There is a quiet revolution afoot in South Africa. The gogo who takes in children so that their parents can earn a living, the many projects that aim to get children off the street, the people who make soup to feed the homeless, and the musician who gives his time to build a jazz band in a poverty-stricken township are all part of this revolution.
We need to identify and celebrate these people. We need to build a culture of hope to start changing the energy around them. We need to get excited about the future.
The Investing in the Future Awards allow members of the judging panel the rare privilege of witnessing the growth pains of South African society, as well as the hopes reflected in the actions of the people. For the past five years the awards have been given in conjunction with the Southern African Trusts’ Drivers of Change awards, which recognise those who fight to eradicate poverty in the region.
Business is ideally placed to drive this revolution to overcome poverty, and it is doing just that. Cellphone companies are creating heroes who are working with abused women and abandoned babies, saving the wetlands and teaching maths and physics. Banks are supporting income-generating projects in poverty-stricken parts of the country and insurance giants are supporting soccer programmes.
Then there is the metal company that built a bridge across a river to unite the communities who live on either side, thereby enhancing the quality of life for all. Blankets, Christmas part ies, increasing water awareness and craft projects by learners with special needs are just some of the many ways people are making a difference.
We have come a long way from the oppressive, controlling state that was South Africa pre-1994, but it is time we believed in our ability to make a difference. Surely overcoming poverty should be an easy task compared to overcoming apartheid?
We have to make the move from the nanny state, where we were told what to think, say and do, to taking charge of our future so that there will be a future for our children and their children.
Projects in which I have personally been involved include a programme for children in one of the townships in Cape Town, and a music programme for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The first, Project Playground, is a new project in Langa township that aims to get kids off the street and provide them with a safe space to have fun, relax and be kids, while removing them for some part of the day from the temptations of gangsterism, drugs and alcohol. The programme encompasses dance, yoga, soccer and hockey, drumming and photography.
The Sekunjalo EduJazz concert, which showcases the talent of learners from poor communities, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The concert helps raise funds for bursaries and workshops to promote and develop young musicians, encouraging the spread of music and culture, and helping to alleviate the scourge of crime in communities. Currently 75 schools benefit from this initiative.
One of its products is the Delft Big Band. Delft is one of the poorest communities in the Western Cape, with high unemployment and crime rates. Yet the young people in the band are proudly making beautiful music, with borrowed or second-hand instruments — proving that it is possible to do good and get a return on the effort.
As we come to the end of what many have described as a challenging year, let’s take a moment to pat ourselves on the backs, to enjoy the good deeds that we have done and to pause a while before we again take up the challenge of building the kind of society we all wanted to grow up in.
Let’s do it for all the people of South Africa and let our efforts grow like so many gardens, spilling out of the beds we have dug and perennially returning to bless us with the fruit of our efforts.
Dr Iqbal Survé is a medical doctor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and global business leader. He is chair, chief executive and founder of the Sekunjalo Group