Civil Society 2019

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Nombulelo Ngqayizivele Khumalo (33)

Intern Minister, Methodist Church

Nombulelo Ngqayizivele Khumalo  is an honour’s student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, studying a programme of gender, religion and health. Having just graduated from the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, where she obtained a bachelors degree in Theology, she is training to be a pastor.

As someone who was born intersex, Khumalo is adamant that a courageous stance is required by the church to welcome sexual minorities, not as visitors to the faith or people who need to be “cured” but as fellow brethren.

“Conversations on homosexuality and same sex relationships are heightened. The greater church community believes homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, a trend and a fashionable phase that will pass,” she says, commenting that her own journey to accepting herself as a homosexual woman has been filled with ups and downs and a lot of piercing stares from disapproving people, mostly Christian.

Although she acknowledges how far she’s come, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done: “Our society needs to recognise the unstoppable and growing momentum toward unjust civil equality for every gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersexed and transgender citizen of this country,” she says.

Being open about one’s sexuality may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start, she says, adding: “It has become clear to me that living a homosexual life without publicly acknowledging it is not enough and will not make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality, which is a call to the commandment to love one another”.

Khumalo yearns for a place and time when all people are seen as an image of God and not judged according to their sexual orientation.

When she is not studying, working or on the pulpit you will find her on the beach. — Welcome Lishivha 

Twitter: @NgqayiziveleZ 

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Noxolo Ntaka (25)

Noxolo Ntaka (25)

Project Manager, Democracy Works Foundation

Noxolo Ntaka has not only landed a managerial position straight after her graduate studies at the tender and exciting age of 25, but she has also served as the as co-chair of the 2018 Oxford Africa conference while completing her studies at the acclaimed institution.

Prior to joining the Democracy Works Foundation, she worked at the South African Institute of International Affairs while completing a second masters degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research focused on chairing Model United Nations (MUN) debates and providing training to high school learners in MUN debating style.

“Coming from a disadvantaged background, I have witnessed the power of debating and how it has transformed me into becoming a critical and engaged leader,” she says.

As project manager at the Democracy Works Foundation, she is tasked with the important responsibility of implementing and managing the democracy works academy, an annual initiative launched by the foundation in partnership with the in-transformation initiative.

The Academy offers a seven-month civic education and dialogue programme centred around increasing youth participation in South Africa’s democracy and it is geared towards youth across the country, between the ages of 19 and 25. It consists of three five day residential seminars throughout the year and an online learning curriculum.

Each year, a cohort of 30 fellows is selected from rural, township, semiurban and urban areas to engage and capacitate young people with the vision that they will go on to contribute to a more transparent and accountable society in whichever field they find themselves in the future.

This Academy comes at a crucial time, considering the low levels of voter participation amongst young people in the May general elections and the recognition that not enough is being done to ensure that youth have a seat at the table.

Ntaka considers herself a product of two Black women who gave her the opportunity to thrive despite her dire circumstances: Oprah Winfrey and Apie Ntaka, her mother.

“Twelve years ago, I did not really know what would become of my life in terms of what high school or university I would go to and who would pay for my fees. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls shifted the trajectory of my life in more ways than I could imagine. I am now a young Black girl with the permission to dream without constraint and have been affirmed of my dreams” she says. —Welcome Lishivha

Twitter: @ntaka_noxolo

Tracey Malawana (25)

Tracey Malawana (25)

Deputy Secretary-General, Equal Education

The 25-year-old advocacy firebrand, Tracey Malawana is also an Atlantic senior fellow for health equity in South Africa at Cape Town-based non-profit organisation Tekano. This means that she is an ambassador for change through initiating campaigns and transforming the state of health in South Africa, with the goal of attaining health equity for all.

Malawana is also the founder of the Health Living Alliance (Heala), which brings together like-minded organisations in a mission to improve the health of an increasingly obese South Africa. Heala’s overarching principle is to ensure that all South Africans have access to clean water and sufficient and healthy food. The organisation was established to reduce and prevent the alarming rate of non-communicable diseases in the country and also to raise awareness about the dangers of unhealthy food such as sugary drinks.

In her job as deputy secretary-general at Equal Education, Malawana serves as an internal and external political representative of the movement. She also supports all campaigns and ensures that all aspects of Equal Education’s work develop in accordance with the direction provided by the movement’s constitution and national congress resolutions, as she provides guidance and strategic direction on legal matters.

The two driving forces in her life ensure access to quality education and healthcare. And this explains the two highlights in her career: when the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure was legislated in November 2013, “after years of protesting, picketing, night vigils, community hearings, demonstrations by members of Equal Education especially equalisers, who are school-aged children,” she remembers.

The second is when the sugary drinks tax was legislated in December 2017, “after 18 months of countless community, mass media and social media engagement, public hearings, submissions, demonstrations outside Parliament and petitioning,” she remembers.

“Even though I might not live to see that day but the coming generation shall not experience the struggles of my generation, they shall enjoy the benefits of our advocacy and pick their own struggles,” she says.

Coming from a working class she attended a township school and did not have resources similar to the schools in town or the ones they saw reflected on TV.

“I started questioning everything and feeding my consciousness by reading books,” says Malawana, and by doing so she learnt that she needn’t be complacent about the social ills in the country, and that she had the power to make a difference.—Welcome Lishivha 

Twitter: @TraceyLulo 

Ayanda-Allie Payne (32)

Ayanda-Allie Payne (32)

Founder & Executive Director, Bukho Bami Youth Centre

An accomplished media professional with a wealth of experience across various platforms, 32-year old Ayanda-Allie Paine is a familiar face to many. But media wasn’t always what she imagined herself doing.

Growing up in Dobsonville, Soweto, Paine toyed with the idea of being a lawyer, primarily because she had the “gift of the gab” and a strong sense of justice. But she was intimidated by law books and attracted to the glare of the camera, so she gravitated towards broadcasting and fell in love with the profession. “Broadcasting exposed me to the best and the worst of the human condition and prompted me to venture into community development, with a particular focus on youth. So, I may not have ended up in a courtroom, but I still use my voice as a tool for social justice,” she says.

Her work in media is not her only contribution to society. Paine is also a qualified community development practitioner. She is the founder and executive director of Bukho Bami Youth Centre, an after-school care programme, which provides free educational assistance, career guidance, skills development and training to youth in under-resourced communities.

Her commitment to ensuring that the space in history and circumstances one was born into do not define the limits of what one can be was inspired by her own parents. Her father grew up in poverty but became the owner of a fleet of taxis and her late mother not only raised a family but influenced a community.

“Every day, men and women strive against tremendous odds to not only survive but thrive. The woman selling perishables on the side of the road, the man who collects refuse for a living, youngsters creating apps and grandparents raising toddlers — these things inspire me greatly,” Paine says.

Thuma Mina is a song that comes to mind when one looks Paine’s track record of service. And given her view that “there can be no greater honour than to serve one’s country and people”, the 32-year-old’s appointment as spokesperson for the minister of transport is an affirmation of the aptness of the song.

Twitter: @AyandaAllieP

Natasha Allie (34)

Natasha Allie (34)

Project & Communications Manager, Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation

Natasha Allie is committed to gender inclusivity and the empowerment of women and girls. She believes that there is a dearth of literature that focuses on women and so, to close this gap, she has co-authored a children’s book, Her Story: Daughters of Modjadji, a bilingual anthology of short biographies about South African women who made their mark on history. The book is aimed at inspiring young girls and showing them that they can be just like these incredible women when they grow up.

“I am the projects and communications manager for the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation, a 100% Black, female-run organisation charged with promoting the legacies of these two giants,” says Allie. “I have been so encouraged by the women that I have been privileged to work with, such as Getrude Shope, Frene Ginwala, Brigalia Bam and Thenjiwe Mtintso. Every day, the foundation strives to improve the lives of others.”

Gender inclusivity and the empowerment of women is close to her heart and the book Modjadji was published by a Black, women-owned publishing house, with the illustrations done by young women at high schools around Johannesburg.

“The stories of these women are told in such a way that young children can see themselves reflected and aspire to be like them,” says Allie. “I want to further my formal gender studies knowledge and learn as many languages as possible so I can be a catalyst for the development of women around the world. I want to live in a world where gender inclusivity and gender intersectionality are the status quo.”

Allie is committed to ensuring that women of colour do not have to constantly fight for their place in the world. “There have been people who have been so instrumental in my life,” she concludes. “My parents worked tirelessly to give me the best education and life experiences and I have been lucky to have been raised by formidable women. From my mother to my godmother to the women I call my friends, they inspire me to do the work I do.” — Tamsin Oxford

Twitter: @TashAllie 

Phakamile Khumalo (36)

Phakamile Khumalo (36)

Web Rangers Project Coordinator, Media Monitoring Africa

As lead coordinator for the web rangers programme, an international digital and media literacy programme in South Africa under Media Monitoring Africa’s children’s unit, a key component of Phakamile Khumalo’s work is providing South African youth with critical digital and media literacy skills. This is so that young people, aged between 12 and 17, are empowered to become online safety ambassadors who promote responsible internet usage among their peers and to ensure that the trained youth have a platform to engage in national discussions around issues of online safety, policy regulation, freedom of speech, access and internet governance.

In 2014, she worked with leadership placement non-governmental organisation enke Make Your Mark, where she was a coordinator of their flagship trailblazer programme, a nine-month social action program for pupils in grade 10 and 11 that trained, inspired and supported them in implementing projects that address social issues in their communities.

“I strive to ensure that the young people I work with live in a world where information, knowledge, accessibility to resources, opportunities and support are accessible. These play a key role in enabling young people to fully participate in creating a world they want to be part of,” she says.

She notes that working with youth and internet governance gives her the opportunity to constantly discover new ways to support young people in bringing about positive change in their communities. Being a newbie in the internet governance space, she has been invited to speak and participate in platforms such as the 2017 forum for internet freedom in Africa. In addition in 2018, she attended the Europe, Middle East, Africa Child Safety Summit presented by Google and Facebook, and she was awarded a full bursary to attend the 2018 African school of internet governance.

She’s also mother to a three-year-old daughter, and she ardently believes that her work will go a long way in creating a society in which her child can freely – and safely – participate as a citizen of this country. —Welcome Lishivha 

Twitter: @Phakazo28 

Mpho Maeko (29)

Mpho Maeko (29)

Executive Director, Bereavement Care 

Twenty-nine-year-old social worker Mpho Maeko is a social entrepreneur and the founder of Bereavement Care and Maeko Social Work Services. He holds an honours degress in social work from the University of Limpopo and has extensive experience in bereavement, trauma and grief therapy. He is passionate about his field of work after losing his mother at a young age.

“Growing up poor and an orphan taught me a lot about grit and survival, about how a piece of bread from a neighbour meant not going to bed with an empty stomach,” he says.

“This experience taught me to persevere and to share what little I have with those in need. There is nothing more fulfilling than giving a helping hand and having deep empathy.”

Death is a universal human experience and a crisis that all families encounter. It can be significantly disruptive and upsetting to the family system and the network of relationships. As a social entrepreneur, Maeko focuses on the field of bereavement and grief therapy.

“I provide bereavement counselling to families and help them try to accept what has happened and how to adjust to life without that person,” says Maeko.

“Helping them to find a place to keep the memories alive while ensuring they get along as best they can. My aim is to protect, enable and support the most vulnerable citizens of all ages so they can make the most of their lives.”

Maeko plans to use his role to tackle social issues in South Africa and to be a game changer through advanced social work service provision. Already, he is making an impression. Maeko is also provides social work services on a leading SABC TV show.

“My advice to young South Africans is to remember that there is nothing impossible with a willing heart,” he concludes. —Tamsin Oxford

Twitter: @BereavementBC 

Thato Lufuno Mahosi (26)

Thato Lufuno Mahosi (26)

Development Secretary, Masia Development Agency

Twenty-six-year-old Thato Lufuno Mahosi, who has always demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, established his poultry business along with his friends, when they were all still university students. They supplemented the business with whatever they could from their part-time jobs at the time. He and his friend wanted to seize the opportunity to expand the horizons in the poultry business which didn’t immediately work out, so they started farming in a two-room house in Tshisahulu village, near Thohoyandou in Limpopo Province.

They borrowed equipment from friends to maintain the business while they were studying. Upon completing his BComm in management studies from the University of Cape Town, Mahosi decided to take up a job and abandon his entrepreneurial journey for a telecommunications company because of the pressure to attend to his immediate needs and those around him.

Yet, over time, he realised that he couldn’t avoid his passion for entrepreneurship and development of rural communities.

This inner conflict reached a head when he was appointed by the Masia traditional council to initiate and run the community development trust now formally known as Masia development agency, which aims to initiate and implement development projects that will ensure rural socioeconomic development in the area around Vuwani town and improve access to information, to opportunities, jobs, better education, infrastructure development and any other initiative to will bring about development.

“This was an opportunity for me to be in a position where I use my passion, skills and knowledge to play a role in rural development and ensure that those in rural areas have access to the same opportunities, information, infrastructure and resources as those in the urban areas,” says Mahosi.

Together with other local education leaders, Mahosi launched the Masia maths and science academy, designed to improve the dire performance of maths and science by school children in the region, and to also reverse the impact of the Vuwani strikes on the schools in the area.

Mahosi also manages the community resource centre that has a library space, amphitheatre and office space that was provided for by the Department of Rural Development.

“The turning point in my career was when I visited India as part of an Allan Gray Orbis foundation and Start-Up safari entrepreneurship development trip. I was motivated by the drive the youth had in development start-ups and their enthusiasm and solutions to create jobs and solve social problems,” he adds. —Welcome Lishivha 

Twitter: @Thato_Lufuno

Kwezilomso Mbandazayo (32)

Kwezilomso Mbandazayo (32)

Programme Manager, Womens Rights and Gender Justice, Oxfam South Africa

Thirty-two-year-old Kwezilomso Mbandazayo is the women’s programme manager at Oxfam South Africa and has dedicated her life to fighting for the equality of women, eradicating the patriarchy and ensuring that women are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. She is passionate, dedicated and willing to go the extra mile for what is right. For many, Mbandazayo represents hope that things will change and get better for women all over the world.

“I am inspired by creation, creativity and Black women, especially Black women who misbehave,” says Mbandazayo. “I am also inspired by my father, Mahlubi Mbandazayo, as he affirmed me and everyone around him with his relentless undying spirit. He is still one of the leaders in my life 16 years after his passing.”

Mbandazayo works in a variety of different roles, all focused on contributing towards a strong, Black feminist movement. Her goal is to create a movement that is agile and capable of solving practical problems within a strong emancipatory vision.

“I want to contribute to the ultimate defeat of violence, in all its manifestations, and I believe that we all have the capacity to do better, to lead better lives,” she says. “I want to tie together Black families and I want our daughters to walk free and thrive.”

For Mbandazayo, Black women face a world that is essentially at war with them and she is focused on bringing about tangible change in society. She is committed to becoming even more deliberate in her teaching work and in her activism so as to embed this message deeper into society.

When asked what piece of advice she would give to young South Africans looking ahead to the future, looking to how they can bring about change, she says: “Always excite yourself with possibility and plan on doing better tomorrow.” —Tamsin Oxford 

Twitter: @KwezilomsoM

Thuthukile Mbatha (30)

Thuthukile Mbatha (30)

Researcher and Activist, Section27

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a relatively new HIV/Aids prevention intervention has the potential to influence the decline of new HIV/Aids infections if taken properly and effectively promoted amongst young people as an additional tool for HIV/Aids prevention, says 30-year-old researcher and activist Thuthukile Mbatha.

Her PrEP advocacy project is aimed at ensuring that young women in higher education institutions, are included in the country’s PrEP roll-out plans. During her Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition fellowship, where she was advocating for access to PrEP in higher education institutions, she realised that there was no way of separating HIV/Aids prevention from overall sexual and reproductive health issues because they are all interlinked.

She feels strongly about how women and girls have been subjected to a lot of social ills that have stripped them of these fundamental rights.

In 2017, a global movement called SheDecides was born as a response to United States President Donald Trump’s Global Gag Rule, which prevents every country that is a recipient of American donor funding from providing access to abortion services. Last year Mbatha joined the movement as a friend of SheDecides and participated in regional meetings that were aimed at establishing SheDecides Southern Africa.

The movement advocates for the right to access abortion services and supports the right of every woman and girl to decide what they want to do with their bodies, without question. Through her capacity as a friend of SheDecides, Mbatha was involved in the reviewing of the Southern African Development Community sexual rights and health rights strategy and Scorecard, which are the benchmark which countries in the SADC region use to measure progress in ensuring the realisation of sexual and health rights.

Mbatha’s activism involves the use of lobbying on mainstream and social media as well as community mobilisation and research. It also informs the overall organisational strategy on sexual and reproductive health rights which can potentially influence litigation strategies.

“I grew up in a religious home where sex was a taboo subject,” she says. “Our teachers were uncomfortable to even speak about menstruation. Having worked in the civil society space and in schools I realised that a number of children in disadvantaged schools are still following the same trajectory as I did and have to rely on their peers for sexual and reproductive health information. We have a lot of progressive policies and access to multiple interventions for a number of sexual and reproductive health matters that our people on the ground are unaware of.”

She dreams of an HIV/Aids-free generation, a world where girls and young women feel safe and free from gender-based violence.

In her spare time, Mbatha loves to travel, cook and dance. — Welcome Lishivha 

Twitter: @ThuthukileMbatha 

Richard McLaverty (30)

Richard McLaverty (30)

Advocacy Coordinator, NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq

Thirty-year-old Richard McLaverty’s role as the advocacy coordinator for the non-governmental coordination committee for Iraq (NCCI), a forum of over 180 Iraqi and international NGOs working across Iraq, is to provide aid to civilians affected by conflict. It involves collecting, analysing and disseminating information on the Iraq context, and working with partners to ensure a coordinated and effective response.

On a day-to-day basis, he communicates with various stakeholders including government authorities, embassies, donors, United Nations agencies and advocacy campaigns and policy colleagues from a range of humanitarian and development organisations.

In a day he could be briefing diplomats about NGO operations and the challenges they face, meeting a prospective donor, hosting a visiting delegation or facilitating coordination meetings. His job is to translate the reality of what is happening on the ground into what could lead to meaningful high-level interventions.

He notes that it is important to ensure that people on the ground know and work in the framework of humanitarian principles, ensuring that aid workers establish relationships and partnerships with the communities they serve and being accountable to them.

“It is important for people in our positions to constantly remind ourselves and continue to ask those sometimes difficult questions: Why we do what we do? Who we speak on behalf of? And why? Who gives us the right to be here?” he says.

For him, doing a good job comes down to knowing your constituency, establishing and maintaining relationships, being approachable and accessible, having clear and open lines of communication, a degree of adaptability and being open to criticism.

McLaverty has served on the UN Humanitarian Country Team and in doing so has received an overview and understanding into the humanitarian context and operations in Iraq. He acknowledges that he’s been fortunate to have had access to senior UN officials and diplomats, and to use the space to raise concerns from the humanitarian community, and provide some insight into the workings of NGOs in Iraq.

He also sits on a number of other committees including the protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse network, the Iraq humanitarian fund advisory board, and others. His career highlights include contributing to Iraq’s humanitarian response plan for 2018 and 2019, and being able to coordinate a UN cluster.

“It’s rewarding when your work is recognised around the world by senior stakeholders in high level discussions. It means the message on the ground has been heard and relayed,” he says.

Lots of caffeine is what keeps him going, as well as having an incredible social circle in Iraq, and friends and loved ones in South Africa. McLaverty holds a Masters of Science in African Studies (Politics), from the University of Oxford (St Antony’s College), an honours degree in Political Communication and Bachelor of Social Science in Politics and Sociology, both from the University of Cape Town. —Welcome Lishivha 

LinkedIn: Richard McLaverty

Sihle Phungula (30)

Sihle Phungula (30)

Founder, Door To Door Foundation

Senior town planner, Sihle Phungula is dedicated to strengthening democracy through civic education engagements and mobilisation of youth and marginalised groups, as a way to increase political consciousness and better organise and drive societal change.

He founded the Door to Door organisation, which aims to harness the potential of youth to become great leaders and active citizens while enabling young people to become self-reliant through education, entrepreneurship and activism. As executive director of the organisation, Phungula is the engine of organisation providing strategic direction, co-ordinating programmes facilitating social and business development with the youth.

“The lack of access to information as far as available opportunities for youth is concerned, is what propelled me to establish the foundation under the slogan, ‘opening doors and creating opportunity’. With a bit of mentorship and guidance, the future of our country rests safe in the hands of young people,” he says.

He also provides spatial planning and land use management support to both the Maphumulo and the Ndwedwe municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. In this capacity, he offers development planning to the communities and also mentors junior town planning technicians.

“My work is influenced by the word vukuzenzele.This is to dispel the myth that we are a lost and complacent youth that has a sense of entitlement, looking to government to change our fortunes, “ he adds.

One of Phungula’s biggest frustrations as a young South African is that the older generation is often reluctant to relinquish their power or position and make way for youth in spaces of influence.

“Youth should not just be involved in policy making process but they should also be given more opportunities to lead under the guidance and mentorship of the older generations, “ he says.

Included in his skillset is development planning, geographic information systems and environmental management which he uses mainly working in rural communities and with urban dwellers. Although his work with youth empowerment and town planning might seem different, for him they both allow him the chance to give back.

He considers his role as senior town planner a highlight in his career because he is able to contribute at strategic and operational levels in terms of shaping and uplifting the lives of Black rural South Africans.

He keeps fit in his downtime with outdoor adventure activities such as park-run and skydiving. —Welcome Lishivha

Twitter: @PhungulaSihle & @dtd_foundation 

Aslam Ricketts (26)

Aslam Ricketts is a young man from the Cape Flats who spent a significant portion of his life fighting for the funds he needed to complete his aviation training. In spite of an uphill battle, he managed to complete his studies and secured a prestigious role as a humanitarian pilot in South Sudan for the Red Cross while working for a South African aviation company called Ultimate Air.

“I was always hearing stories from my parents and other family members who had travelled around the world,” says Ricketts, “These stories of adventure and travel intrigued me and I knew that I wanted to see what the world had to offer. I grew up in a rougher part of Cape Town and my parents made many sacrifices to ensure my life was comfortable, but they inspired me to help others regardless of race, class or creed.”

Ricketts became a pilot because he loved flying and wanted to support people in regions where support and guidance were lacking. The company he works for, Ultimate Air, has contracts with humanitarian organisations across the globe, so Ricketts is able to fulfil his dream on every count.

“I feel so happy that I am able to bring much-needed aid, whether it is food or equipment, I know I have helped,” he says. “There are so many good people working in these awful conditions it feels rewarding to help in some way. To see the local people who have nothing, not even a pair of shoes, smile and wave, that is incredible.”

Ricketts wants to move into politics in the future, as he believes passionately that he can play a role in changing the world for the better. He wants to help South Africa reach its full potential and make a difference that lasts.

“They do say ‘go big or go home’, so I plan to go big,” he concludes. “I have always dreamed of being president and I think with lots more work, lots more studying, I may be able to be a part of the change that needs to happen, not just in South Africa, but the world.” —Tamsin Oxford 

Twitter: @Azzi_r7

Masechaba Vilakazi (34)

Masechaba Vilakazi (34)

Head of Corporate Citizenship, Samsung South Africa

Thirty-four-year-old Masechaba Vilakazi is head of corporate citizenship, public affairs and government relations at Samsung South Africa. She is responsible for the policy formation, strategy design and implementation of far-reaching social development programmes across Africa. She has launched new projects that enable learners from disadvantaged communities and for families with special needs. Her work focuses on providing people with access to innovation, information and learning tools that allow for the education of future generations.

“I am inspired by people who rise above adversity and use their challenges to do, and be, better in this world,” she says.

“In my current role I am responsible for conceptualising, developing and implementing innovative programmes designed to tackle business and social problems. I currently lead a team of social innovators at Samsung and together we identify projects in communities in Africa that are most in need of a meaningful contribution.”

For Vilakazi, giving back is fundamental to her choice of career and her passion. She aims to make the world a better place by giving power back to the people in less privileged communities.

“I plan to continue to champion my social development work by launching transformative projects to enable communities to thrive in their own economies,” she says.

“I am always helped along the way by my mother, Vuyiswa Dlengezele, as she has always believed in me and reminds me not to give up. She reminds me that every dark season comes to an end and the sun does shine again.”

Vilakazi says to young South Africans looking to strive for success in their own dreams: “Never give up and always be your own hero. South Africa is alive with beautiful possibilities and the youth of this country should never give up.” —Tamsin Oxford 

Twitter: @Mack_BirlT 

Muzi Zuma (27)

Muzi Zuma (27)

TV Presenter, BEAT

For 27-year-old TV makeup artist Muzi Zuma, makeup is about reminding people how beautiful they are and offers her, as an artist, an opportunity to have a positive and happy contribution in people’s lives.

“Makeup makes it easier for me to explore and express myself, this also means it allows to help others fall in love with expressing themselves too,” she explains.

Her parents were initially sceptical about her going into the makeup industry, but they came around: “It took a while to win my parents’ full support, but when I did get it, it propelled me to even greater things because they were now in my corner and I no longer wanted to prove them wrong, I just wanted to make them proud,” she adds.

Zuma is a finalist for this year’s Miss Gay South Africa pageant, a platform which allowed her to partner with the Pietermaritzburg gay and lesbian network and Access Chapter 2 to tackle issues affecting the quality of life of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual (LGBTIQA+) community.

“I am doing this so that I can use my voice to call out any discrimination and abuse on the grounds of sexual orientation”.

Zuma is also working with the Department of Health and the non-profit organisation TBHIVcare, as an ambassador for health care.

“So many of my fellow brothers and sisters don’t even go to clinics, hospitals and police stations because they fear being ridiculed, mocked and patronised by the public staff,” she says. “This needs to stop because it directly impacts our health, security and access to justice.”

Zuma considers herself an activist of “self first, advocating for self-knowledge, self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-love and self-contentment”, all of which are radical acts for a marginalised community like the LGBTIQA+ that’s often treated as second-class humans.

For Zuma, and many members of the queer community, acceptance is a constant struggle, which is why she adds, “I don’t want to be ‘tolerated’ or treated like a test-tube project because of my bold individuality and expressionism. I also no longer want to lose work because of my sexuality and gender fluidity. I want to be treated like a human by humans, because that’s all I am”.

She has charted new paths for herself and for those who come after her. Her notable accolades include shooting her fashion film documentary with MAC cosmetics which received two Bokeh international fashion film festival nominations. She has also done the make up of Grammy award winner Lalha Hathaway and hosted her own makeup masterclasses in Africa as an independent freelancer. —Welcome Lishivha 

Twitter: @Muzi_Z