Being An Active Citizen

What drove you to be an Activator?

My decision to become an Activator was primarily informed by the dire need to broaden my knowledge of community development. Having been involved with a number of civic organisations for a number of years, I believed that participating in the ACTIVATE! Leadership for Public Innovation programme would handsomely contribute towards my personal development and the development of my community in general.

How long have you been doing it for?

I have been an Activator since 2014

Tell us about your involvement and the experiences/ results you have had?

My involvement with ACTIVATE! Change Drivers has given me great insight into community development and leadership.  Through the programme I have gained valuable skills in project management, public innovation and socio-political navigation just to name a few. Furthermore, I have derived great benefit from the ACTIVATE! network by being able to establish coalitions and connections with Activators in the cause to drive meaningful change across South Africa.  I have been able to interact meaningfully with the community I inhabit through ACTIVATE! platforms such as Exchanges, Dialogues and the Switch programme among others.

What are your thoughts on Active Citizenship?

I am keenly interested in enhancing and strengthening civic engagement and social-participation among South Africa’s populace. I firmly believe that as citizens we all have a responsibility to reinforce consultative and participatory democracy in South Africa. In this light, active citizenship essentially speaks to citizens being conscious of their rights and responsibilities in society. As citizens of a democratic society we have a right to participate in the democratic decision-making processes of our country, including the right to elect the kind of government we wish to have.  Additionally, we have a responsibility to hold those that we have elected accountable. In essence, rights and responsibilities go hand in glove.

Do you think that the voices of the youth are being heard?

Given that youth constitutes over 50% of the population of South Africa, I am of the view that their voices have been neglected. Any genuine attempt at addressing the challenges facing South Africa must be cognisant of the above-stated fact. Notwithstanding the work done by government, the private sector, and civil society in seeking to address challenges facing young people in particular, I believe a lot more could be achieved if young people were capacitated and given the platform to contribute towards finding solutions to challenges facing them. In this respect, it would serve the country well if interaction with its young people was not limited within party-political terms.  I must note though that the rise of such movements as #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall marks an important turn insofar as the voice of the youth is concerned in South Africa’s political landscape.

Do you think that youth is doing enough?

It is imperative that the youth of South Africa recognise that the onus is upon them to ensure that their voice is heard and that their interests are advanced in society. Those that have been actively contributing towards driving change in their communities must be empowered to do more not only for themselves but for their communities in general. Those that have been passive; relegating their responsibilities to others, must be encouraged. Government, the private sector and civil society all have a collective responsibility to ensure that an enabling environment exists for young people to contribute meaningfully into the public realm. This said, the primary responsibility rests with the youth themselves.

How accountable do you think municipalities should be for lack of service delivery?

Municipalities have a constitutional mandate to deliver basic services to the people.  It is important to note in this regard that South Africa comes from a history of marginalisation of the masses of our people by a draconian system of apartheid which exposed Whites and Blacks in this country to vastly different socio-economic environments. Since the dawn of democracy, government has been faced with the daunting task of redressing the imbalances of the apartheid system. This has had an adverse effect on the efficiency and effectiveness of local government in South Africa in general. In addition to this challenge, the advent of corruption in South Africa has negatively affected government in its efforts to fulfil this important responsibility of delivering services to the people. So in essence, service delivery challenges cannot solely and exclusively be the responsibility of municipalities. Government, the private sector and civil society should all be held accountable for lack of service delivery.  

What was the Walala Wasala experience?

The Walala Wasala interview certainly counts among my highlights in my journey as a community development practitioner. I think it is important that we as a nation tell the positive stories of individuals who are committed to driving change in their respective communities. More importantly, the interview was an opportunity to highlight the work we do as a network of change drivers. I hope the programme will contribute towards shaping the narrative of young people in South Africa. I love the passion of the Walala Wasala crew, and I must express my most sincere gratitude to them for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on challenges facing our country.

What topic did you cover?

The topic we covered was “Youth Skills”. I believe the question of youth skills in South Africa speaks to so many challenges that are facing us as a country.  It can be justly argued that the many socio-economic challenges facing South Africa can be attributed to a lack of skills among young people in the country. Within the South African socio-economic context, a lack of skills commonly leads to unemployment and long term unemployment precedes poverty. In this respect, one may be drawn to assume that a lack of skills among young people will lead to socio-economic challenges such as unemployment and poverty. In our effort to address this challenge of a lack of skills among young people, we have initiated programmes that seek to empower youth with skills to effectively and efficiently run their projects and businesses. On the day of the Walala Wasala interview, myself and a few other Activators had organised a “Digital Marketing Workshop” in conjunction with ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, the Young African Leaders Initiative and Digify Bytes. The workshop sought to equip representatives from various youth focused organizations with skills in digital strategies for grassroots campaigning and marketing.

What were the results?

As part of the proceedings of the workshop, we facilitated a dialogue among youth in the province and government exploring the respective roles the two parties needed to play in seeking to address challenges facing the youth in South Africa in general. This segment also captured and will hopefully form part of the Walala Wasala programme when it is aired. What came out of the dialogue was that the responsibility of youth development does not lie solely with government, but also with the private sector, civil society and more importantly with the youth itself. 

If there is anything you could have changed in the experience what would it be and why?

I wish I had had the courage to answer some of the questions boldly and without any fear. I think there are issues that must be confronted unapologetically and without any fear.  Other than that, the experience was empowering and enlightening.

Why would you encourage youth to be future Activators?

The ACTIVATE! Leadership for Public Innovation programme has contributed immensely towards my personal development and that of hundreds of other young leaders across the country. The ACTIVATE! Change Drivers programme offers young people an opportunity to broaden and deepen their understanding and knowledge of leadership, community service and identity among other things. The programme presents an opportunity to gain skills in project management, community development, public innovation and communication among others. Over and above the chance to gain the above-stated skills, the programme offers one an opportunity to tap into and benefit from the power of a network of young leaders from across the country, who all contribute positively into the public realm.

How are YOU going to continue contributing towards the activation of change in your community?

I intend to continue contributing towards the activation of change in my community by creating platforms for civic engagement and social participation among young people in particular. With the support of ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, I am currently coordinating ACTIVATE! Imbizos in the Free State. These are essentially platforms that seek to reinforce consultative and participatory democracy in South Africa. Furthermore, I harbour ambitions of developing effective community service learning programmes and I am currently empowering myself through study and participation in community development initiatives to gather the necessary expertise and experience in this regard.

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