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