South Africa needs change-makers for better communities

PYP-SowetanDialogues-articleRadio and TV personality Shado Twala addresses gathered community members while humanitarian Gerri Elsdon looks on during the Play Your Part Soweto Dialogue in the township of Langa on Thursday 9 October

If you are not a change maker, what are you? This was one of the points participants were asked to ponder during the Cape Town leg of the Play Your Part Sowetan Dialogues, held in the township of Langa on Thursday 9 October.

The dialogues are hosted by the Sowetan newspaper in partnership with Brand South Africa, through its Play Your Part initiative. The dialogues focus on how to build excellence in communities. The purpose is to encourage an active citizenry to drive change.

The five panellists included humanitarian Gerry Elsdon and local entrepreneur Luvuyo Rani. Radio and television personality Shado Twala hosted the event, and residents shared their experiences and concerns.

Elsdon said making good choices was fundamental to achieving community excellence. She stressed the importance of family and moral values in guiding any quest for excellence. She also highlighted personal responsibility. “In order to play your part positively and in order to build a community of excellence, you must want to be better. You cannot expect the best the world has to offer and then be the same one who is stealing the television from the house next door.”

Excellence, she said, “begins with each and every one of us … If I do not live a good life or improve my circumstances, how can I expect the best?” She also asked: “If you are not a change maker, what are you?”

Education was also crucial. Panellist Laurine Platzky, head of strategic programmes for the Western Cape premier’s office, said one of the most important lessons she had learned was “to educate yourself, so that you can serve others”.

“For me, when I look at young people, I see some of them sitting at home, expecting a job to come to them,” she said. “I know it is not easy but you have to put yourself out there, you have to present yourself as somebody confident, somebody who can do something.” It was important, she added, to become a role model through hard work and education.

FOCUS ON YOUR PASSION

That is exactly what 76-year-old Langa resident Nozukile Mkunqwana is doing: she passed her matric last year, after returning to school in 1994. “Instead of sitting at home doing nothing I did my matric,” she said. Now, she said, to audience applause, all she wanted to do was “teach old ladies how to read and write”, she said to applause. Twala saluted her, and Rani said he would try to help Mkunqwana with a bursary to study at Unisa.

Playing your part was about focusing on your passion, Rani added. During question time a community member asked for tips for success in business. “There are no straight answers; just do the basics,” Rani said. These basics were to “Love what you do – do not just look for money” and “Dream big, but start with small steps.”

Another panellist, author Vangile Makwakwa, said she saw every person playing their part in just “deciding to be the greatest you can be”. Using her six-step strategy for excellence, she asked the audience to create a vision for themselves, to take action based on lived values, to have faith and believe in themselves.

Audience member Mzwaki Mpoma raised the community’s financial problems, such as debt and loan sharks, and suggested a workshop on better money management. Twala and Makwakwa, to the delight of the audience, agreed to help set up the workshop if the community mobilised for it.