Opinion: Lets Return The Dignity Of the Black Child

One of my goals with this blog is that I can share some informative and educative pieces of writings both by myself or other believers in various circles of society. Justice Maphosa (pictured below) is a believer who runs a successful business in Pretoria, South Africa, and he shares some of the cool things he has done and is involved in as he and his company seek to make lives better for poor black children and students in South Africa.

He writes below.

The revered late statesman Nelson Mandela once likened poverty to slavery and apartheid.

Tata Mandela further said “poverty is not natural” as he believed the plague is man-made.

I share his sentiments that poverty can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings like myself.

Without a doubt, what I do with my resources as a businessman can potentially make a difference in so many lives. If I can educate a child, I’ve potentially liberated an entire household.

Over the years, I’ve always found relief in going to bed knowing that I have fed 1000 children on that particular day and also produced 100 university graduates.

In fact, when dinner is served in my house, I want to eat with a clear conscience.

A few important questions, whose answers have shaped me into the man I am, have permanently lingered in my mind for a long time. The things I do, my utmost passions also stem from the answers to these questions.

I sit and ask myself how I would run a business, declare profits and spend the money when the community I operate in is in dire need of basics.

Just how do we pride ourselves as Africans when we come into our double storey houses every night, where we have more rooms than occupants, yet a young learner across the street is in need of a pair of shoes?

How do you live in a home where there is so much food that half of it ends up rotting in the fridge when in the next home a child sleeps on an empty stomach?

A few years ago, while driving past Alexandra I was touched that such a township – that lies right in the heart of uttermost opulence – is so ridden with poverty. Alexandra is just a stone throw away from money – yet there is so much suffering.

In fact, the highway seemingly Okays it – on one side you have the ‘have-nots’ and across, you have some of Johannesburg’s opulent suburbs. Alex shares boundaries with the plush Sandton.

Interestingly, within Alex, you have lots of factories, panel-beating shops and industries that generate lots of money, yet the moment you cross the street, it’s as if you’ve just crossed into another country.

I couldn’t help but imagine that as industry players take a smoke break, they have a glimpse of the abject poverty that Alex is synonymous for. But clearly, their consciences have died. Very few say ‘let me plough back 5% of the profits I make into the very same community I operate from’.

I believe giving back to a community can be a tool used to alleviate poverty and do away with crime. My experience has been that when the corporate world pours funds into youth initiatives, the younger generation are kept busy, away from many social ills.

As Bigtime Strategic Group (BTSG), we spend a R1m on the two schools we adopted – Emfundisweni in Alexandra, Johannesburg and Upper Corana in the Eastern Cape.

Interestingly, the project at the Upper Corana has created employment for some people who now work at the school as gardeners, chefs and as drivers for the school kids.

The school is located some 30km from Nelson Mandela’s Qunu home. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of influential people in that area that liberated South Africa, yet they did not liberate themselves. They left a legacy, but the younger generation is living in abject poverty.

When we adopted the school it had about 30 learners, most teachers had left because of the deplorable conditions. The numbers have since increased and presently stand just over 1000.

As a company, we undertook to pay salaries for the teachers. We are presently paying salaries for 10 teachers. We also purchased two buses for the school, which fetch kids from two different directions, seeing they stay far from the school. We also provide two meals to the learners on weekdays.

The reality is that in Ngqwangi, where Corana is located, there are many child-headed homes. It’s sad to realise that 23 years after apartheid, we have thousands HIV/AIDS orphans who are looking after each other with no one telling them right or wrong.

It is our collective responsibility to protect these children and also give them a bright future.

The sight of poverty and suffering reminds me of my childhood, it leaves me teary and compels me to do something. I can’t ignore poverty when I see it.

But my utmost desire is to liberate our children so that one day I will be able to say, as Africans, we have liberated each other.

It is important to restore the dignity of the black child. Collectively, it is our responsibility to maintain the goodness of being black and to serve our community.

At Upper Corana Primary School in April, 2008.
At Upper Corana Primary School in April, 2008.

If seeing a child who has got nothing does not force you to act, I don’t know what will force you.

And like Nelson Mandela put it, ‘Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and to a decent life.’

It is my hope that we will afford young black South Africans the right to dignity and to a decent life.

Justice Maphosa is the founder and CEO of fast-growing conglomerate, Bigtime Strategic Group (BTSG). The Group has businesses in sectors including ICT, financial services, aviation, agriculture, insurance, events management, transport and logistics and energy.

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