Thursday, 18 July 2013

Of 67 minutes and service delivery

Last year on Mandela Day my friends and I dedicated more than 67 minutes to fix the tap where most of our community members get their drinking water. It was an act of necessity more than it was out of the goodness of our hearts.

I live in a rural area where access to water is a long-standing challenge. One would imagine that given the water scarcity challenges confronting the country the response to this particular challenge would be swift. The tap in question is located right next to the Umzumbe Local Municipality offices. I reluctantly approached the receptionist at the municipal office for assistance. My previous experiences with the officials at this municipality had not been great. On one occasion I was made to wait an hour to see the Speaker. Mind you I had made an appointment with the said person and had called the previous day to confirm that appointment.

The receptionist didn't give me much of a reception. She told me that Umzumbe Local Municipality did not deal with water issues, that I should call the relevant body and that being Ugu Water. I then asked if she could call Ugu Water on our behalf to which she refused citing stolen telephone cables that had rendered the municipality not reachable over the phone. I believed her and just as I was leaving the reception area a miracle happened. The phone rang and she promptly answered it as her job dictated thus. I hung around a bit, hoping that she would call me back and make the call to Ugu Water on my behalf. I decided to walk away when she did not call me back. I had been hopeful given that she had the means to call Ugu Water on our behalf.

I gave a report back to my friends and we then called Ugu Water. The response we got was that they would send a people over to attend to the problem. After waiting for close to two hours we eventually decided to attend to the broken tap ourselves. It was clear that help would not come. So off we went, shovels and picks on our shoulders, tools determined to fix the tap ourselves. Some 2 hours later and more than 200 litres of wasted water we were victorious in fixing the tap.

Today, being Mandela Day, I was reminded of the events of that day last year. I walked past the tap my friends and I had fixed last year. The situation has gotten worse. Instead of there being a tap there is now a pipe that has a nozzle to control the flow of water. There is a puddle of mud where the pipe sits and one must do a balancing act on the stones that have been placed there to make the tap accessible. The health of the community is potentially at risk as a result of this.

It is safe to conclude that the Umzumbe Local Municipality is not bothered by the state of this once-was-tap pipe that gives drinking water to the community it serves. The fact this pipe sits literally two paces from their premises is neither here nor there. I think they await others to give of their 67 minutes to make up for their service delivery debacle.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Our Situation

Questions of becoming have lingered on my mind for a long period of time. As a young South African, these questions have prompted me to look at what is happening around me; locally and internationally. ‘What is our situation as black South Africans?’ I have continually asked myself.

In South Africa we have inherited a rich and diverse history. Part of this history is intertwined with issues of colonial conquest and an oppression of the black people. The current political setups, spearheaded by the ANC-led government, are engaged in attempts at redressing the many imbalances of the past, and ultimately bring about transformation. A daunting task if you ask me! This envisioned transformation is expressed differently, depending on political affiliation or conviction. There are those who have gone to great lengths to expand on this notion of transformation, how it ought to be brought about, how it lacks, how it can be fast-tracked, etc. All do agree however, that transformation is needed.

Looking at transformation at the individual level, I am of the opinion that the best place for it to be effected is the mind. Our minds need to be transformed. This transformation is a step in the right direction as we forge an all-inclusive South African identity, as we shape a collective future for all South Africans; both black and white. In forging this identity and common future we need to liberate ourselves of the past. This liberation is an intricate process. For any previously oppressed group of people to be liberated they need to be at the forefront of their liberation; they need to navigate carefully in both the political and socio-economic environments. This then further compels us as young black South Africans to stand up for ourselves, to become active within the systems that are put in place to bring about transformation.

Moreover, as a young person committed to positive change in the country, I believe that through reflection we are able to take the necessary steps towards the transformation of our minds. Our socialization, and the environment in which that socialization takes place, have an impact on this transformation. One of the most important elements of this socialization in post-apartheid South Africa is the education system’s quality deliveries of skills that help young people navigate the socio-political landscape. Based on the assumption that delivering quality education to society has positive returns in the long run it then follows that thinking deeply upon our situation as young South Africans is key.

Having touched on the transformation of the mind and the link it has with education, it is necessary to stress synergy of the various education departments, society and other relevant stakeholders in ensuring a quality education. Overcoming the various challenges within our education system so that it ultimately contributes towards the transformation of the mind should be stressed beyond being solely the government’s responsibility. Societies need to seek means that will help transform them; and where these means do not exist society should help create them. This can be done through social movements or social clubs. The private sector should play a more meaningful role in ensuring a quality education. After all, it is also a beneficiary of the schooling system.

One possible avenue where the private sector, working with communities, could champion a cause in this regard is that of reading clubs. I have been part of reading clubs for children aged 4-10 years old. These reading clubs are a fun and learning environment outside conventional school. They bring parents, teachers, the young and the old a chance to come together to read, write, sing, play and dance together. They further allow children a chance to grasp the use of an additional language outside the school environment. The Annual National Assessment (ANA) results of 2012 show moderate progress when compared with the previous year. This should encourage us further in continuing with initiatives such as this one. One thing about reading clubs is that it only takes one adult, 3-5 young children, and a great story book to get you going! The boost in confidence on the part of the children that attend is plain to see; their spelling has improved and so has their behavior- I dare not leave out the countless smiles they have put on my face. The seeds of the love for reading and writing sown in these children will serve to liberate our minds and  strengthen our democracy. Ironically in South Africa, there is a general level of apathy towards the democratic process as a result of service delivery issues amongst others.

So then, what does this mean for us as young people? The most important consideration is the emphasis on education. Considering that higher education remains highly inaccessible to the majority of black people we need to find various means to get our societies educated and skilled. Without these there is not much we can do to change the status quo and contribute to society at large. We need to inspire young people to take an active role in the advancement of liberation.

Friday, 12 April 2013

How Can Young People Claim More Space To Drive Change?

(Delivered at UKZN Graduate School of Business, at the launch of the Activate! Exchange on 20 March 2013)

There is a global trend where governments formulate youth policies that respond to the changing conditions of young people in the 21st century. Ironically, the extent of young people’s involvement in the formulation of these is questionable.

Currently South Africa has the National Youth Commission (NYC) Act, 1996 (Act 19 of 1996), the NYP 2000 and the National Youth Development Policy Framework (NYDPF) 2002/07 which are youth legislative policy frameworks that were undertaken by the national Parliament to ensure that youth development and service delivery for young people happens. These undertakings outline the South African government’s attempts at creating an enabling environment for young people to drive change.

I am grateful that such measures have been undertaken; it is a step in the right direction as we grapple with issues of transformation as young people, and as society at large. These legislative processes amply outline institutional arrangements for youth development and give perspective on how the delivery of services for young people was to occur, with their involvement and meaningful participation.

The government’s perspective on youth issues must be properly aligned with true realities of young people.

There are 4 propositions that I will make that should enable young to be effective in driving change.


Information is a key support in public- and private-sector interventions to transform poor neighbourhoods into economically vibrant, diverse communities. The lack of information, perhaps as a result of limitations in the education system and service delivery in general, has created asymmetrical developmental patterns that disenfranchise our youth; more especially those from rural areas. This is a stark contrast when you consider that today, thanks to technological advances and the recent census; we have more information about our youth than ever before. With that information and technology together, we have the power to be of better service to young people. The critical question is ‘do we as a nation and as young people have the willpower to do it?’ I believe that we do, both as a nation and as young people.

Young people need to be informed so that they can awaken from a deep slumber induced by ‘social anaesthetics’ such as drugs, alcohol, television, mass culture, anger, destructive behaviour, defensiveness, selfishness, etc. These anaesthetics make them disillusioned about the reality confronting young people today. Lifelong learning is what we need to advocate amongst young people. As learning beings we can transform our societies. Learning is the best thing we can do for ourselves as young people; this encompasses both formal and informal learning. We need to find ways of engaging young people as civil society, as the public and private sectors in more meaningful ways. Faith-based organizations also need to review how they make relevant the message of the Bible, African beliefs systems, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita, etc. to the young people of today. One cannot deny the influence that faith-based organizations have on young people generally and their capacity in the learning process.

Young people need to familiarize themselves with the Municipal Handbook for Councillors, and Making Local Government Work: An Activist’s Guide. Knowledge of these will enable young people to position themselves to be part of the change-making process and hold themselves accountable.

The guide will help you:

a)    Understand local government and what it should be doing for

 every community

b) Monitor (or keep track of) what local government is doing

c) Find out what to do when local government ignores the

    community or breaks the rules, and your role as the youth

d) Take action to enforce our rights to basic services such as water, sanitation,    electricity, housing, and health to name a few

e) Find organizations that can help you in bringing about change.

The need for young people to be informed and knowledgeable cannot be stressed enough. We should look at social clubs and the potential they have in imparting knowledge and information that can assist young people to occupy more space to drive change in their communities.


Once value-added information is attained, young people can provide their own insights and cognitive knowledge of the situation to turn that information into actionable knowledge. It is only at this step that young people can contribute to the mass democratic movement and help bring about transformation.

To provide balanced and objective information to assist in understanding the politics of today and their influence on topical issues, to seek alternatives, to access opportunities and find solutions to the myriad of social challenges they are confronted with young people need to consult, and to be consulted. The Activate! Leadership for Public Innovation and others like it are flagship programmes aimed at engaging young people in the change-making process. Young people should partake in such initiatives.

Planning for youth consultation involves

·        Consider legislative requirements

·        Select a non-partisan level of community youth engagement

·        Set up and maintain a community youth engagement record

·        Establish evaluation measures.

All these points are aimed at enhancing and strengthening a youth involvement strategy.


Public participation is crucial in the building of an effective democracy. This entails participation as voters, as residents who express their views before, during and after policy development, as participants in ward committees and IDP forums, as activists in monitoring the performance of local government.

Poor service delivery, a lack of job and study opportunities has made young people despondent and apathetic in their own development. To overcome this state of apathy rigorous involvement is needed on the part of young people.

Youth involvement builds “social capital” -- social ties, networks, and support -- which is associated with better community development and well-being. Participatory decision-making can uncover and mobilize community assets, strengths, and resources, such as young people, that would have been otherwise overlooked. Processes that can engage young people in identifying the resources and assets in their communities that can be mobilized to improve health, wellness, job opportunities and quality of life need to be put in place. Stated differently, young people need to identify themselves as a resource unto themselves.

Youth involvement is about opening up and engaging young people, and acknowledging and using their talents to help solve the problems that they own and live with every day. It is about including young people in decision-making processes, which is critical in the successful development of acceptable policies and decisions in government, the private sector and the community.

Implementing a youth engagement strategy entails developing an inclusive Action Plan, completing a Task Breakdown and the evaluation thereof.


This proposition is based on an understanding of the community’s resources — individual capacities and abilities, and institutional resources with the potential for promoting personal and community development.

The overall objective is to promote connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organizations, and between organizations and organizations. This should be translated further into collaboration between youth from different social classes and racial categories; which then broadens the horizon for young people and facilitates social re-imagination.

When young people are organized they can be better positioned to bring about change in their communities. I will stress the need for faith-based organizations, public and private institutions to make a concerted effort in engaging young people. Similarly, as young people we need to overcome the numerous divides that keep us from meaningfully engaging with each other. These divides are a reflection of our reality; and that reality is that we will not be young forever; and ultimately, the opportunities available to us as young people will come to pass. It is thus apparent that young people need to organize themselves as agents of change.

In conclusion, we need to engage with the powers that be in a non-violent manner for the advancement of an effective democracy; being informed facilitates active and meaningful engagement. We need to appropriately consult and involve ourselves in the processes of inter-sectoral collaboration. This means that we, as both black and white youth, need to collectively work together to transform South Africa and realize a non-racial country, while promoting the spirit of unity amongst ourselves.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Anticipating 21 March 2013

With March 21 looming, my mind can’t help but wonder what the scenario will be like in this year’s Human Rights Day celebrations.  Whether we understand it or not, this day remains a momentous one in our history. In the recent past we have seen top politicians, mainly from the ruling party, elbowing each other for a platform to engage the masses. Mind you, this is not a ‘Mangaung’ .

What will they say this year? Perhaps they will give us a history lesson, or perhaps a monotonous rant as has been customary of politicians. Maybe they will tell the people of Sharpeville what this day means for them. The possibilities of what they could say are endless. I am certain of this one thing though; they will not tell the people of Sharpeville or anywhere else for that matter to embark on mass demonstrations on this day; nor on any other day! The memories of Sharpeville, and more recently those of Andries Tatane and Marikana, are clear examples that we should not demonstrate.

Many people also forget  that on 21 March 1960  it was not just the people of Sharpeville that took to the streets. People of Langa and the Vaal going right up to Van der Bijl Park heeded the call! This could not have been achieved without the organizing and mobilizing of people, from students to workers. It is a further testament of standing in solidarity. While the events of this day mark a fundamental attack on the pass laws of the apartheid system, the public today has a further challenge of devising peaceful means of demonstration.

 What this means for the politics of today remains to be seen; and the extent to which the politicians and the ruling party are prepared to listen is anybody’s guess. We wait to see how this year’s events play themselves out.