/ 23 December 2010

A cultural exchange

Eight South Africans and 10 Mozambicans, aged between 18 to 25, gathered in Maputo in mid-December to give feedback on a pilot exchange programme of volunteers between the two countries.

The Southern Africa Trust and AFS Interculture South Africa established SayXchange in response to the 2008 xenophobic violence in South Africa in an attempt to build regional integration and nurture future leaders.

The volunteers, who worked with several NGOs during their stay, lived with host families for five months. At a recent gathering they said they had learnt much more than just another language.

“When I came to Mozambique, I had a very huge culture shock,” said South African Juzaida Swain (25), who was based in Maputo.

“There was no proper water and sanitation, and there were three generations in one household. There were nine people and only two of them were working.”
Mozambican Leovegilda Mavie, 22, who was based in Cape Town, said that South Africa was not really “an African country”.
“It’s more of a European country,” Mavie said.

Eight South Africans and 10 Mozambicans aged between 18 to 25 gathered in Maputo, Mozambique in mid-December to give feedback on a pilot exchange programme of volunteers between the two countries. The SayXchange programme was developed by the Southern Africa Trust in partnership with AFS Interculture South Africa as a response to the 2008 xenophobic violence in SA. The participants were hosted by families in the different countries for five months while they assisted in community service based organisations.

But Kefiloe Mokoena, a 23-year-old South African law student, said living in Maputo helped shape his perspective on both countries.

Though Mozambique and its people were beautiful and welcoming, he wished they would become “active citizens” and fight for their rights.

“There’s no active citizenship in this country,” Mokoena said.

“The funny thing is that they say ‘you South Africans, when you don’t like something, you stand up for your rights’. They know it but they do not take initiative.”

Mercedes Anacleto, a Mozambican who hosted Ayanda Nombila (23), was sad to see him go: “I cried when I saw my brother leaving. I don’t think I’ll ever have one like him again.”

The Southern Africa Trust covered flight costs and accommodation in Maputo for the M&G reporter. For more on what the exchange students and their families had to say, go to www.mg.co.za/sayxchang

View more highlights of the year that was in our special report here: