Let’s all be active citizens

Let’s all be active citizens

Active citizens can, and do make change!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” so said Margaret Mead.

This quote captured me this week as I considered the topic of my weekly piece. As I witnessed student protests raging on all over the country, gaining momentum and becoming more intense, I found myself distressed, to say the least.

Wall-to-wall media coverage of this issue has fuelled some very polarised views regarding whether what the young people are doing is constructive or destructive.

Many bemoan them for destroying the same property they will actually need to study when the dust settles, while others point out that what they are fighting for is in fact not economically viable.

Others still, stand with them in solidarity, because they believe they are fighting for a just cause, not only for themselves but future generations as well.

I dare say they are fighting for their parents as well, who are struggling to pay for a potentially life-altering education.

I am concerned about the student protests because I am passionate about youth development, education and the future of our country. I actually believe that if they are not given the tools they require to better themselves, we will never be able to reverse the trajectory of our past and open a new chapter.

Then my thoughts wandered to the issue of active citizenship, as it relates to the rest of us, the parents, uncles and aunts of these young people who look on and comment from the sidelines. The same people who may have been involved in the 1976 uprising when they were younger.

What are you doing to add your voice to the narrative of South Africa?

Picture a situation where we were all involved, actively making change through dialogue. Imagine if we had structures in place where youth issues where not just discussed, but advocated and acted upon before they turned into a painful, violent show of desperation.

Active citizenship has a key role to play in allowing each of us to find real solutions rather than indulging in scapegoating, discrimination and mere commentary.

It is the only way we can really have a finger on the pulse and find constructive solutions.

What is taking place today is no different to what happened in 1976 when I was two years old. I may not necessarily have understood what was happening at the time, but that changed the course of our history. Today, our youth are still fighting for education, for free education !

This column is dedicated to the youth of our country, who have chosen active citizenship.

Whether this was executed in the correct manner is for us all to decide for ourselves, but maybe instead of talking about it, we should act on it.

Be active citizens!!!

Spring, a season for rebirth

Spring, a season for rebirth

Let go. Spring, a season for rebirth, renewal and regrowth, is upon us.

Beginnings. It’s time for new things to take root and blossom, as we let go of everything that no longer serves us.

But how do we do this?

Six months ago, I had a very bad fall while attending a concert at my son’s school. I broke my right ankle on both sides and dislocated it in the process. I had to undergo surgery twice, and was incapacitated for months.

But I decided not to have a “pity party” about it and focus on recovering, getting strong and remaining positive, while asking myself what the lesson from this journey was and what changes I had to make in my life.

It felt like God was telling me it was time to slow down, take stock, smell the roses and remember the little things.

Any working mother will tell you about the never-ending cycle of planning for kids’ extra mural activities, lunch boxes and dinners, while being a mother, working and spending quality time with one’s husband.

For the better part of my adult life I’ve never stopped working, only taking maternity leave when our kids were born.

But when the accident happened, I was forced to re-evaluate what was most important and realise that there was a reason and season for everything.

One of the things I had never gotten round to doing for 20 years was de-clutter my dressing room. So, I undertook a spring clean of my wardrobe.

While doing this, I remembered a moment in time each item represented. I am truly blessed to live a life where I stand in the light of my own truth.

But the clothes were not the reminder I needed. I decided to take time to meditate, be fully present in the moment and to let these choices be an integral part of my spirit .

You don’t need to wait for an existential crisis to make changes to your life.

The first step is to realise you cannot receive with closed hands and create space for what is to come by spring cleaning yourself emotionally and physically.

Iyanla Vanzant says: “What would happen if just for today, we allowed ourselves to imagine what our lives would be like if our hands and hearts were to receive something better than what we are holding onto right now.”

This spring, I encourage you to let go of whatever does not serve you.

Death, be not proud!

Death, be not proud!

I have been at a loss for words since the sad and untimely passing of Gugu Zulu. In deep reflection and in a prayer, all I can offer to the Zulu family is a prayer of comfort and peace, especially for his wife Letshego and their baby girl Lelethu. O’ death where is your sting! (1 Corinthians 15:55).

The #Trek4Mandela expedition on Kilimanjaro, should be commended for taking on this epic challenge in order to raise funds for sanitary pads for more than 350000 impoverished girls. Their selfless quest to climb Africa’s highest peak to celebrate Madiba’s birthday is nothing short of extraordinary! We thank you for your courage and will to dare your own lives to make a difference to the girl child. My tribute to the 42 climbers. Salute!

My husband #fatherofthetribe climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2006, he had been training diligently leading up to the climb. I was seriously nervous that he had made up his mind to climb. As a supportive wife I encouraged him. Day 1, I didn’t hear from him, day 2 passed and by day 3, I had lost my nerves, had palpitations, and I couldn’t sleep or eat. I prayed, then hoped, and prayed again. It was towards the end of day 3 that he called to tell me he was fine but had been ill because he was battling to acclimatize to the altitude of about 4600m. He was dehydrated and was feeling very weak, but he was going to continue on his trek. There are three routes, the Mweka, the Shira and the Marangu routes, which he took, and so did Gugu. By grace he did summit and put up his flag! It takes 3 days to go up and 2 days down!!

There are many poignant and sacred moments that climbers do share, which perhaps, you and I who have never attempted to climb the “Roof of Africa”, will never understand. I read in one of the publications the songs that were sung to honour this great son of the African soil. The signature Kilimanjaro anthem, and Jambo, a popular tune, then Shosholoza were sung for Gugu in an emotional final farewell, which “echoed through the mountains”.

Letshego and Lelethu, I don’t know what song to sing for you to ease your heartache and pain, I don’t know what words to say to comfort you – there is nothing clever to say. But remember this though, you married a brave heart, a man who loved and adored you implicitly, and would climb a mountain for you!

Duduzeka Sisi, aluhlanga lungehlanga!

Lala ngoxolo Zulu, Ndabezitha, Zulu omnyama ondlela zimhlophe!

Rest In Peace Gugu Zulu, usikhonzele!!!

Raising a tribe

Raising a tribe

One of my greatest privileges, my highest calling, is being a mother. The work I do and the businesses I run are not who I am, it’s what I do. Often in interviews, I am asked how I would define who I am. But my answer is always consistent and simple: I am a mother!

But I was a mother even before I was blessed with my own children. I have raised relatives’ children, mentored and raised many young men and women, and today, I stand in awe of what they have become. I celebrate them, as they fulfil their pre-ordained and pre-destined paths.

Two weeks ago, our daughter Bontle ba Morena turned two years old. In my tribute to her and in appreciation of her beautiful being, I told her, “Thank you for choosing me to be your mother”. You don’t choose your children, they choose you.

Renowned spiritual teacher Kahlil Gibran says : “Your children are not yours , they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself, they come through you but not from you, and though with you, they belong not to you.

“You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you, for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

I resonate with this truth, and it has given me an understanding of my role as a mother to many. I am a mother, am firm, a disciplinarian, and I am the first to admit that I can be very hard on kids. But my husband is more on an even keel and measured in his parenting style.

But you learn to parent each child differently, as each of them are unique. Our eldest son, uNkosinathi, is a gentle soul. I learn everyday how to parent him without breaking his gentle spirit.

UShaka, on the other hand, is boisterous, unafraid, loud and holds his own. I have to learn to parent him differently. Bontle stands up for herself and her convictions. She is bold and courageous, and I am learning to parent her.

I have since learnt that each child comes with their unique qualities that need to be nurtured, embraced, loved and celebrated, so they chart their own course and fulfil their God given destiny.

Don’t break their spirits if it does not subscribe to how you were brought up, what you know and the “better version of yourself” you want to create through them.

To the beautiful children I have raised and mentored for the past 20 years, I have seen you come into your own, thank you for affording me the opportunity to learn from you. Your stars are only just beginning to shine. Thank you for the love and the trust. Nginithanda ngenhliziyo yami yonke!

Collective effort will move women forward

Collective effort will move women forward

What would you march for in 2016?

I pondered about this question, inspired by the commemoration of the women’s march in 1956 that changed the course of our history 60 years ago on August 9.

This momentous occasion was a part of the struggle for our freedom and women’s rights, where more than 20000 single-minded and galvanised ladies said “enough is enough”, “phansi nge dom pass, phansi”.

The women’s march was an extraordinary development in the liberation struggle of our country. It’s a shining example of what we can achieve when we actively pursue a greater common purpose.

At least 20000 women from all races and backgrounds, some with children on their backs, knew the winds of change began with the actions of ordinary citizens.

Standing in unity , they knew fear was not an option . Part of their petition read: “We came as a women united in our purpose to save the African women from the degradation of passes.”

Talking to some of my colleagues this week, I posed the question: “What would you march for in 2016?”

Think about it. In 1956, the struggle was political. Yes, the recent “fees must fall” march was a collective effort, but we often don’t fight for the collective.

I think today it’s all about the survival of the self. Some 40 years later, and the same winds of change have re-appeared.

Young people realise they have to act decisively to secure the future they deserve.

Issues in 2016 include:

1. Sanitary towels. Sadly, nine million girls in Mzansi aged between 13 and 19 miss a week of school monthly due to lack of sanitary pads.

2. Education. It is clear that education is the pestle and mortar from which we will grow this country.

3. Gender pay gap. Women are still paid far less than men for the same job. There are only 11.6% women CEOs and chairpersons, 21.9% women directors, 29.3% women executive managers. All this, when we make up 51.2% of the population.

4. Objectification. Young women in our country are subject to media onslaught, which feeds them images of European ideals of beauty. They end up seeking validation and financial support in the arms of “blessers” because many come from broken families.

What is our common value system? Is it the importance of an inner dialogue as it relates to one’s ability to reach one’s goals? Or is it the all encompassing reality of common purpose, and the power we’ll have as women if we choose to support and uplift other women?

We saw this power 60 years ago, and I have seen it daily in women who choose to cast off fear and move forward together.

This Women’s Month, let us celebrate our power and show young women how much of this is still very much theirs for the taking.

Wathint’ abafazi wathint’ imbokodo!

I now appreciate the sanctity of life

I now appreciate the sanctity of life

This too shall pass…

I had a freak accident on March 17, 2016, when I went to watch our son, uNkosinathi play piano at the school concert. It had been raining for two days before.

Cautiously, common sense dictated that the cobble stones at the school would be slippery, so I didn’t wear my six-inch Louboutins, but rather a relatively short heel in my world.

I left the office and told my CFO, Clifford Elk and Management team, that I would be back in an hour.

But I was not back at work for two months.

In a split second, your life can change, it’s how you deal with that sudden turn of the tide that will determine your your future, your destiny.

I had never, for a second, thought I would be bedridden for a day, let alone a week or a month. I was bedridden for two months, under strict doctor’s orders, to only get out of bed to use the bathroom and take a bath. I had to be in bed, elevated on three pillows 24/7, in a cast and could not put any weight on my right ankle.

My personal GP, Dr Tshidi Gule, had to explain to many exactly what kind of injury I have.

I often say to my sister Johanna that I could go into labour for 55 hours and have five caesarean sections, the pain I felt and still do is beyond debilitating – but this too shall pass, that I know for sure, as Ms Oprah would say!

“Mrs Kumalo suffered a complex comminuted fracture and dislocation of her right ankle. Her injuries involved a spiral fracture of the fibula and lateral malleolus, an oblique fracture of the medial malleolus and a transverse fracture of the posterior aspect of the tibia. Her surgery included an open reduction and internal fixation with insertion of a titanium plate and eleven screws”.

My life changed for the better. I am grateful for the accident. I thank God that this chapter visited my life.

I am all the better for it. I appreciate the sanctity of life. Of-course the God, Abba Father, that I serve doesn’t harm His children, like #fatherofthetribe (my husband) will never harm his children, but the Word that I live by, says, “All things work together for good for those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

When evil forces tried to harm me, God in His magnificence showed up for me, protected me. It could have been worse, it could have been my spine, then I would not be able to walk.

I am on a journey of healing and recovery. Yes, I can’t run for a year, I can’t wear heels for 6 months, but it is well with my soul. Out of a trial, you will triumph, out of a test, you will have your testimony! I serve a God who not only heals the broken hearted, but the broken. I celebrate each day, I have the joy of life (joie de vivre).

I smile, I cry and I dance, ala Judith Sephuma. I am grateful for each day I see the sunshine, I breathe. After having to be resuscitated, every breath I take – is a gift.

I choose my battles, I don’t suffer fools, I laugh out loud, I love much and I work hard, and hopefully each day, I am making a difference.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time with my husband and our children while I was convalescing at home. I got to know my children so well now. As a working mother, I often felt guilty that I didn’t see them enough, I didn’t read them the bedtime story. I am so glad I did make it to the school concert on March 17, because it changed my life for the better.

Whatever you are dealing with, remember this. this too shall pass!