Stories Competition finalist: Action Setaka

When I applied for the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers programme in 2012, I had a cocktail of expectations.  All  these  expectations  were  based  on  personal  development  that  had nothing to do with others or thoughts of meeting any person that may possess superior intellectual prowess which may surpass mine. Not that there is an element of narcissism in me, but it was just a passing thought caused by  confidence and motivation to prove myself in the midst of like­minded individuals.

There is a disturbing  and  fundamentally wrong mentality implanted in male species particularly approaching conferences  or seminars. Fellow men, before even exploring curriculum or content of an event, conference or the training, they marginally think about the beauty of female attendees.  In an extreme case they will search the names of attendees on emails attachments and search them on social sites to view how they look so that they may invest their emotions on them even before exploring their character. I am not a saint; at times I do fall for this filthy sin.

I arrived in Durban 2013 at 6:00am, anxious to meet crème dela crème of South African youth leadership, waiting at the Greyhound bus station I met a wonderful, elegant and gracious woman called Khonzeka Gxalatane and signs of a man got up with me. 

Later that day, around  1pm, I met a leader by the  name of  Mthoko Simelane. This young man had an overflowing fountain of wisdom, whom today is still one of my closet friends. He demonstrated a presidential character from the onset he directed everyone who attended the training to a relevant bus which was coordinated by a lady of staunch discipline, a paragon of virtue and a non­stopping voice of reason whom I later knew as my facilitator.

After our late lunch we had an introductory session, amongst all attendees there was this eloquent lady from Kwa Zulu Natal, Woodlands who had a captivating introduction. I recall vividly that she profoundly said in conclusion of her introduction.” My personal is my political, therefore my struggle is not about black or white, it’s about wrong or right.” This is dialectically correct utterance. As beautiful as she was I was perplexed about my emotions responds to this phenomenal woman whom every male species in the room was a victim of unavoidable infatuation I gathered this in “men’s only conversation” I was extremely inspired by the profundity of thought portrayed by this woman on both formal and informal conversation. At no point did I ever see a potential girlfriend, “my human training  package” or  anything that  may  awaken  my  “sin  of  being  a  man”  as  per patriarchal norm and standard.

We had a conversation and from that day to date, I’m always mesmerized by how every day I learn a thing or two about life from her. She always takes me to task at any subject. She is the epitome of a modern day woman she defies patriarchal psyche in all aspects and as a champion an activist on issues of woman emancipation, I found in her a sister and confidant. I call her a “safest wardrobe of my secrets”. 

On her birthday I summarized her impact on me as “My rainbow of happiness, the sister who clouds my scepticisms with hope, the seed and branch of my thoughts on women struggle. The genesis of our relations are founded on laughter, inspiration and thirst to change the world, you are the master key of my inner strength” This statement shrink our 3 years relations.

This epitome of modern day woman whom I frequently describe as “A walking galaxy of ideas”  established  many  innovative  initiative  to  address  and  advance  the  social upheaval of women this is contrary to olden days in African communities where women were  groomed  to  submit  to  their  husband,  where  they  were  groomed  to  behave  a certain  way  in  marriage.  The  meaning  of  the  future  for  women  revolved  and  still revolves  around  marriage  but  this  phenomenal  woman  challenged  and  continues  to challenge the status quo in all frontiers.

One of the bright minds Themba Vryman once wrote and accurately give us an angle or better view on Nonkululeko as a modern day woman by saying “Many of those who crossed passed with her never forget her, not because of her choice but because Nonkululeko defines what leadership is all about. 

Nonkululeko is a symbol of hope for many. Through her selfless desire to see justice and prosperity many lives have been changed by her. A very stern woman yet soft-hearted human being” in his concluding remarks this intelligent silver-tongued continues “Like a constellation star shining bright in the sky. Nonkululeko, too, is our constellation star.

Meeting Nonkululeko and other Activators I concluded that mankind especially in the development sector cannot compete but co­operate. It was wrong of me to have a narrow expectation about the Activate programme but this “modern day woman” and Activators taught me endless life lesson. 

We are a fortunate generation to lead and live in the same era with you Empress, Nonkululeko Portia Hlongwane.

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