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My moment of truth

By Zandile Manana

The fourth session of the Qiniso Dialogues took place in the backdrop of the announcement of a referendum in Greece, which left the world guessing on the future of that country and implications for the eurozone. As the radio debate ensued in the background on the morning of November 4, my mind started drifting to what was happening here at home. And all of a sudden, despite our challenges, it suddenly felt better being a South African.

Before long I had arrived at the Market Theatre precinct where the first session would be held and it started with an ice-breaker presented in a speed-dating format. In less than five minutes I had met three amazing people and expectation started to build.

From the ice-breaker we ended up in groups of six and the only instruction to get to that point was that groups needed to be as diverse as possible. Once the groups had formed we sat down to get to know each other.

The first gentleman to speak in my group was Boy, co-founder of Mo-Afrika Itlhokomele, an organisation established by six ex-convicts, of which he is one of them. The aim of this organisation is to teach and encourage mostly young people to stop crime, substance abuse and the spread of HIV. As Boy told his story a lump formed in my throat and emotion started to overwhelm me. He was credible, authentic, passionate and most of all his reason for being (his purpose) was clear!

Gqibelo Dandala was the next speaker and she also blew my mind. She used to be an investment banker who increasingly got uncomfortable in that space. She then decided she was going to leave that “world” behind with all its glory and promises and start the Future of the African Daughter Project — a development project for girls aged 12 to 19 who come from previously disadvantaged areas. This project aims to provide practical and meaningful assistance, guidance and skills to girls. By now I was holding back the tears as it became apparent that I was sitting with “greatness” in the room; young people who had sacrificed something to make a real difference in their communities.

The sacrifice theme stayed with me as we moved from the precinct to the Workers’ Library and Museum just across the road. While walking through the museum I thought about the sacrifices made by the migrant labourers. I thought about the sacrifice that makes it possible for us to enjoy the freedom we have today. I thought about the courage of those learners who took a stand in the June 1976 uprising and the questions that surfaced in my mind were: “What are we willing to sacrifice in order to make this country better?” And “What legacy are we going to leave for the next generation?”

The concept of sacrifice is not foreign to South Africa or other countries. It is still relevant today because nations are struggling with it. Greece is a case in point and to quote Anthony B Robinson:

“Sacrifice means giving up something of greater value. It means driving an old car so your kid can go to college. In baseball, it means making an out and taking a seat so a base runner can get a scoring position. It means giving up a Saturday morning to participate in a school clean-up. It means paying more today so that kids aren’t saddled with untenable debt. It means the rich paying more. And it means public-service unions giving up some protections that aren’t sustainable.”

From Newtown we made our way to the Gordon Institute of Business Science inner campus where we took part in “the life race”. An exercise that demonstrated to me that while life is not fair, no one really has an excuse for how their lives turn out because all of us have been blessed with the gift of choice. Of course we cannot belittle challenges like abject poverty, growing up without parents and other circumstances that people face on a daily basis. But it is when we make a choice to fight instead of succumbing to defeat that we realise the human spirit is truly indomitable.

Before the conclusion of the event the group came up with five questions we thought each South African should answer. And the question which stuck with me from those five is “What about our understanding of our past is inhibiting our future?”

I wish every South African could go through this journey.

Zandile Manana is a marketing executive at Massbuild.

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  • The race of life
  • Qiniso Dialogues: Will you join us?