By Pheto Ratua
A normal business day in South African townships starts at 4am. Taxi ranks, train stations and other public transportation are already in a hustle and bustle. Some going into work, others 2 hours away from knocking off - the story of a people fighting to survive.
In Pretoria west, lies a township – Atteridgeville. Like any other South African township, it is full of history and untapped potential. A group of young people who call themselves the "A-team", a group of ordinary young people, are making a difference through active participation in the spiritual, socioeconomic and psychosocial needs of Atteridgeville. They are young adults who feel their community’s pain, but are moved to do something about it.
The A-Team work in schools, homes and churches across the Atteridgeville, Lotus Gardens and Saulsville areas. Here they train and motivate their peers in entrepreneurship, how to start businesses and how to network. They also start groups where members go on a spiritual journey to become the best they can be in their Creator, groups they call Bible Discovery groups. Their aim is to activate movements in urban areas, to heal their communities. Moreover, to raise up other young leaders like themselves.
Since 2010, the rise in Somalian and Ethiopian supermarket businesses has been prolific. These business people have experienced all kinds of struggles, including rejection by the very communities which need them. There is a very evident trend in how they operate. They've been able to identify a gap within townships and have successfully filled it. How? By operating as a network of businesses; and stocking from one hypermarket then getting discounts thus selling goods and services at low cost. The principle of Ubuntu resonates with how these business people operate. The township while being very averse to these business people due to racial and cultural tension, returned to support them.
It is time business and society pulls together. The South African community is faced with a need to escape. A need to escape abroad. To escape reality. To fight for survival. This has bred an individualistic culture. It has led to a culture of creating events around issues needing networking. Sustained relationships between society and business is one way South Africans can actively participate in the change that needs to be seen.
With all the potential hidden in the hearts and lives of many South African communities, the change that we look for is nowhere besides in the hearts of ordinary people. This can be achieved through cross pollination. Through separation we were made to hate each other, it therefore suffices that through connection we can choose to live together once more.
The anger witnessed in universities as well as in townships should alert us to the amount of passion which resides in the hearts of ordinary people. Much of the South African community is encircled by ordinary people going through extraordinary challenges. These are the people who need to be celebrated as champions. A clear tale of going against all odds lies in the young hearts of people such as the "A-team," young people who activate change through using what skills they've acquired to help change and tell the story of the ordinary person.
In 1976, the whole country was shook by young people. Forty years later, the hope of this country remains in the eyes of the young. A generation which needs empowering and inspiration to activate change is waiting. The young, when mentored, can be instruments of change to their families, communities, and subsequently the country.
"Nkosi sikelel' Afrika;" God bless Africa, the national anthem compels. This is more than a plea. It is a reality in the waiting. When we realize that the problem isn't a political or an economic one but a heart one, only then will we activate and accelerate hope in South Africa.