thoughts on hope, community and ubuntu – a call to all South Africans to step up

by Pieter le Roux | August 11, 2021

hope community and ubuntu

Almost exactly two years ago I called the wauteam together for a chat. Mentally it was a tough time to be a South African. It was a period characterised by strikes, marches and the incitement of hatred and violence. I realised this was starting to affect the morale and productivity within our team and I needed to do something.

My core message to the wauteam was that government alone cannot bring the change we need in our country; it was now up to us as citizens and businesses to step up and assist in making South Africa great again! As a business, wauko decided to put its weight behind a concept that was introduced to us at more or less the same time… and so the Restore Africa Funds were borne with the vision to “Heal the land, heal the people’.

Last month, on the 10th of July, my family and I left for a two-week Karoo-holiday. For us this means family time, relaxing and getting away from the hustle-and-bustle… no internet or cellphone reception. When we returned, we were shocked to see what the country had endured while we were on holiday.

It took me a few days to digest what had happened during this period, but only when I returned to work and started to interact with colleagues, friends, clients, and our suppliers was it clear to me that we not only need to step up another level, but also assist people to think differently!

why think differently ?

The answer lies in the beautiful word “ubuntu” that is sometimes also translated “I am because we are1… sjoe, this is powerful stuff – it gives me goosebumps just thinking about this definition.

President Barak Obama described it better than I ever could, by using one of the greatest people that has ever lived as an example. During Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg at the FNB Stadium, he said:

“And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa — Ubuntu — a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small — introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS — that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.”2

For me this also goes back to Integrity and Ethics. In a recent article on this subject I described what Integrity and Ethics means for me:

“When you consider the impact of your actions or in some instances inaction on society, your co-workers, your business relationships and on the environment, it is important to think of this holistically. Although your actions are not necessarily only physical in nature, for me Newton’s third law comes to mind and is equally important when dealing with the nonphysical; “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” – when you make a decision, whether it is to execute an action or decide on a route of inaction it not only impacts you, but also other people, their families, your co-workers, other businesses and/or the environment.”

Each one of us is part of this ecosystem that we call home (whether we look at South Africa or the World) and each of us has a huge responsibility to think more holistically about our role in making South Africa (and the World) a better place.

How do you start to think differently?

This is not an easy process, but if you remember our goal of making South Africa a better place where hope, community and ubuntu is pervasive, you will get there, especially with the help of your community.

I have been teaching myself over the last couple of years to be more positive and to look for opportunity in periods of adversity. This requires you to be aware of when things are not going to plan or when bad things happen and to then consciously decide to start looking for the positives and the opportunities.

For example: Let’s take the violence, vandalism and looting experienced in July in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. This supposed act of insurrection, high treason and sedition that may even be seen as an attempted coup in response to the incarceration of Jacob Zuma, was executed during a period where you could say that the amount of “kindling” was at a prime level to ensure its success.

And this is how I got my positive from this horrific attack on our democracy: The overwhelming majority of South Africans rose up together and quelled the fire. This demonstrates to me that we have grown, adapted and become more of a Rainbow Nation than we have ever been. For it is only a nation seeking peace with itself and the world that could stand united in the face of such an attack, during a period where we are dealing with a growing humanitarian crisis that we must all acknowledge and address.

What should we all be doing to step up to the challenge?

The time has come for each of us to start to think differently and challenge the small groups of people that still do not believe in an inclusive society. We need to be bringers of hope and builders of the community we live in:

  1. We need to start in our homes, with our close family and friends;
  2. From here we can build on this at work, in our neighborhoods, our towns, our provinces.

The damage done over the previous decades cannot be restored by only relying on our government – they need our help. Our President and our Government needs each of us to do our part to rebuild and make South Africa a better place for all. Businesses and communities need to think differently, be strong in our resolve and innovative in doing our part.

At wauko we believe that we can be leaders in helping people think differently, driving change and doing our part to make this happen. With our involvement in the Restore Africa Funds we support the ethos of the value driven movement towards the healing of both the land and people as reflected in the movement’s manifesto (available here).

We encourage all businesses in South Africa to step up to the challenge and would like to hear from you about what you have done or are doing on this journey!

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