticipate gaining basic entrepreneurial skills to equip myself into facing the realities of business. I hope to gain soft skills such as modelling my business and acquiring business support. After Switch I should be able to put my ideas into a working machine which is highly oiled.

Are you a social entrepreneur?

Most definitely, my business interests are based into helping other people or solving other social problems.

What contribution do social entrepreneurs bring to society in your opinion?

Social entrepreneurs should impact change to social ills. One should be able to bridge the gap left by addressing a problem that impacts society while at the same time making a living out of it. Social entrepreneurs should be a force for change. They should be able to bring society together for a common cause.

Sum up your business in five words?

Sustainable job and Food security

When was the business started?

2014 my business started when I started buying my first 2 cows as part of legacy building. Even though it was not commercialised and broadened into social enterprise.

What motivated the initiation of the Business?

It started with the amount of time one wastes due to employment and problems that could be addressed in our local villages which looked like opportunity to grow

Name some of the challenges you face?

Securing funding for my business; High level of stock theft in my community; Time management, not enough time give to my initiative.

Name some of the successes?

Some of the successes include but not limited to securing business premises for my initiative.

The initial start-up of the business without high cash injection into the business.

As a social entrepreneur, where do you envision your enterprise to be in 3 years?

Stability and self-sustainability drive my business. Of course in 3 years’ time I would like to see my business venturing into other niches as part of expansion while addressing other social problems. I hope to be able to influence other young people to follow suite and work together to achieve more.

 

Activator Koketso Marishane takes national award

Multi-award winning youth activist Koketso Marishane from GaMarishane in Limpopo Province won the 3rd prize at the 2nd South African Youth Awards held in Gauteng, Saint George Hotel last Thursday. The project, initiated by the National Youth Development Agency of South Africa received support from The Presidency of South Africa. 

“The NYDA initiated the South African Youth Awards to acknowledge, recognise and appreciate the roles played by the South African youth in their different work spaces respectively. These awards are endorsed by The Presidency of South Africa because the NYDA as a government institution reporting directly to the Parliament of South Africa gets its’ budget from there. It’s thus centrally critical that we have our principals by our side”, said Ms. Jane Moshoeshoe, Senior Marketing and Communications Officer of the NYDA national office.

“The Presidency acknowledges, recognises and appreciates the work that you do in your respective space as youth. We thus make it official, through the token of appreciation that you have officially received, that you and your work are being recognised for what you do to move the country forward”, said Minister in the Presidency, Hon. Jeff Radebe. 
“It feels great to be acknowledged, recognised and appreciated by the NYDA of South Africa. It’s more humbling to be endorsed by The Presidency of South Africa,” concluded Koketso Marishane.
Koketso Marishane comes from GaMarishane in Limpopo Province, South Africa. He’s been acknowledged, recognised and awarded the following among others:
? Star of Limpopo- City of Polokwane;
? Top 1000 Young Leaders- Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention;
? Top 200 Young South Africans- Mail & Guardian;
? Top 100 Global Young Leaders- United Nations;
? Top 10 Global Young Leaders- Government of Norway.

It’s not only in our heads

The 30th of March marks annual World Bipolar Day. Like many other mental illnesses, bipolar is one of the least to be given adequate attention by public health policy makers, even though 17 million of South Africans suffer from some form of mental illness. In developing countries like ours, many people go undiagnosed for years due to both – lack of education and public treatment.

Through vibrant collaboration between various actors on the global scale, World Bipolar Day aims to bring information to the world about bipolar disorders, which primarily includes educating and improving general sensitivity towards the mental illness, especially those who suffer from it. This seeks to eliminate the social stigma associated with mental illness, as well as to bring more awareness on the issue.

As a mental health patient and activist, my personal story was shared by the South African Federation of Mental Health on World Bipolar Day in 2016.

So, who came up with the whole idea of World Bipolar day?

World Bipolar day is an initiative by the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD).

What is Bipolar? World Bipolar day’s website defines it bipolar as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It’s symptoms that are generally severe and include sometimes unusual mood swings that most people may find hard to comprehend. It is estimated that the global prevalence of bipolar disorder is between 1 and 2% and has been said to be as high as 5% and, according to the World Health Organization, is the 6th leading case of disability in the world. Interesting neh? So, it’s not all “in our heads” and the term shouldn’t be used jokingly to describe someone that’s just going through a rough time and has outbursts. It is very bothersome of us who actually have the illness.

By the way, October is the mental health awareness month in South Africa, where green is the colour theme for the month. All mental illnesses will be focused on illnesses such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. I hope this information will be shared with fellow South Africans. It may actually make a difference in someone’s life. Phanzi with ignorance! Phanzi! Phambili Nge Mental Health Awareness! Phambili!

Change in a context of violence

Violence has shaped our past, in the colonial and apartheid periods, and it continues to impact deeply on our present. Activists, both past and present, have had to respond in very different ways to violence in changing contexts.

Last week, activists critically examined the issue of violence affecting the country at large, the dialogue was held at the Durban University of Technology Ritson campus. 

The dialogue aimed to strengthen the effectiveness of change agents, through an intergenerational discussion on how activists address and respond to issues of violence, and how in doing so they remain consistent with their deep beliefs and commitment to justice and equity.

Activists were prepared to discuss the issue of rising violence. Mondli Zwane defined violence as a painful act, and he mentioned that violence can be psychological and physical, “If I say nasty things to you, that is violence.” Mondli stated that violence is now a culture because it is learned at an early age. He referred to his background as a Zulu person, as a kid, his parents used to punish him physically causing anger and teaching him that fighting back resolves conflict. As much as parents are teaching their kids how to behave by punishing them, the act creates pain and the eagerness of revenge when encountering the violence at large, Mondli stated with a bittersweet tone.

Gabriel Hertis, an activist from Rwanda who moved to SA to develop himself in terms of the economy, stated that racism has become a growing concern throughout the African continent. Gabriel experienced trauma caused by black South Africans whereby they were attacking him and other folks outside from the country. He mentioned that communication is key, it plays a major role in creating and preventing the issues of violence, “For a culture to survive there has to be a transfer of knowledge from one generation to another.” He stated that the Youth of South Africa is destroying everything that the activists were fighting for, he came to realise that when he goes back home, he will bring about change and fight racism.

Activator Khanyisa Booi also faced struggles in her life time, she said she can speak about gender based violence because it is happening to her too. During the dialogue she talked about mentorship, saying that there are many heroes on television but they lack courage, “Nobody has walked the walk of activism.” Miss Booi mentioned that young people who volunteer in different spaces do not have economic fulfilment that comes with the work they are doing. She said that these young people work for the betterment of their own communities, “Because South Africa has so many issues” they are being the change. She said when they go back home their parents ask them for bread, sugar and milk. She emphasised that the young ones should develop themselves because when they reach the age of 30, 40 they will be angry that they spent their time bringing about change and forgot to develop themselves.  “It brings pain to have nothing to point at,” said Khanyisa Booi.

The dialogue was insightful as it brought new aspects to the audience. The experiences shared among the activists created the spirit of ubunye and motivated others to influence their own sectors. “If we let violence continue, we will almost cease to exist” said Simone Nikki.

Photo credit: The Advocate