Pursuing freedom

During the first seven years (1978 – 1985) of my life, I had no idea what apartheid was. Let alone the fact that it existed. Where I lived, in Manse, where my grandfather was a minister, I lived and played with other children from different race groups. In our house, people were created as equal.

Even though I remember a story my grandfather told me about being a runaway slave and having to hide in ditches to avoid being caught. This story didn’t seem real or make any sense to me.

I remember my grandfather told me about his grandfather that was a runaway slave, that had to hide in a ditch not be caught. At that time, I was still too young to understand. Later at school, one of my teachers showed us the mini- series of Roots by Alex Haley.  One day on BET’s Teen Summit one of the young people complained about how they didn’t like the history they are being thought at school, the guest told them “don’t wait on the school system, do your own research.”   That day I was inspired to start doing my “own research”. Because I also wasn’t too fascinated by the South African history being taught at school, I started reading Roots and Queen by Alex Haley about American slavery and later books about South African Slavery. There I discovered that my mother tongue, Afrikaans was created by the slaves, hence the various language influences found within Afrikaans. I remember while at school,  a professor from the University of the Western Cape once came to our school about his research he did on Louis Botha’s ancestors and that they were free slaves.  During this lecture, I also discovered that Afrikaners called themselves free slaves, because they don’t belong to specific tribe.  I also discovered when my great-great grandfather was running away, he risked everything. He risked being branded in the face or other parts of his body. He risked having his foot cut off or losing other limbs. Yet he risked it all in pursuit of freedom.

Freedom is a call to action. It’s a call to choose. During apartheid, my grandfather chose to teach his family the opposite of apartheid.  He chose to open his door to all different racial groups and nationalities no matter the risk. He chose to teach his children to treat everybody equally. What did he do? During school holidays, he would take his children and some his nieces and nephews on a tour of South Africa via Transkei and Ciskei en route to Johannesburg. He would spend a few days with his friends in Transkei and Ciskei to teach the children values and not corrupt their minds by apartheid.  And when his friends came to Cape Town, they stayed over his home. Sometimes a person can be physically captive but mentally and emotionally free. My grandfather had to overcome a lot of challenges in his life living in Stellenbosch which was the testing ground for apartheid. Where he had to witness his dad being demoted, because of his race. My grandfather matriculated at Healdtown. But the journey to Healdtown was not easy. After he completed his primary school (grade 8), he had to work one year and then attend Healdtown. He went back to work as petrol attendant and then back to school again.  It almost took him six years to complete his high school education, because the school saw his dedication and every time he came back to school he passed with As they paid for his grade 12. Even though he experienced a lot of injustice in his life, he believed the best in people and where people endured injustice he became their voice. On 26 April 1994 (special elections) he went to vote at the age of 75. He witnessed a fellow Healdtown student become the first democratic  president. The next year my grandfather died. 19 years after his death, his legacy continues to live on in my life.

Sometimes, we can be physically free but mentally and emotionally captive. How our elders and ancestors  wish they had the freedom we have today. When I look in my own community the young people that choose not to attend school, even though they have the opportunity.  It saddens me to see young people as young as six smoking and drinking and sometimes even using drugs and thinking that they are now adults. Not knowing that they are actually living as slaves. Because during the time of slavery in the Cape children were given tobacco and wine to destroy them. Working in the community, I believe it’s my responsibility to inspire them to break the legacy of slavery in their lives and grab the opportunities to bring freedom not only in their lives but in the lives of the family and community.

11 years ago, I was the Circuit Youth Co-ordinator at my previous church and worked on programmes to have youth from different racial groups together.  And even later Youth Synods to the voice for racial unity, because of what I was taught as a child. For me, what I experienced the first seven years was more precious than gold or diamonds that I feel that need to share with the world.

This generation has the responsibility to remove the filth of Apartheid and Colonialism and set people free mentally, emotionally and physically. We, as South Africans, can teach the world about unity. Why must we be classified as black or white. Who said you are black or white? What is black? What is W\white? If you are white and you take a white piece of paper is that your skin colour? If you are black and you take a black piece of paper, is that your skin colour? Now who told you were that colour, even if you’re not that colour? We are all different shades of brown from the darkest shade to the lightest.  That means we all are people are the earth. We all bleed red. We might be different, but we have more in common than we think. If we, as a nation, stop looking at our differences and unite to eradicate poverty and all other social ills.

At the showcase, we started a campaign called “Igniting our South African Identity”. The purpose is bring healing and unity to our beloved country by removing racial classification from all documentations and writing the real history of our nation.  On documentations you do not tick at : White/Black/Coloured/Indian/Other box. You create a new box namely “Afrikan” and tick in it. “Afrikan” as a sign of defiance.  Our identity is not defined by what colonism or apartheid taught us. Our identity is knowing that we are all Afrikans whether we are the darkest or the lightest shade of brown.

We have a history to be proud of. The oldest running university according to Guinness book World Records is in Morocco. The book of Mark (The Bible) is written in Egypt (there is documents that state that). And the book of Mark was used as a source for Matthew and Mark.  Egypt and Ethiopia has the oldest churches not Europe. Africa is known is the epicentre of knowledge from ancient times. Other kingdoms came to Africa to acquire knowledge. China, India and other countries were trading in Southern Africa, before the Europeans even came.  Before the Europeans to Africa, Africa was already influencing Europe. Hence alot of Europeans have African ancestry.  There is no pure race in this world, we are all related to each other. In learning each other’s ancestral history, we will start to understand where we are all coming from. Where our history might be extremely painful, let us learn from it and educate our descendants to repeat it. My definition of a racist is somebody that does not want to know his family. Let us become that great kingdom of South Africa, where other nations again will come to learn and experience true ubuntu.

Activator Story: Planting Seeds

Having lived all his life in Bonteheuwel, 31-year old Dean Jates says his activism not only seeks to transform the area, but also the residents.

But for now he’s planting small seeds, hoping that soon they will blossom into tall trees, which will eventually bear fruit.

On one of the hottest mornings in April, Dean gathered some of his neighbours who also brought along some gardening implements.

Their task: To transform a small patch of land next to the road into a garden and thus create a beautiful space in an otherwise dreary urban setting.

“The proposal that I put forward to my neighbours was basically three options: That each home contributes 10 litres of water per month for the garden, or four hours of their labour each month, or R5 per week to maintain the garden.

Dean is using his training from ACTIVATE! to organise his community, and change perceptions about volunteerism.

While the project was being driven by married couple Dawood and Rabia Salie, both unemployed who’ve taken on the task of caring for the garden through the support of the community.

Around 10 residents of the street picked up their shovels, spading the ground and removing weeds, while other neighbours provided refreshments free of charge to those who had braved the hot sun.

His initiative was a way of kickstarting volunteerism in Bonteheuwel, a typical township on the Cape Flats where unemployed, drug abuse and gang violence is rife.

“I was disappointed in the youth not being involved. Also very few men participated, insisting they would only do if they were paid,” said Jates.

He’s not given up yet, and says next month he wants to go all out to get more people involved in the project to transform their neighbourhood.

While we’re seated on a tree log for this interview, one of Dean’s neighbours points to a corner where a young man was shot, eventually dying 15 metres further up the road.

“When I finished high school in 2001, I wanted to study sound [engineering], I wanted to study film, and computer [science] but there was no-one who could guide me in terms of where I could go,” said Jates.

He eventually got a job where he worked for four and a half years after which he quit after receiving a bursary to study film.

“I studied, finished the course in 2008, and the next year I got a job at the District Six Museum,” says Jates.

His time at the museum, he says, opened his eyes to the history of Cape Town’s coloured people.

“But not just coloured people, but black people, South Africans as a whole,” says Jates.

He would eventually be retrenched from the museum, and last year he took up a short course in theatre, which eventually saw him applying to do the Activate course.

Jates says during his time at school he was inspired by rap music, particularly Afrikaans rap.

“If we as coloured people start speaking AfriKaaps, we feel ashamed, which we shouldn’t because suiwer (pure) Afrikaans actually comes from AfriKaaps but our people, because of the apartheid system, are ashamed of their language,” says Jates.

While the particular AfriKaaps hiphop blares from a set of speakers, some of Jates’ neighbours are hard at work transforming the piece of land.

“You don’t just have to be active in your community, good deeds always go unnoticed, and some people are embarrassed. Its not something for which you can be reimbursed,” says Jates.

Since 2008 he’s been involved in independent film, hosting screenings as part of the Encounters Film Festival.

He started his own audio visual business, hiring out sound equipment, doing video editing and CD copying.

#JUSTBECAUSE for Human Rights

Following the launch of the #JUSTBECAUSE campaign headed by Thabo Horings, Tholakele Molelekwa, and Lebohang Ratje to confront societal issues in South Africa earlier this year, the initiative used Human Rights Day on 21 March to give further momentum to the project by staging a flash mob and a dialogue on Sexuality, Abuse and Discrimination in Dobsonville.

Starting at the Dorothy Nyembe Park, approximately 52 young community members carried posters featuring the “#JUSTBECAUSE hashtag linked to human rights issues facing women, children and minority gender groups and sang Mkhonto Wesizwe, Mayibuye iAfrica and the national anthem causing a buzz of curiosity among bystanders as they marched to Elias Motsoaledi Road, the main road in Dobsonville.

Posters included slogans such as “#JUSTBECAUSE I’m lesbian does not mean that when you rape me, I will change to be a woman”.

According to Thabo, the aim is to use the #JUSTBECAUSE slogan to create awareness of and stimulate conversation about the on-going human rights violations that many groups continue to face on a daily basis.

The #JUSTBECAUSE dialogue was held at the Bokamoso Community Project, an initiative established by Kefilwe Ndaba in 2013 to provide social upliftment training for women in the community in areas such as sustainable vegetable gardening, baking for profit and after school child care and supervision.

Apostle Mpho Kedijang opened the dialogue with a prayer to bless those in attendance while the dialogue was expertly chaired by Dineo Mahao. The programme included former high school teacher and Dobsonville counselor, Jafta Lekgetho who contextualised the history and significance of Human Rights Day, Benjy Francis, the founder and director of The Afrika Cultural Centre and The Film Club Project, which uses film to stimulate arts and culture movements around social rights violations and ACTIVATE! facilitator, Lerato Mahoyi, the founder of Hands Up, who shared her story of rape survival.

“Stembile Zondo, a fellow Activator shared two poems with the audience. We included poetry on the programme so that participants could gain insight into this form of self-expression and communication. It is about having your voice heard and expressing yourself while allowing your audience to interpret the message in their own ways, based on issues in their own lives,” explains Horings.

The event finished with a gum boot dance provided by the Bokamoso After School Club.

See below for the two poems shared at the #JUSTBECAUSE Human Rights Day campaign.

 1st Poem: [where do we stand?]

lost in the belly, deep in the valley of life’s transgression;
where I stand in this situation.
Where do I stand?
Where do you stand?
when we as black children still discriminate against each other,
Where do I stand….

Where do you stand?……
When the crowds shout for justice?……
Where do you stand?…..
When the children go hungry…..
With nothing to eat……
Where do you stand?…….
When the soldiers burn and loot….
Or the government keeps the people down?….

Where do you stand?…….
When you see a man holding a sign willing to work for food?…..
Where do you stand?……..
When women are victimized?
Is it the freedom we desire and long for?…

Yet we speak of freedom…
Where do you stand when you see the unemployed?…..
Lines of men and women nearly a mile long……
Men and women looking for work…..
Will you stand for them?……
Will you stand with them?………
Or will you just do what you’ve always done……..
Sit by and do nothing?

2nd Poem [Salute iMbokodo]

How black is she,
As black as beautiful
What does she look like to you?
Does she look like a punching bag?
Or no she is a black woman
I salute the she
I salute the one who puts abo baby Jack bomkokotelo behind bars
I salute imbokodo

How black is she?
As black as beautiful
What does she look like to you?
Does she looks like a sex top
Oh No
She is a black woman
I salute the she
I salute the one who puts the rapist behind bars
I salute imbokodo

How black is she?
As black as beautiful
What does she look like to you?
Does she look like the door mate?
Oh No
She is a black woman
I salute the she
I salute the one who’s stands for her ground
I salute imbokodo

How black is she?
As black as beautiful
What does she look like to you?
She is An African
I salute imbokodo

Volunteering + Crowdfunding = New age community service

Lezerine Mashaba is changing the way we look at fundraising and community activism.

Soft-spoken Mashaba uses the power of the internet to change the lives of those who are most vulnerable in Cape Town’s most populous township, Khayelitsha.

Mashaba, 28, has utilised crowdfunding to help construct a brick and mortar structure, which will house an orphanage.

Crowdfunding has become common in the technology sector after the 2008 global economic meltdown.

But Mashaba hopes the Qaqambani Safety Home in Harare, Khayelitsha moves into its new home by the middle of this year.

In all her years of activism, she admits sourcing funding for the project has been the greatest challenge that she has ever encountered.

“We didn’t get a cent from the government. I’m working with a lady called Renata who helped with fundraising for the house.

“We put together a profile of the home, and she made a video in Portuguese with her friends, and I tried to gather stories of the kids and that’s when people starting donating from all over the world,” says Mashaba.

She insists no government department contributed any cent to the construction of the house, and all credit was due to the activists.

“We do so much work and then government comes and claims it as their own. It makes me very upset,” says Mashaba.

The house will cost R122 000, and the duo have already managed to raise R130 000 with furniture included they will have to raise R150 000.

“I grew up with my grandmother along with my three brothers and two sisters,” says Mashaba of her life in Ga-Mampa in Limpopo.

While she had been involved in a dance troupe as a youngster, she says her first role as a community activist came when she joined HIV/Aids NGO LoveLife as a “groundbreaker”- basically a peer educator.

“It was a Pedi dance group, we’d go to weddings and cultural events and dance for free. With the donations we would usually buy snacks,” says Mashaba.

As a peer educator with LoveLife she was responsible for ten high schools, educating learners about the dangers of HIV/Aids through debates, games and plays.

“They also gave me a role, as a groundbreaker to co-ordinate the radio programme which was based at the youth centre. We had about 30 presenters that I needed to train and work with, on basic radio skills,” says Mashaba.

She went on to start her own business, opening a internet cafe in 2006 in Jane Furse while still working for LoveLife. Two years later the internet cafe had to close after she moved to Cape Town, and realising that managing it remotely was near-impossible.

Come to Cape Town in 2008 was an eye-opener.

“It was my first time flying, the first time seeing the sea, [I thought] so much water ‘woo’,” says an animated Mashaba of her first encounters with the Mother City.

Six years later she admits: “I still can’t connect to the sea. I’m an inland person, I’m used to rivers and mountains.

Away from her home comforts, Mashaba says the biggest lesson for her during the initial months of her stay in Cape Town was learning to be independent.

“I was given projects that I needed to research by myself, I needed to organise workshops, and I had to learn to work with people who I didn’t know. I had to adapt, and learn at the same time,” says Mashaba.

What had also helped her adapt to life in the Mother City, and its countless attractions was the principles and values she was taught at the feet of her grandmother who raised her in Ga-Mampa.

In 2008 she was nominated as one of the 200 top young South Africans.

Mashaba’s involvement with ACTIAVTE! started in 2010, first as an intern “assisting with everything” until she was formally appointed as a trainer.

“My job is to facilitate the ACTIVATE! programmes, the curriculum and also train some of the methodologies, innovative tools and some of the elements that are incorporated in some of the curriculum,” says Mashaba.

One of the modules which features prominently in the curriculum is one which deals with the importance of volunteerism, and Mashaba says her work at the Qaqambani Safety Home dovetails with this principle.

“While she speak about volunteerism, we don’t just talk about it as an abstract subject,” says Mashaba.

She says one of the Activators had identified Qaqambani as a place where they could volunteer.

“We used to have about 23 children here. Some of the children, who are vulnerable would be brought here by social workers while their parents would be dealing with their stuff,” says Mashaba.

There are also a small group of children at the home who have been abandoned, and adopted by Sylvia Mankayi who opened the home in 1991 after rescuing an abandoned baby.

Diary of An Activator

Nazareen is an Activator, a member of the ACTIVATE! network. Here she shares her experience during Module One of the residential training in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal: 

It feels like we are in the middle of nowhere. The African Enterprise Conference Centre is a beautiful Lodge and Conference facility off-road in Montrose, Pietermaritzburg. So of course the cellphone reception is questionable.  We are surrounded by beautiful nature. Breakfast is at 7am and we got to get our food by 7.30am as there is an American group of students staying here for six months learning Zulu and taking Bible studies. The kitchen is very strict about meal times.

You know what really fires me up? It is challenging and healthy debate on current day issues that affect us all. Since arriving here three days ago, I have broken through cultural and social boundaries for sure.

We are encouraged to share our ideas and thoughts, while respecting the rights of every other individual in the room. Most people in this programme are such intellectuals in their own right and so determined to address challenges that plague society; I feel ashamed that I have not been having such conversations in higher frequency before. 

The kitchen does provide us with freshly baked biscuits with our 3pm tea. It is my reward in the day 🙂 I love biscuits out of the oven 😀 

Between activities and to kick off or end a session, our facilitator does an icebreaker with us. We all stand in a massive circle. We are then asked to follow in song and any other action (clap hands, follow a sequence, scream, dance, express ourselves).

 It is my most favourite part of the sessions! The icebreakers are actually very liberating and help with boosting one’s confidence. This evening, facilitator Khanyisa, did an amazing ‘short song’ with us. We had shout out the lyrics with her. It was a bit like rapping. We all screamed our lungs out. 

I will wager a bet with anyone that this has significantly improved my bathroom singing. But really 🙂 it was a very liberating experience..

Module 1 has been fantastic. Each day is a character building session for me. Of course, I miss my family – mom, dad, Raeesa, Luqmaan and my darling niece, Aqilah. I love that child. But the sessions here with the people who I have come to know more each day, are not something I could ever repay. We are truly blessed too with fantastic facilitators: Mdu, Nqaba and Darian. Man, these guys are really something else. Each have their own methods of presentation, mixed with an incredible sense of humour and deep sense of justice. We don’t often see that in our leaders. I connect well with them and am inspired by their leadership.

The ACTIVATE! training programme is intensive. We are forced to be more disciplined than we are usually are in our lives. It’s this very reason why I will be sad when the module ends. But pleased that I have been part of the fortunate few, selected to undergo training that enables me to become a future Activator and Change Driver, for the greater good.

 This is a summarised excerpt of her daily diary notes shared on Facebook. Click here to read more. 

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4 Activators, 4 reflections on being members of the ACTIVATE! network

For some ACTIVATE! is just a training programme, for some it is a space to connect, a place of belonging, for some it is part of their journey as agents of change – four Activators give us a window into their lives and how being part of this network has touched their lives.

 

Nonkululeko Hlongwane:

I’m a middle child, so middle child syndrome is my name, no doubt. I’ve always been different growing up and it didn’t bother me. My sister has always had and still has far more to say than me. Then, ACTIVATE! came into my life. Let me back track a little, I had received a link to apply to join ACTIVATE! through a gentleman I’d met at the Department of Social Development. I applied on the closing day. At the time, I was not clear what direction I wanted to take. I was constantly depressed.

Immediately during module of training, I discovered what it is that has always made different all this time – my silence is worth a thousand words. I’ve discovered what my passion comes from my own life.  I’ve never been more encouraged than when I was amongst the amazing group of individuals (Activators) in intake 2 in KwaZulu-Natal.  For a moment, I reaised that I can be proud of where I’ve been and to use those experience to forge a new direction for myself while I continue helping others at the same time.

My fellow Activators, your stories, your insights, your view of the world have and continue to be a part of my growth. You will always be the people I refer back to in my future. Thank you ACTIVATE!, thank you Activators.

Dimple Smitha Neonath:

Growing up “different” meant no friends and learning to accept the value of the solitude thrust on me. I felt like nothing I did was worth anything. My opinions weren’t worth anything. I wasn’t worth

anything.

But something happened when I joined the ACTIVATE! network. I have discovered a group of people who believe in me even when I don’t.

During each training module, there were days where I became very anti social, my roomies noticed it
best I think, but it was usually because I was reflecting on what was happening to me and seeing how much I was really changing.

I know now that even when my resolve faulters I know I will always have you, my fellow Activators, to help me.  Being a member of the ACTIVATE! has given me the freedom to express myself in ways I never thought ofand the tools to help me make a difference.. And I don’t intend to waste any of it.

I choose …
To live by choice, not by chance,
To be motivated, not manipulated,
To be useful, not used,
To make changes, not excuses,
To excel, not compete.

I choose self-esteem, not self-pity,
I choose to listen to my inner voice,
I choose to do the things that you won’t so I can continue to do the
things you can’t.

I want to inspire people.
I want someone to look at me and say; “because of you, I didn’t give up.”

Sinothando Ndelu:

I’ve always been in the spotlight and seen as a leader of sorts even when all I wanted to do was shrink and even disappear. I never understood what it is that people saw in me.

Friends often sought advise from me yet no-one was there for me to seek advise from. And so I continued to consult Dr.Paper&Ink.

When I applied for ACTIVATE! I truly had no idea what it was allabout. All that Khanyisa (fellow Activator) told me was that it will be worth it and will change my life, or maybe that’s all I heard as it was what I was searching for at the time…

Activators have not just changed my life, they have transformed it. I have suckled from each and every single one of you in one way or another (from the way you present yourselves, your crazy personalities, your abilities to dream  and achieve, your wisdom, your laughter and even your silences). I am who I am now because of what you all have allowed me to gain from you. I shall be who I am destined to be through keeping up with the like of all of you. You are all investors in my life and future and I can only promise to make good by you all by being the best product I can possibly be.

I may not fully understand, still, what you see in me…but thanks to the facilitators and fellow Activators and the greater ACTIVATE! family, I am starting to understand it. Starting to see it. Starting to like it.

Action Setaka:

ACTIVATE! helped me to understand the changes individuals can make in the community and in the world. Attending all training modules was  a phenomenal experience for growth and opportunity. The training has given me skills I can use to be a servant of change.

The volunteering opportunities took many of us  out of our comfort zones, giving us an opportunity to work with new challenges, people, politics and interpersonal dynamics

ACTIVATE! has helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses as a leader better. I have seen real improvement in my communication and leadership style almost immediately through this renewed energy I have and how my fellow Activators respond to me.

I think I could sum up this new perspective I have gained by saying:

If you want to get away from a problem, you should not focus on it because too much thinking and analysing just makes any problem worse especially when you can’t reverse the situation.

Tshepang Mokgatlas winning words

Everything you will ever need to succeed is already built in you. But before you build your dreams, your life results, plans and your life journey, you need to know that the foundation of it all is YOU. You are more important than your dreams and results.

Activator, Tshepang Mokgatla, held his audience of 150 young delegates from the greater Gauteng region captive with his words of wisdom and encouragement at the Raymond Ackerman Young Leaders Engagement held at the University of Johannesburg earlier this month.

 Mokgatla scooped the opportunity to deliver the written speech which he submitted to the Budding Speaker Facebook Competition against record number of 50 entries.

The Raymond Ackerman Young Leaders Engagement is an event which aims to provide a networking and discussion forum for early entrepreneurs and business owners.

“By creating a platform for peers to share their success stories, we want to encourage optimism about the role savvy young leaders can play in shaping a prosperous South Africa for all,” says fellow Activator, Joel Mokone, Managing Director at JP Republic Communications and a co-organiser of The Raymond Ackerman Young Leaders Engagement.

Topical issues under discussion at the event included the impact of entrepreneurship as a driver of social transformation, the role of women in leadership and the importance of the youth’s engagement with policy-making. The green economy and the increasing need for a collaborative approach also came under the spotlight.

Other speakers were Zanele Mabaso, CEO and Founder of The Young Social Entrepreneurs Academy, Johnny Muteba, Founder & CEO of Creative South Africa and Ashanti Mbanga, Miss Earth 2013/14.

“Mokgatla’s speech was chosen because of its clarity of reasoning, the logical sequence of the writer’s ideas and the relevance to the theme and appropriateness of Young Leaders Engagement,” says Mokone.

“The reception of his speech was overwhelming. It challenged us to take action and ownership of our destiny. It was powerful in that it addressed what young people longed to hear from a fellow young leader.  His speech was not just words but inspiring words that can be translated into purposeful actions. The audience was blown away. His speech created the atmosphere of “I matter and I am going for my dreams, today”.”

Mokgatla is the founder of the Be28 Movement, an initiative dedicated to supporting the development of habits of success among the youth by repeating a given action for 28 days.

“Be28 is based on the presupposition that it takes 21 days to consciously create a habit and 28 days to entrench it fully so that it becomes an automatic way of life. The idea is to give young people constructive tools to become more self-driven and to counteract the widespread culture of entitlement which is so disempowering,” Mokgatla explains.

“I am very grateful that the Raymond Ackerman Young Leaders Academy afforded me the opportunity to express my ideas on success to a group of like-minded individuals. This event showed me more than ever that our attitude is the greatest factor in determining our future success and in order to succeed we need to be open to learning.”

Tshepang Mokgatla speech can be read below.

The most valuable resource for your success is you. You have, within you, the power to determine whether you succeed or not, You Matter. This is one significant thing that many inspirational orators and authors always neglect when they speak or write about success and how to achieve it. I believe that understanding that you matter is the foundation of the very dream that you want to achieve and the core of the life you want to lead. You are unique and because of this, you are powerful beyond measure.

Everything you will ever need to succeed is already built in you. But before you build your dreams, your life results, plans and your life journey, you need to know that the foundation of it all is YOU. You are more important than your dreams and results.

In as much as we have a lot of similarities we are not the same. One needs to rid oneself of the illusion that we are the same. The thought that we are is the most demotivating factor because you end up down trodden as you analyse others success or results (mostly material gain) at face value without knowing the effort that was put in in order to be where they are or have what they have.

Be more deliberate about how you do things in your life, like using words that are simple to understand in your life planning. For example: do not “create” goals, plan Results and ensure that your actions are deliberately directed to them. If you do so Success is your only option

Innovation from the ACTIVATE! network

The one thing that connects Activators is their drive to contribute meaningfully towards addressing many of the challenges that face South Africa. Activators are inspired youth who want to see their ideas come alive and make a difference for themselves and those around them. It is this state of mind that makes one realise that the network is no stranger to innovate. Driving change is one of the pillars of public innovation.

The network is rich with ideas in various stages of development. Many of us are still reeling from the energy and inspiration of the recent ACTIVATE! Innovation Showcase held in Magaliesberg during January.

Here we explore a couple of ideas from within the ACTIVATE! and how these are changing the communities they are in.

What’s in a lunchbox?

Many of us have fond memories of carrying our lunchboxes to school and the excitement of finding out what was in them. The reality for many learners in Bafokeng Primary School in Gauteng is that they have to rely on the government-sponsored lunch to make it through their school day. For many, this may even be the only meal they have for the day. There is definitely a clear link between education and good nutrition. But why was Bafokeng Primary School experiencing a low turnout on the feeding scheme. And they couldn’t figure out why. Activator, Tebello Rampo, managed to connect the dots. Learners were ashamed of being seen collecting the free lunch even though they really needed it. That’s when she decided to work on the idea of a lunchbox that would be branded with the school for every learner in the school.

Rampo’s Lunchbox was one of the winning projects from the 2012 ACTIVATE! Innovation Showcase. Lunch Box was launched during June 2013.

Postbox hotspots

Every city in South Africa has its fair share of housing issues, the biggest being the continuing rise of informal settlements. By design such living spaces are “informal”, meaning many don’t have recognisable street names or numbers. This creates a challenge of connecting people with information. Enter Mpumi Mali’s idea – PVC postboxes that would suit this environment.

“I noticed that many people weren’t receiving their mail as most of it would end up lying on the street being kicked about by children”, says Mali.

During the process of getting this project on the ground, Mali and his partners made another realisation that with Wi-fi technology taking centre stage in cities and townships, these postboxes could contribute  towards making internet access easily distributed via collaboration with corporate and government agencies.

“Our ultimate goal is seeing this project touching every city and townships, contributing towards decreasing youth unemployment and being endorsed by people on the ground. We wish to also go beyond SA borders”, explains Mali.

How ideas have changed the world

It is often said that ‘everything begins as an idea’.

Edward de Bono says, “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”

However, ideas that are never developed remain simply as dreams that reside in their owner’s heads. That where the word ‘innovation’ comes in. How are ideas turned into innovation? According to the Business Dictionary.com, to be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable (at an economical cost’ and must satisfy an specific need. The process of innovation requires imagination, creativity and initiative.

Let’s have a look at 5 African ideas and innovations that have changed the world:

iCow app

Small-scale dairy farmers in remote areas don’t have access to valuable information about latest prices of milk or cattle, and they may not keep accurate records of important details such as their cows’ gestation periods or their livestock’s lineage – often resulting in inbreeding and disease. Kenyan farmer Su Kahumbu created iCow, an an app that works on the type of basic mobile phones farmers own. Each animal is registered with the service, which then sends SMS reminders to the farmer about milking schedules, immunisation dates and tips about nutrition and breeding or information about local vets or artificial insemination providers.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a Nguni word that means ‘humanness’. In its most basic definition, Ubuntu simply states: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” It’s both a straightforward and really complicated ideology. On a deeper level, Ubuntu means individuals need other people to survive, to thrive, and to be fulfilled. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.”

M-Pesa

While the Kenyan mobile company, Safaricom, didn’t invent money transferred, but it showed the world how to do it right. In 2007, Safaricom launched M-Pesa, Africa’s first SMS-based money transfer service. A simple yet ingenious idea, M-Pesa (for mobile, and Pesa-a Swahili word for money) lets users deposit, transfer and withdraw funds via text message. 

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)

Over 25,000 Ugandan children were pushed into violent atrocities during a civil war that lasted 22 years, often killing their own families. The majority were left with severe post-traumatic stress disorder – with symptoms  such as depression, flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. Moreover, hostility from their former communities has left countless child soldiers alienated, making PTSD a longer and lonelier battle.

NET encourages these Ugandan children to use storytelling as a way of dealing with their trauma. A survey has shown that 80% of those who have gone through the therapy show clinical improvement

Nollywood

Nollywood (Nigeria’s film and video industry) is the world’s largest producer of movies. The industry produces at least 3,000 movies a year. In 2007, Nollywood procuded 1 687 feature films. That’s more movies than were made in India and the United States combined. In a country that has suffered from decades of corruption and a failure to translate significant oil wealth into a higher standard of living for the majority of people, this homegrown enterprise has brought Nigeria a new sort of attention.

Innovation = a change in thinking

The dictionary definition of the word innovation can be broadly understood as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs or existing market needs. It can further be understood as finding a new solution to a problem, and one that has not been done before.

As Activators, we all are faced with different challenges and as individuals, we have different passions. The issue, however, is finding the link between innovation and problem solving skills.

Some would argue that innovation cannot be acquired, rather it is something an individual either naturally possesses or not. However, to be innovative does not require a special “gift”, it merely needs a change in thinking, taking your mind to places it has been before or simply thinking “out of the box”.

Innovative thinking challenges the individual to explore the unseen, the unheard of solution that at times may seem very eccentric, but that is often what makes the difference.

I always thought of myself as an innovative thinker, sometimes needing guidance on the thought process, but generally an innovative thinker. I think that this is probably what attracted me to ACTIVATE!. During the residential training, I found myself in a space in which I could where my mind could explore and with the help of my colleagues discuss and work through ideas to fine tune them to a point where these ideas scream “INNOVATION”.

This is also where the idea of the Community Street Sports League was born.

The idea for the Sports League was to organise a Street Sports League, specifically for communities ravished by gangsterism and substance abuse. Matches take place on the street to attract community attention and build community ownership. Each community enters teams for each sport in a typical league system.

The streets of these communities are usually used for criminal activities and other social ills. Through this project, we look to use the streets in a positive manner to build community ownership, build on the sporting talents on the community and show a united front against these social ills.

Due to my extensive involvement in crime prevention, drug awareness and rehabilitation and possessing a keen interest in gang violence and the dynamics of gangs, I would often use the platforms provided by the ACTIVATE! team to passionately discuss and explore these topics. These discussions would often continue at the dinner table and one evening myself and my colleagues unintentionally started brainstorming solutions to the social problems many South African communities face.

We realised that one of the biggest problems associated to all these issues was the lack of community involvement in addressing these issues, as well as a serious lack of community ownership in taking back their streets.

In the past, numerous such as organisations the People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) and Qibla attempted in addressing these challenges and issues, but often they were associated with violence and vigilantism and sometimes such violence even meant innocent civilians being injured or killed in the process.

The innovation aspect of the idea came in when I challenged myself to find a peaceful, non-violent solution to address the issues of gangsterism and drugs and also the serious problem of a lack of community ownership. Many thought that there were no peaceful solutions available to them.

Fortunately, with this particular project I feel confidence it its ability to start changing mindsets of the community as well as combating social ills, and using sport as a tool to do so.

Make your voice count

“Make your mark”, “Let your voice be heard”, “The future is in your hands”, and these are the words that are echoing on every radio station, billboard and TV advertisement. Yes, election time is upon us once again.  

This year’s elections are more than ever focused on the youth vote with all political parties excited and optimistic with the large youth turn out for the final registration weekend held on 8 and 9 February 2014. The IEC has recorded more than 24 million voters on its rolls, with a huge percentage of those registered young people between 18 and 35.

The interest that young people have taken in this years’ elections and the active way in which they are participating in community projects and, some even coming up with their own initiatives to raise awareness and make other youths conscious of what the elections really mean, is worth noting.

The feeling amongst others is that they are being “used” by the political parties and once they have been voted into power none of the promises that have been made out in each manifesto will be honored. This draws to the point that many youngsters do not understand their power and their responsibility as voters. There was a sit in at the Durban City Hall recently that was organised by a youth organisation. Here people were educated on their rights as voters and their responsibility to ensure that the party they will vote into power was held accountable for their doings. They also had a peaceful “Anti-Corruption” picket. This event raised awareness and also gave those who weren’t really sure of the whole thing a broader picture of how things work. The event was followed by a live viewing of the President’s 2014 State Of The Nations Address, this put into perspective what had been discussed and pinpointed exactly what the government should be held accountable for.

For those who feel that they have no voice or that their voice is too little to be heard, there are other avenues and structures that are in place and should be utilised at grass root level. It is as simple as attending a ward committee meeting. Here you can sit in a meeting in your community with people that live around you and listen to proposed future developments in your community and other problems that community members may have. This forum also gives one a chance to actively engage the ward committee and the councilor and hold them accountable for milestones that have not been reached. Indirectl, you will also be holding the government responsible. Another way, in which the youth can actively add their voice is to form youth clubs where the youth of a particular area can discuss issues directly affecting them and appoint a representative to forward these issues to the local councilor. This would be effective as many voices are heard better than one.

The onus is one those who know better to educate and enlighten those who seem to be apathetic because their apathy could be led by the fact that they do not fully understand how they are affected or how to engage their voices when it comes to the elections and accountability. It is in YOUR hands.

To vote or not to vote?

Join a live debate hosted by Live Magazine SA as they launch their Voting Is Power Campaign aims to capture the attitudes of young South Africans to democracy and the upcoming election.

Taking place at JoziHub in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 11 March, the youth debate will feature a panel of thought-leaders and influencers including DJ and 5FM presenter DJ Fresh, comedian Kagiso Lediga and other young leaders.

Other young people will also join in via Google Hangouts from 88mph in Cape Town, the Steve Biko Foundation, Ginsberg in King William’s Town.

Click here to book your seat in Cape Town, Johannesburg or King William’s Town.

Nothing for us without us

Youth in South Africa and the rest of Africa need to begin defining what Youth Service means to them and what the broader aim of youth service programmes should be in addressing the high levels of unemployment in Africa. As the main beneficiaries and participants of National Youth Service (NYS) programmes youth need to begin defining and owning NYS programmes and directing the resources injected into them to address their own challenges.

 Youth in Africa have been labelled a ‘Youth bulge’ in the academic circles due to the fact that they are causing a challenge to governments who have to address and find solutions to the high levels of unemployment facing Africa today. The question of whether the large number of youth in Africa today and tomorrow is a burden or an opportunity to African states is one that is yet to be answered.

For those who don’t know what National Youth Service is, NYS can be broadly defined as  “an organised period of substantial engagement and contribution to the local, national, or world community, recognised and valued by society, with minimal monetary compensation to the participant” (Sherraden 2001;2)

National Youth Service programmes such as the South Africa’s National Youth Service, the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps and other youth service related programmes such as lov Life, City Year South Africa, NARYSEC and many others were represented at the “National Youth Service, Employability, Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Livelihoods” Learning Forum that was held at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 25th and 26th November 2013.

The two hosts of the forum were Volunteer & Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA) whose mission is to ‘support the growth of knowledge about civic service and volunteering in the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region through research, publishing and evidence based advocacy as well as Innovations In Civic Participation (ICP) an American based organisation involved in promoting sustainable development and social change in the youth civic engagement space.

The main aim of the learning forum was to draw upon and share the research and learnings of NYS programmes from African countries across the continent.  19 African, 2 European and 2 Northern American countries were represented on the day which made for a very interesting mix of culture, experience, language and opinion.

Though the learning forum covered a broad range of topics and conversations such as ‘What can NYS do for Youth entrepreneurship?’, ‘How can NYS prepared young people for employment?’, ‘Private sectors role in enhancing youth employability through NYS’ and ‘How can NYS prepare young people to build their livelihoods when they are unemployed?’, the key focus areas of the forum was the need for strategies for strengthening youth employability, entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods through NYS.   

One of the highlights of the forum was a research paper that has been compiled by Carrie Bodley-Bond and Karena Cronin based on a study done by Carrie, Karena, Mariatu Fonnah, Dr. Tinashe Pfigu, Susan Stroud and Marie Trellu-Kane on National Youth Service in Sub-Saharan Africa countries. This research gives youth of Africa and Southern African opportunity to learn about what programmes on the continent are like and what promised practices can be promoted in making youth service programmes more effective.

As a young person who had the opportunity to attend the event and represent the Serve Is Organisation of which I am a member I feel it is very important that youth in Africa begin participating in programmes not just as beneficiaries but as advisers, designers, and as advocators for change in programmes where they feel that programmes are not addressing the root of youth related challenges; If the challenges of youth are unemployment, creating sustainable livelihoods and the need for great support in entrepreneurial activities then youth today must demand that the focus of programmes both private and public begin addressing this need. Above and beyond that the mainstreaming of such programmes must become a priority to ensure that local, rural and urban youth begin benefiting from such programmes aim to have a ‘one size fits all approach’ which ignores the fact that youth are a diverse group.

The happenings in North Africa during the ‘Arab Spring’ reflect quite clearly what happens when the voices of youth are not heard or listened to and the learning forum in itself represents the first step in bringing attention to the need for YS to begin developing and addressing African Youths pressing needs and challenges which will not just be fixed with short term solutions that do not empower youth themselves to solve their own issues.

The youth represented at the forum took a resolution to begin mainstreaming the conversation on what national youth service is and have taken it upon themselves to encourage other youth to join the conversation. To join this movement of Youth seeking to understand, define and own the ideology of youth service follow me on @Smnukwa, or send me an email on L.S.Mnukwa@gmail.com

“Nothing for us without us” – African Youth Service and Beyond

Sherraden M (2001) Youth Service as a strong policy (CSD Working Paper). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.

ACTIVATE! takes action for 2014

The Innovation Showcase was more than just a gathering of 350 Activators from across the country. It was also an opportunity to plan a course of tangible action around pertinent issues that the network can put its weight behind for this year. So, Activators each had time to discuss, plot and work around 7 areas of concern to come up with campaigns and initiatives.

Here’s the breakdown of the campaigns in no particular order: 

  1. Preserving our environmental issue: this group of Activators proposes that national expos must be co-ordinated throughout the year around four themes: re-purpose, re-use, recycle and reduce. Watch their campaign video here.
  2.  Redefining South African history, redefining a collective AfriKan identity. The action: when filling in forms, Activators are encouraged to not choose black, white, coloured rather to add ‘Afrikan”. #iamafrikan is the hashtag to use and follow to support this campaign. They also have a Facebook Page which provides more information about their campaign. At an appointed date and time, all Activators are asked to please help by sending ‘please call me’s to Mac Maharaj’ with the words ‘I am Afrikan’. Please click here to read our facilitators’ perspective on this group’s discussion. Watch their campaign video here.
  3.  Gender and sexuality to highlight the brutal violation many South Africans face because of their gender and/or sexual orientation. The campaign will be in 3 phases: 1. Print t-shirts with #justbecause I am gay/lesbian doesn’t mean….2. Go into malls and do freeze mobs. Co-ordinated across provinces by Activators 3. YouTube video montages. First freeze mob will happen on 01 March 2013. Please email justbecause103@gmail.com.
  4.  Education – focusing on schools and restoring pride in the physical facilities where learning takes place – on 16 June 2014, Activators across the country will arrange to clean up, plant and brighten up schools in an effort to restore pride in our schools.  Watch their campaign video here.
  5.  The A! campaign is about Accountability and Action. Its main aim is to inspire young people to challenge the status quo under the theme “I have power”. One of their first actions will be a sit in outside parliament on the opening day of parliament (13 February). As well as placing Activators at voting stations to encourage young people to understand the power of their vote.
    “I have power, you have power, we have power”; “My vote is my power”; “Know your councillor”; “Imagine a country where your vote is an employment contract”; “Nothing for us without us” – These are some of the statements that echo the sentiments of the A! campaign. Watch their campaign video here
  6.  The ACTIVATE! fund: Activators are creating fund that will help them finance each others’ social initiatives. The aim is to raise R100 000 by the next showcase. Watch their campaign video here.
  7. Substance abuse – fun without drugs. Youth need to say I am fine without drugs. They must challenge and change the status quo. Activators are encouraged to live by this motto and pass it on in their projects. Watch their campaign video here.

Activators campaign on redefining race

A vast majority of social development programmes in developing countries are aimed at shifting mindsets, which consequently will lead to a change in behaviour if the intervention is deemed to be “successful”. The vision of ACTIVATE! Change Drivers finds itself squarely in this position. Being in a development and more specifically, a training space for young leaders, it becomes imperative to examine why mindsets need shifting and maybe more importantly why we hold “these” mindsets to begin with.

It is an incredible thing to witness young, powerful leaders coalesce around a conversation that is central to understanding of the underlying ‘mind sets’ that we hold as a nation. An urgent conversation that unearths something often buried in our national discourse. A conversation that speaks to the core of our experience of history and the imprints it has left in our minds, hearts and bodies.

This is what happened when 70 Activators at the innovation showcase came together to begin a conversation that jump started a campaign that explores the “Real History of South Africa”. A diverse range of participants representing many different cultures and sub cultures gathered to define what is missing, what is needed and what they want to say about South African history as we understand it today.

Digging into the Conversation

The heart of the discussion that emerged was streaked by the fingerprints of both our Colonial and Apartheid pasts. We opened up a space that acknowledged that we have the opportunity to re- write history: the true story of our country. On the surface we were talking about writing the real history of SA but at the core of our discussion, we were talking about race, our oppressive and violent history, the woundedness Apartheid left behind, a need to heal as a country, the need to tell our stories in our own way, the need to challenge inherited representations of our cultures and build a collective identity.

There was a burning desire to engage questions and frustrations that do not rest. To speak out and salvage parts of ourselves left disorientated in the passing of time. This was a historical reclaiming of self, a remembering of that which has been dismembered and a desire to pull the missing threads of history into our future imagined ideal world. This gathering acknowledged that “even though the rain has come, the dusty traces still remain on ancient faces” ; even though we say we are free as South Africans there is so much that holds us hostage. The resounding claim that the young leaders made that day was that we need to go back and take stock of ourselves and what we lost along the way in order to authentically move forward.

Renee Hector Kannemeyer and I, Injairu Kulundu had the pleasure of facilitating this conversation that steered the participants into the heart of things left unsaid in this country. It was a beautiful, and intense space to hold and instead of a gentle facilitation, we took a directive approach to facilitating this very critical and emotional space. There was a soul connection between us and we directed this powerful space for 70 dynamic and passionate young people. We held the space tightly as we moved in and out of a facilitation and co- facilitation space, leading and supporting the group. The momentum was fast and directive, yet attentive to the very powerful stories and contributions made by each participant. We needed to be connected or else the specific out-comes of this delicate emotional and potentially volatile space would be severely compromised. We understood the implications of selecting this specific topic and were both drawn to facilitating this space. On a subconscious level we connected with each other as we moved into a shared purpose, passion and urgency. This created a soul connection of mind will and emotion a connection that ensured that it remained a productive and safe place for Activators to share.

We started by saying that this could potentially be an emotional space and that it is important that we listen with respect without judgement as we all have a story to tell and that our stories were equally important.

The discipline and focus it takes to engage a topic that is at once politically flagrant and personally sensitive was demonstrated by the Activators as they collectively created a space where each person’s input could be valued. The way in which people listened to each other demonstrated a maturity that seemed to acknowledge that there are many different identities present in this country and each identity has a different question and challenge they hold with regard to identity in this country. Activators took the space we provided to share their own story, the story of their people. Although some participants drew pictures, most participants expressed themselves in text. We gathered all the text and harvested common threads to craft a collective story.

One Activator spoke of the need for us to acknowledge that the San were the first people in South Africa. Another Activator shared the following: “I know that the stories captured in our history books, is not the true history of the Xhosa people. The challenge is that I do not know what the true history of the Xhosa people is. The deep sadness displayed in that reflection was profound. The urgency to find out what that story was, was shared by many activators in the group. What was powerful about the space was the Activators paused and took time out to reflect on who we are and where we came from and deconstruct some of the complexities of our colonial and apartheid identities.

Understanding the campaign

After establishing a sense of what everyone felt was important we were left with the daunting task of trying to synergise these concerns into a campaign that could thematically capture what we wanted to say. All of the ideas presented could carry with it a campaign of its own- how then were we to find something that could invite the rest of South Africa to participate in this conversation? What vehicle could we use to jump start this conversation? The multiplicity of voices present having this one conversation made one thing clear. Despite the different background we come from, despite our different experiences of apartheid, we are bound by the fact that we belong to this land. This strange place we have come to occupy is our home. We are South Africans- but this sentiment did not feel like it was enough. The mere word African was so grossly misconstrued by the apartheid regime that we felt like we needed to reclaim this word. The central anthem of our campaign then became “ WE are Afrikans!”

Introducing the Campaign

Our flagship campaign is designed to reclaim this position of ‘Africaness’ and imbue it with a sense of power and pride long eroded because of our painful history. It is a defiance campaign that responds directly to the act of racial classification engineered by the Apartheid regime.

Apartheid fostered deep racial stereotypes and the belief that cultures should not mix but that they should “develop separately along their own lines”. These lines were usually drawn starkly by the Apartheid government. Still till today our identities are often based on these classifications. Not often are we fully aware of the political, historical and social impact this has had on us. By referring to people as “ Blacks”, Coloureds”, “ Indians” when we describe people in our every day speech, as well as during self -classification, we are perpetuating the racial categories of Apartheid South Africa and consciously or unconsciously entrenching racial prejudice. We are continuing to reinforce intergroup dynamics and social practices which were crucial in highlighting our differences rather than our similarities during the past regime and does not promote national unity (Alexander, N 2006).

We all participate in the continuation of this process through everyday forms institutionalised racial classification. When asked to fill in registration forms at banks, universities or in government institutions they always always ask us to clarify ourselves racially. Our campaign asks us to rethink these moments of racial classification and to respond in a defiant way. When they ask you whether you are Black, White, Coloured, Indian tick none of these. There is a block that says ‘other’ that has always fascinated me- what does it mean to be other in this context. This campaign gives us the perfect opportunity to respond yes we are other- We are Afrikans! Next time you are confronted with this choice- choose other and write Afrikan next to it.

Who is fooling who?

Hey, “Mr Government”, I have a song that I’d like to suggest that you listen to. You should get your DJ to play it at your next party.

The song’s title is Who’s fooling who? I was introduced to this song by my uncle and I’ve taken a liking to it. I especially like the part that says “Are you fooling me or am I fooling you?” You should really listen to it I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Mr. Government let’s talk unemployed youth. Unemployment in South Africa not only affects the adults but also, us, as the youth as well. A lack of unemployment opportunities has caused many to fall into poverty. At the beginning of 1998, unemployment in South Africa was estimated at 45% although up to 80% of people in some communities were still unemployed.

The effects of unemployment are evident all around us, as the rate for unemployed blacks is 38% in comparison to the 4% whites.

For example, in Cape Town, whites and Asians reside relatively close to jobs, whereas coloureds and blacks are located at a much greater distance from most job locations. A person’s distance from the job market impairs his/her ability to search for a job and search costs are higher outside a worker’s zone of residence. Whites and Asians mostly use theirs cars to travel between home and work, whereas coloured and black people mainly resort to public transport and as such have longer commuting trips and incur relatively higher costs.

When adults in any neighbourhood are unemployed, they, in turn, cannot be the role models of social and professional success which we young people can identify with. Many jobs are found through personal contacts, but because of low and unskilled workers, young adults and ethnic minorities mostly reside in disadvantaged areas they do not benefit from a high-quality network of jobs.

An analysis of unemployment by age highlights how the burden of unemployment falls amongst the youth; young people between the ages of 15 and 34 accounted for nearly 72% of the unemployment total. We, young people, often also do not have the breadth of social networks from which our potential job offers can emanate due to limited previous work experience or the fact that many of us have never worked before. While active labour market policies such as the assistance in job searching is often targeted at the youth‚ many young people still lack the knowledge of how and where to look for employment. Access to financial resources may also limit the extent of job-search activities or further education of young people.

While we are unemployed there is an erosion of skills and the opportunity for the older workers to pass on the skills and expertise to us the younger people is lost. The lack of previous employment results in people not being eligible for unemployment benefits and leaves them more at risk than the average employed person of becoming involved in crime.

So, Mr. Government, again I ask who is fooling who? Are you fooling me by saying that I should stay in school get the education and you will make provision for me to get that job, or is it that I’m fooling you by getting the grades and believing that you will one day make a way for me and my friends and that we promise not to get involved in crime?

Nothing about us, without us- BRICS Youth Consultative Forum

This was a strong sentiment echoed by the 150 delegates at the BRICS National Youth Consultative Forum held in Tshwane on 01 November 2013. This gathering was hosted by the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, in partnership with the Presidency and the National Youth Development Agency.  

“What stood out for me at the forum, were: Young people in South Africa must be counted amongst those in the know; we must lead and be role models for other African states. The fact is that BRICS has 43% of the world’s population, thus we must think beyond Gauteng and strive to export our culture. Young people must engage with the BRICS Think Tank because this is where ideas about the future are discussed.”, Activator, Mzwandile Msimang, was among those invited to join other young South Africans from government, business, NGO and youth development sectors to be part of this forum.

The decision to host the consultative forum was informed by the 5th BRICS Declaration of the Summit held in Durban on 27 March 2013. The Declaration makes provision for the BRICS Youth Policy Dialogue as a new area for cooperation. The consultative forum will be followed by a BRICS Youth Policy Dialogue which will be attended by all member states and hosted by South Africa in February 2014.

During the consultative forum, delegates from different sectors in South Africa got an opportunity to discuss challenges experienced, successes realised and opportunities emanating from the BRICS platform for cooperation. The meeting also developed a policy document which will serve as a South African position.

Activator Nolwazi Ntshingila: winner of MISA Woman of the Year Award 2013

“When I filled in my application for this year’s Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA) Woman of the Year Award, I didn’t imagine that I would get this far.  I remember how I freaked out after my interview because the other finalists went in that interview room for more than an hour each and mine didn’t last more than half an hour. But with the support of my fellow Activators who kept encouraging me I pulled through. The words, “walk in there like a boss”, that fellow Activators Mzee Bhengu and Thando Mdokha had said to me kept echoing in my mind. And I also thought about what Mr. Musa Zulu had told us about his interview in Module 2.”, reflects Activator, Nolwazi Ntshingila after receiving her award at the prestigious MISA Gala event held in Gauteng on 13 November 2013.

The MISA Woman of the Year Award recognises women in the motor industry with the potential to develop beyond their current position.  More than that, it recognises her contribution to others through community involvement, or simply by touching and enriching the lives of colleagues at work.

“I’ve been doing community work for a while now and if someone had wanted to nominate me a year ago I wouldn’t have accepted. I was a shy and reserved individual who lacked confidence. Thanks to ACTIVATE! for unleashing these hidden qualities, especially Intake 1 and the Durban team for the love and support. “, says an excited Ntshingila.

Ntshingila was nominated by a colleague and her application landed her the Regional title for KwaZulu-Natal after which she became a South African finalist. 

“Seeing the smiles of the people I help gives me pure joy and hope in my heart and winning the SA MISA Woman of the Year award is just a cherry on top.”, says Ntshingila

To read more about the award you can go to the MISA website.

Opinion: Youth In Rural Areas

Rural areas are usually remote residential environments on the outskirts of towns with scattered dwelling units. They are traditional heritage communities that are subject to traditional authorities. Despite national government’ s interventions to create jobs and eliminate poverty, rural areas still have high rate of poverty and unemployment. As per the country’ s population statistics, youth constitutes a high proportion of the population and rural areas are no exception. 

Youth in rural areas are relatively inadequately intervened by the government especially in terms of capital power. To influence facilitation of change, any group of a people needs to possess enough political and capital power (financial power). This includes a rural area group of a people who already have prominent structures that are, arguably, older and permanent than our modern national government. 

Empowered with subsequent workshops and capital budget, followed with monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, these traditional structures would administrate that money to development their nearest constituencies and that, even youth in rural areas who often struggle to reach resources in distanced towns, eg, printing, photocopy services, computer labs for internet access etc, would virtually benefit at all levels.

Among many, there is no doubt that there is talent in rural areas, there are natural entrepreneurs in rural areas, there are political leaders and other kinds of who would blossom and contribute for change for this country’s development to reach new heights. 

This sentiment will remain a mere dream if strong consideration is not applied into this regard.

Walking For Wheels

On Sunday 18 August 2013, thousands took the streets of Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town for the annual 10km Bidvest Unity Walk which takes place in the four cities simultaneously. The walk is in support of the quadriplegic and paraplegic from the rural and disadvantaged areas who can’t afford to buy their own wheelchairs. Apart from donating wheelchairs to the needy, the event is also a way of bringing the diverse companies within the Bidvest Group together. 

For every 75 people that walked Bidvest donated 1 wheelchair.  I’m proud to say that Activators Koko Zaka, Bonolo Moaneloa, Ntoko Makhubu and I also contributed to the worthy cause as 40 wheelchairs were donated at the Durban Kings Park Stadium on the day.  We walked side by side every step of the way, got lost together, had some crazy moments and had some good laughs and all for a great cause. 

After the walk the ladies and a few men went crazy when the gifted Zakes Bantwini took to the stage and I sure was one of them.  It was a fun-filled way of making a difference and I look forward to the next walk and hope more Activators will join us.

Join the Crazy Challenge in a city near you

Activator Vusi Tshabalala, from Tzaneen, and Samuel Ntswanisi have made it their mission to inspire fellow youth to reach their goals by running/cycling 1850kms. The run/cycle will start from the Parliament buildings in Cape Town to Nkowa-Nkowa Stadium in Limpopo. The run/cycle will cut across five provinces: Western Cape, Northern Cape, Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo. It will happen during the 16 Days of Activism Against the Abuse of Women and Children Campaign.

Vusi and Samuel will be joined by a small group of runners and cyclists who share their vision. “I am also collecting signatures, we want to break a record by collecting 1 million signatures collected for a social movement. The current record stands at 35 000. 

“We appeal to Activators to please come out and support us as we make our way”, says Vusi.

The cycle starts in Cape Town on Friday, 15 November 2013 at 23h00. Western Cape Activators, please come out in numbers to support the team when they take off. The runners got a 16-day head start and the cyclists will follow suit. All runners and cyclists will meet take off together from Johannesburg. 

Fellow Activator, Fernando Visagie (in Kimberley) and ACTIVATE! facilitator, Lerato Mahoyi (in Johannesburg) will welcome and cheer the runners and cyclists on when they pass through their cities. 

All money raised will go to Bjatladi Youth Development and Vantshwa Va Xivono, two organisations that work with the youth in Limpopo. These organisation support at least seven (7) other youth development centres in seven (7) different communities with a population of more than 10 000 youth. 

How can Activators help?:

  • Be around to cheer the runners and cyclists on when the Crazy Challenge team passes your town
  • SMS the word ‘crazy’ to 34593 for R2 OR ‘crazy’ to 39026 for R15 to donate towards the challenge.
  • To take part, cyclists can contact Vusi on 073 845 3526 and runners can contact Sam on 079 194 8023
  • Help with drinks, accommodation or by commenting on the Crazy Challenge on Facebook

Please visit: www.crazychallenge .co.za or follow Crazy Challenge 2013 on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s show love and support for Vusi and his team.