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The Not-So Invisible Teacher (Part two) -My Work Placement

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Tuesday, 01 July 2014
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When I heard that I would be placed at Higher Achievement, I was very pleased with that. Being someone who is unfathomably passionate about education and using education as a tool for socio-economic transformation, Higher Achievement is right up my alley. It is an organization which aims to provide scholars -usually from 'disadvantaged' (that is how the government eloquently puts it) background -with a headstart in their upcoming academic year in the form of extra and co-curricular programs. These programs are ultimately designed to enable scholars to meet the admission requirements of prestigious high schools so that the opportunity gap between social classes can be narrowed. I love Higher Achievement because I believe in its goals and its mission; equal opportunity and bridging the opportunity gap so much that quality education becomes accessible to all students -irrespective of their socio-economic background.

 

 

I have been very fortunate in that I have had some wonderful opportunities thrown into my path. I attended a prestigious pre-primary school, which effectively laid a good educational foundation. By the time I got to grade 1, I was already able to read and write words which were far beyond my age-group. I was fortunate enough to attend schools outside of my beloved Gugulethu, which is something I don't take for granted at all. Life would have been very different had I not had the fortune of that. I hope, through my work exposure at Higher Achievement, I can gain all the knowledge and the skills required to start something like the organization in my community as well.

 

 

I believe, unapologetically at that, that quality education and equal opportunities are an inalienable and non-negotiable human right. I believe that everyone has a specific purpose and a specific calling, mine would be transforming the ducation system in South Africa -starting with my community and starting by introducing a program which closes the opportunity gap. I've said it before and I'll say it again. There's a new sheriff in town. Some serious change needs to be catalyzed. I'm not playing games. A life and a society where there is still blatant inequality infuriates me, and I won't sit around and let that continue on my watch. I'm about many lives but not that one in particular, and as my new American friends would say, "I aint about that life yo".

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50 Shades of Coloured

by Lauren Hess
Lauren Hess
Hi, I'm Lauren Hess - tea drinker, critical thinker and lover of all things witt
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
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Sitting on the metro, I looked up to notice a woman and her husband staring in my direction. Not sure how to respond, I went with my go-to reaction of smiling which seemed to prompt her to approach me.


Her: “You have such exotic skin.”

Me: “Uhh. Thank you.”

Her: “So, what are you?”

Me: “…”


Across continents, cultures, cities and all sorts of spaces; my ethnicity never ceases to confuse or spark some kind of curiosity in people – and DC has been no exception. As markers of race and ethnicity continue to be viewed as inherent biological differences; for many, the need to know is partly curiosity and partly trying to figure out how to process me through a lens of what is ‘expected’ from someone of my race. To answer those, I identify as ‘coloured’ (a perfectly acceptable term back in South Africa), which I would guess would make me ‘mixed race’ here. But what does that mean? With so many combinations, shades and cultural practices found across the coloured spectrum (as found in any and all race groups) the process of trying to classify a people group according to specific physical characteristics is shown to be particularly ludicrous.


Along with more specific requirements such as hair type the general requirement for Apartheid classification was that one should be “in appearance, obviously a [insert race group] person who is generally not accepted as a [insert another race group] person”. Due to these vague classifications, which had as much to do with appearance as social behaviours, many members of the coloured populations attempted to be reclassified – and were often successful. ‘Successful’ reclassifications resulted in the splitting of families based of varying shades of ‘colouredness.


This reclassification (and the apartheid system in general) created a hierarchy, within the coloured community, as the majority aspired to ‘whiteness’. This is a trend that has been seen across the world, but more often in societies where race has been used as an instrument of oppression and privilege. Today, these ideas still permeate the subconscious of the ‘coloured’ community in Cape Town where straight hair, green eyes and lighter skin remain prized possessions. In my own family we range from having afro’s to silky straight hair; from porcelain pale skin to the richest of ebonies.

 

While race continues to be an important part of society and a necessary one in order to address past inequalities, I hope that in future we will be able to transcend these socially constructed boundaries which have caused such real tragedies – not only in South Africa, but across the world.


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The Spirit Of St Louis

by Erwyn Durman
Erwyn Durman
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Over the past week we have been to a host of museums and memorials and all have been contributory to the themes of war, civil rights or politics in some way or another. Yesterday, on the 29th of June we went to the National Air and Space Museum, which changed up the general trend and allowed us to learn about some fun facts from the scientific world.


There were many impressive exhibits on display some of the hi-lights included: Sputnick 1, the Wright Flyer (the worlds first successful aeroplane) and the Moon Rover. The exhibit that I will most remember was the one where we made our last stop on the tour. It was of an Aeroplane called the Spirit of St Louis. The story behind this plane is an enduring one and serves as an example of determination of one mans will power to succeed in an outrageous task. That man is Charles Lindbergh.


Charles Lindbergh, was an aviator who is known famously for the FIRST non stop solo flight across the Atlantic. The purpose behind Lindebergh achieving this feat was as a result of a challenge set out by Raymond Orteig, for a total of 25,000 dollars, to the first person who would make the trip from New York City to Paris.


What is so remarkable about Lindbergh's journey is his employment of some rational yet irrational methods. There were many that doubted whether he would succeed but also whether he would make it out alive. Here are a few of the crazy techniques Lindbergh used in his arduous journey:


1. Side panel windows were removed: There was a method to Lindbergh's madness. He did this so he would have a constant flow of air in the cockpit. Lindbergh was fearful that he would fall asleep and relied on the constant flow of air to keep him awake. He did report that there was one occasion that he recalled of falling asleep but fortunately he awoke to steer on.


2. There is NO cockpit window: Lindbergh requested that the large main and forward fuel tanks were placed in the forward section of the fuelage, which was in front of the pilot. This helped with the center of gravity but also meant that he had no window to look out of. Lindbergh's argument was that he had no need for a cockpit window as either the sun blocked his view or the cloudy atmosphere did not allow him to use the window. How then did he navigate himself? Well he would constantly look out the window frame of the side panels. Our tour guide explained to us that at some points he would fly close to the ocean and estimate the height of the waves and the direction in which they moved to orientate himself. He also had his trusty compass assisting him.

 

3. What did he eat?: Food was not a problem ,he took three sandwiches with him on his trip, of which he only hate half of one sandwich.

 

 

Lindbergh flew a distance of 3600 miles or 5800 km non stop which translates to a total of 33.5 hours without any sleep. The Spirit of St Louis captures the minds of both the elderly and the young. It is a story of bravery but also of a man who was determined to see through a task, no matter how ludicrous it may have been. Charles Lindbergh's adventure is not only a story of one persons life experience but a metaphor of the Human Spirit. As each day continues here in DC and with many of the conversations I have with my peers, the interns at work and the highly profiled people I have met, there is one thing  I am always left bewildered by. That one thing is the infinite potential that of the Human Spirit.

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Immigration Reform for Who?

by Ishara Ramkissoon
Ishara Ramkissoon
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
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Immigration reform must be one of the most conscientious issues facing America currently. With opposing views from citizens and government, this a long battle waiting to happen in the near future. As a South African, one can only hope that the situation doesn't escalate to something similar to the Xenophobic attacks of 2008 throughout South Africa.

On Saturday morning, with all the construction happening on the Metro lines, I was forced to transfer to a taxi in order to get to my session. Initially displeased by this inconvenience, it turned out to be a great experience for me! The taxi driver was very pleasant when he picked me up and we engaged in light conversation.

Pleasantries were observed and we found common ground - we are both African. He is originally from Ethiopia, having immigrated here 13years ago. He now holds a green card and even owns the the taxi he drives, serving as a private contractor for the taxi company. During the drive, because we felt the African connection, communication just flowed and it felt as if we were old time friends from back home. Surprisingly, he found it odd that I am Indian and from South Africa ( not the first time I encountered that here). Everything from politics and crime in South Africa to rape and the judicial system in India - I was so impressed not that he knew about these topics, but that we could have such an intellectual conversation and a global comparison of social issues affecting developing countries. Our conversation was more than just skin deep, even touching in the psyche of man (yes, Oscar Pistorius did come up) and the fall of mankind into chaos.

At some point in the conversation, he asked about me trip to Washington DC and I mentioned to him that I am in my final year of medical school. He then said something to me that I will never forget - he was a qualified medical doctor back in Ethiopia but working as a taxi driver in America in order to provide for his family back home.

Here is a man who is willing to sacrifice many long and difficult years of studies for the sake of his family thousands of kilometers away. A man contributing to the American economy through hard work. An individual who considers himself as much of an American as he does African and therefore wants to see the success of both continents.

So I ask the question: why the need for immigration reform? Is it truly to regulate who is coming into the country and what the individual can contribute? Or is it to appease the minds of others who aren't happy with ideal of an "American America "?

 

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State of Emergency: Democracy despite Poverty

by Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni
Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni
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The harsh landscape of South Africa’s democracy carries in its crevices the secret hopes and idealism of “a better life for all”. Two decades into democracy, glimmers of this hope still linger amid extreme poverty. The enduring hope of South Africans is seen in the popular aspirations of ‘the people’, with 56% of South Africans stating that the county will be in a much better condition economically  twelve months’ time from the time the Afrobarometer survey was taken 2012.It is positive that a majority of South Africans have confidence in the economic future of S.A.

 

Across literature,  we begin to understand that the better a country performs economically the greater the likelihood of sustaining its democracy. This points towards a positive probabilistic relationship between the economic growth of a country and the survival of a democracy. The latest scholarship however has revised this understanding which is commonly known as 'Lipset’s law'. This revision is based on the understanding that “third wave” democracies have been assembled in both flourishing and extremely poor countries

Even though we know of the positive relationship between democracy and economic growth, there has surprisingly been minimal work or insights given on the relationship between poverty and democracy.

My beloved country, South Africa has a growing economy and has had a fairly stable democracy with  a vibrant civil society and  free and fair election.

Whilst S.A stands as the paragon of democratic governance in S.A, It is worth asking how poverty or rather inequality impacts the quality of our democracy.

Do people who experience higher levels of poverty demand less democracy-does democracy increasingly  become a luxury good rather than being   intrinsically valuable when people experience high levels of poverty? How does poverty impact democracy?

South Africa’s economy, because of  its contradictions and untidiness has been described as a ‘cappuccino economy’. This is an economy with frenzied growth; in this metaphor the black majority is consumed with steady or no activity at the bottom of the cup with a white minority gleaning from the creamy froth at the top and a few black elite as a chocolate sprinkle at the top.

My questions about the “D” word and poverty are ones we ought to continuously examine, relentlessly, tirelessly, persistently because if they are left unanswered they will affect the future of our nation and continent. Poverty and inequality threaten the quality of a democracy and the people must urgently work towards building a more equal society. This is a state of emergency…

I say this because poverty and inequality are the hallmarks of a divided society. Unless we deal with this wicked issue, the chasms in service delivery will continue to negatively impact the overall quality of life that we espouse towards.

This is a state of emergency.

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a tour of Google

by Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni
Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni
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Early in the morning on Friday the 28th of June, the team gathered  at the doors of Google ready for a tour, we were about to walk into the offices of thee most widely used search engine on the World Wide Web.

It would be fair to say that the entire experience seemed surreal, particularly because one seldom thinks of GOOGLE in physical terms, as an institution or as having a building to host people in.

We began with a breakfast and sat attentively listening to Ben Blink. He is the head of the International Relations division at Google and he invited a number of staff members who generously shared their time with us, explaining the work that they do. Listening to them alone, our minds ventured to the uncommon place.

As we walked through their corridors we walked past their offices, and the entire building oozed of creativity. Knowing the brand, heart and quality of work that is produced at Google, I could only imagine the conversations shared around the office, in their brainstorming rooms.

I felt my ideas about the future sharpen just from walking in their corridors and seeing the creative clamor of the green, yellow, blue, and red Google colors. I longed to sit down in their ideation room or to walk and talk about inventions, technologies, designs, things that no-one else had considered.

Google strikes me as a place where everyone values innovation and original ideas. It is a home for possibility thinkers, innovators and for original ideas.

I completely enjoyed my experience at GOOGLE, it was mind and eye-opening. For the first time I thoroughly understood that technology is an indispensable tool for deepening democracy and for engaging citizens. It was more enlightening though realizing that technology can be used creatively to shape and influence the politics of our day.

 

The work and vision of Google immediately expanded my vision as we listened and we walked out, generating new and innovative ideas about start-ups that we could start in S.A.

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The Law of Attraction - What a blessed experience!

by Boipelo Ndlovu
Boipelo Ndlovu
http://www.sawip.org/sawip-team/sawip-team-2014
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On the 26th of June 2014, we had a discussion with Congressman James E. Clyburn at the Home of Tom and Carol Wheeler.

As I began researching Congressman Clyburn, reading whatever material I could get my hands on, I could not believe that I did not know anything about him prior to my Washington, DC journey. He broke barriers through peaceful protests and steadfast beliefs in equality and justice. He explained that he did not just knock down doors and brake barriers, but he also marched the streets and occupied South Carolina jail cells. Congressman is the third highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, U.S.

 

As the evening progressed, I would learn and understand why President Barack Obama described him as, “one of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens.” When he spoke, my team and I listened. He has a remarkable presence.

 

Congressman Clyburn was accompanied by his daughter, Mignon Clyburn, a Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, and his nephew, Walter Reed. Not only did they have a notable presence, but they were sincere and humble too. We had two prominent figures dedicate their time to us, a group of young and hopeful people who have a vision for our country. I am constantly learning and drawing inspiration from everyone and anyone I can learn from generally and while in America. Therefore, when I took note of their leadership style, I was profoundly inspired. I believe that it is important to become a leader that is not only knowledgeable, but one that imparts knowledge and your experiences to others as well. We are in need of a generation that mentors and advises young people, those leaders that are willing to leave their offices to engage with young people. The more I get exposed to such leaders, the more I become immersed with being a servant leader.

 

As I was reading up on Congressman, prior to the session, I came across his book, Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black. After reading the reviews, I knew I had to read it. I decided I was going to buy the book and ask him to sign it after the session. I was that excited about this session. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I was not able to buy the book. However, the most amazing thing happened. God intervened. At the end of the session, Carol Wheeler ran a raffle draw on an extra book she had. No one picked the marked paper in the first round. Sad and disappointed, Commissioner Clyburn and I made arrangements for me to buy a book and have it signed by Congressman on a different day. We all tried our luck again in the second round of the draw. Carefully picked, with a quick “God, please can I get it” prayer and hope, I opened the red raffle paper to see a mark on it. How amazing? The law of attraction is always working, whether we are aware of it or not. God is always at work.

 

There are many lessons I took from the session, including:

 

  • We should stop talking and start doing.
  • Confront the issues you are facing first then deal with them.
  • Don’t try to make those you are leading understand you; you must try to understand them.
  • There is no limit to getting what you want accomplished as long as you don’t need to take credit for everything.
  • "While I breathe I hope. If you still breathing you have to keep going. It's not accepting defeat. It's inhumane to give up".
  • Always be conscious of your environment, not satisfied.
  • When you win, brag gently, when you lose, weep softly.

 

I opened my book to find these simple but profound words, “To Boipelo Ndlovu, Be a Blessing”.

What a blessed experience.

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A ‘Blessed Experience’

by Erwyn Durman
Erwyn Durman
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On the 26th of June we were afforded the opportunity to meet Congressman James E. Clyburn, of South Carolina, as well as his eldest daughter Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (of the Federal Communications Commission). I am almost certain that a great many of my SAWIP team members will be writing a blog on this session. Why? Because, it was a night where 18 young South African Leaders sat around two people whose words dripped with wisdom and experience. It was a night where leadership was presented to us in its truest form.

The Congressman has recently released a book entitled: ‘Blessed Experience: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black’. On this night he shared with us some of what was said in his book but also there was the additional personal touch. I sat on the floor this evening, in the lounge of Tom and Carol Wheeler, and whilst the Congressman shared his stories, a nostalgic feeling overtook me. I was reminded of the fondest memories in my childhood, where I would sit with my granddad listening to all of his adventures and laughing at the quirky jokes he would make.

The beauty of this evening was relayed in the type of leaders the Congressman and the Commissioner are. They shared with us a great deal of golden nuggets and all through their own personal experiences and stories. One story that stands out for me was when the Congressman first ran in the general election of South Carolina. He was first announced the winner of the election but was called up at 3am and then declared a 500 vote loser as opposed to a 500 vote winner. The words that got him through this ordeal were written on a sticky-note that his wife placed on the mirror in their bathroom. The words read:

‘When you win, brag gently and when you lose, weep softly’

The Congressman told us that, that morning he wept softly. There were other narratives where the Congressman and the Commissioner had endured failure and with patience and resilience were able to bounce back to establish themselves indelibly in society. Perhaps, why we will remember this night so well is that these two immense leaders were not afraid to share their hardships, their vulnerabilities and their failures with students who they have met for the first time. The Congressman and Commissioner spoke to something that all human beings have and something that most leaders try to hide or cover up. They spoke to our insecurities. Dealing with these insecurities is a challenge we all take up and we all are trying to overcome them. But in the mean time we can become extremely harsh and patronizing of ourselves. On this night I learnt that whilst caring about my reputation is important and worrying how others perceive me is imperative to present a good image, there is an aspect that is far more valuable. That aspect is to just be myself and accepting that well there will be occasions where the public may not see that as good enough. Having the courage to simply be myself is imperative to not losing my identity. The message I received on this remarkable evening was that failure is not the end of the journey but the start of one.

We were blessed to have met and engaged with the Commissioner and Congressman. Their words will resonate with me for many years to come.

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Oh Human Spirit, against all odds, why art thou so great?

by Velani Mboweni
Velani Mboweni
Hand to the helpless, Friend to the lonely. Wears glasses that are prescribed fo
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An Ode to the Observations of the indomitable Spirit

During the course of Week 2 in DC, our theme was "Global Affairs". However, there was an implicit theme within it - The Triumph of the Human Spirit. With all intents to keep this intro brief, let's engage....

Slavery



Oh Human Spirit, why art thee so great? You endured shackles of changes, the noose of oppression and dispare. You fought every single death-ensuring day one-by-one with no physical hope of a brighter tomorrow but a sense of a greater time to come. You looked in the eyes of your oppressor and told them what you wanted - liberty, life & freedom - regardless of the punishment that awaits. Human Spirit, you sang songs to lift you up when all signs were down. Whether 12 Years a slave or 12 generations a slave, you kept on keeping on - showing the strength of your power.

OH Human Spirit, why art thee so great?

When society tried to mold you, prison couldn't hold you. Apartheid couldn't break you, Laws tried to shake you and sure as the sun would rise again, neither violence, racism or genocide could take you. Spirit of Spirits, you took the anguish upon yourself - pressed forward, covered your wounds and sought the journey that would set you free. Oh Human Spirit, you show how determination, discipline and commitment to your destiny have been the key ingredients to success.

Oh Human Spirit, why art thou so great?

You push on - beyond the barriers defined by your foes. You push on, as the captives are set free. You push on to ensure that neither those that have come before you and those that arrive after will be greeted in the name of triumph, record and history of the infinite possibilities. You know it well indeed that our deepest fear is not that you are inadequate, rather that you are powerful beyond measure.

Oh Human Spirit, why art thee so great?

Perseverance and diligence are your key character traits. You sweat tirelessly to overcome all the challenges you face - yet overcome, eventually, you do. Your integrity is conveyed in your results - when trial or tribulation cometh your way, it is as if you had already seen and prepared for it. You are never down for the count - though you stumble - you reign victorious! 

Oh Human Spirit, why art thee so great?


You have fallen down 12000 times, yet you get up 12001! You sore above your critics as you commit to the impossible, yet even your commitment itself says "i'm possible". You are the first to confess that the road you travel is not easy, yet you smile, wave, laugh and celebrate the fact that it certainly is one worth embarking on. You are the spirit of a champion - you are the champion. You have seen the boundaries draw with chalk; you dust the path away, crossing it and instructing like to confront you with a new challenge. You rise above all, as the crtics scheme and believe the 555 secrets hidden astray. Yet it is you who is the indomitable. You are the one who treasurers failure as a vital ingredient for success. Oh Human Spirit, why art thee so great?


 

You are the overcomer. You are the one who understood that in order to 

You have showed that you are the captain of your fate and the master of your destiny.
Oh Human Spirit, your greatness abounds and transcends the depths of the ocean whilst the breadth of mother earth cannot possiblly define you. For you, yes you, are above and beyond more than this weathe

 

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Vires acquirit eundo

by Dalisu Jwara
Dalisu Jwara
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Another week has gone by,and there have been so many lessons, so many questions answered but alot more questions remain. We visited tons of museums,but one that stood out for me was the National Gallery of Art-we saw works by Raphael,Leonardo Da Vinci and Picasso. Its amazing how certain works of art and sculptures designed in the 16th century are still intact and still look majestic.Joyce,gave us a guided tour,and we were even joined by bystanders due to her brilliance and eloquent responses to challenging questions.

 

On tuesday,we had our annual Woodrow Wilson Center-Thato,Velani,Lauren and Kessler all engaged in a meaningful panel discussion about South Africa,and the great structural challenges still facing South Africa. They made the whole team proud, I was inspired by Velani’s words when he said that Business in South Africa should stop engaging in zero-sum ‘behavioural engagements’ he mentioned that we all need to find collaborative ways in which we can all win whilst working together. I am proud to be representing my country in foreign shores,more so given the fact that I am constantly engaging with the brightest of the bright leaders. Singing the national anthem after the panel discussions made me emotional-the words reminded me of back home but also served as a reminder of my purpose here in Washington DC.

 

During the latter part of the week-we had the honour of meeting Congressman Clyburn and his daughter Commissioner,I took down notes profusely and listened to the vast amounts of knowledge they both had to share. The session was hosted at Carol and Tom Wheeler’s residence.Here are a few lessons.

-Your experiences are different and because they are different your views of the world will not be the same.

-There is no limit to what you can achieve if you don't get hung up on who gets the credit. -If you still breathing you gotta keep going.

-When it seems like your darkest hour it truly is not.

-When you win brag gently and when you lose weep softly.

 

The Clyburns inspired me to embrace who I am, to accept my flaws and to combine that into my daily approach to life. Life becomes so much easier,and we ourselves become much more effective,when we accept the beauty of who we are as individuals. My last lesson,is based on two things that Congress Clyburn told me, he said I won’t be an effective leader,if the people I lead-dont feel me,and secondly he told me to understand the individuals I seek to lead,instead of the other way round. I have to understand their dreams,hopes and aspirations in order to fully deliver meaningful solutions to them.

 

Heres to another leadership lesson…..those I lead shouldn’t necessarily understand me but I must understand them. As the title of my blog says Vires acquirit undo - “It gains strength by going” -this captures how I feel in DC...I am still going and still growing…...

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Economic incentives for constitutional reform

by Bongani Ndlovu
Bongani Ndlovu
Hey There, glad you finally found your way to my SAWIP Blog. I am a Finance and
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
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The African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA is law that was signed by United States (U.S) congress on May 18th 2000. This act seeks to create tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts in building a free market system. However, it was not highlighted when the bill was signed on who ultimately benefits from such a trade agreement with an African country. The act enabled African firms to export into the United States at a duty free rate.

 


The benefits of the act is that it acts as an incentive for African countries ensure that there is a rule of law within the country in order to be eligible for the duty free exports and imports. The benefits are beyond the economics within the country, the act indirectly betters the life of ordinary citizens within a country. Also, the act ensures that the barriers for investment and trade in the US are eliminated. This extends the market size of the industries beyond the borders of the countries and ultimately creates jobs and the Gross Domestic Product.

 


The act also ensures that the countries who want to work with the U.S make efforts to combat corruption. This requirement from African country trade is seemingly the most essential as the continent is plagued with corruption on all levels of government and private institutions. I believe that if an African country wants to lead the world when it comes to economic growth. It will have to invest resources into ensuring accountability and transparency in different sectors of leadership.

 


In the same light I am equally compelled to look at what incentives then do countries who do not trade with the U.S have? Why would they invest in ethical training of its leaders in both government and business?

 

The truth however is that these countries have a Constitution that they need to uphold for law and order. The Constitution is enough. Countries in Africa do not need a free market system which exports primary goods only to import tertiary goods at a marked-up price. They need self-initiated constitutional reform that will ensure that basic human rights are respected even with an left-winged and ailing economy.

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Washington DC Unmasked

by Brynne Guthrie
Brynne Guthrie
3rd year LLB student at the University of Pretoria. Passionate about debate, hum
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
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I guess that it’s ironic that my last blog was about uncomfortable shoes because this one is about the hospital trip which was a result thereof. On Monday evening I ‘visited’ George Washington University Hospital (I use the inverted commas because I usually associate visits to places fun things such as tea drinking) for a not-so-routine check up to make sure that I didn’t have a blood clot. I don’t, by the way. Upon arrival and hearing that I had travelled through Dubai to get to DC, the nurse proceeded to fit me with a surgical mask to ensure that I didn’t spread any exotic diseases that I may or may not have picked up in my brief transit time. This was a less than pleasant way to spend four hours in the waiting room, but the observations I made from behind the mask make for great blog material.

For the last 21 years I have been fortunate enough to have access to private hospitals and so this was my first trip to an academic facility. In South Africa we hear horror stories about damaged or non-existent medical infrastructure so I must point out that this academic hospital was fairly impressive. The hospital was busy though, and as I said, we waited for a long time before being helped. I was only discharged the following morning, in fact. The thing that struck me, however, was how willingly and quietly the people in the waiting room sat in line to be helped. Obviously, this is done out of necessity as this is the only medical care of them will receive but this reaction stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming perception I have had of Americans so far. That perception is that people here are always in a hurry. Standout examples for me are the fact that people stand aside on escalators for people who wish to walk up or down them. That seems unthinkably unnecessary to most South Africans – I mean, the stairs move for you! The second example occurs whenever you choose to chance crossing the street while the pedestrian sign is nearing the end of its countdown. As soon as the light goes green for the cars, the hooters blast in your direction and you’re forced to run across the rest of the street in a terribly undignified manner. It was because of things like this that the patience of the majority of the patients was surprising to me.

The waiting room was a mixing of cultures and socio-economic groups. It seemed to be made up of everyone from homeless people to men in expensive suits. All of whom were united by their panicked looks each time I coughed from behind my surgical mask. What particularly struck me was that people don’t speak to one another. At one point during the evening, there was a small child walking around talking to patients while her parents slept in their chairs nearby. Each and every person she tried to speak to ignored her flat-out. It was odd considering how involved South Africans tend to become in lives of those around them – even in microcosms such as hospital waiting rooms.

I read somewhere that you only really know a country when you have visited one of their hospitals (ok, so the actual quote may say prisons but I think I have artistic license). My little visit was scary but it solidified a lesson that I have been learning ever since we arrived in DC. The short and the long is that no matter what the media says no country is perfect. Every nation has its problems but most importantly, we have our own unique ways of dealing with them. So while in public hospitals long waits are often met with anger, the Americans choose to be patient and while South Africans thrive in a community setting, Americans are individuals. Recognising these differences helps us to recognize the things we can borrow from other cultures but also the things we should celebrate about our own.

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Justice?

by Kessler Perumalsamy
Kessler Perumalsamy
Law student with an appreciation for wit, irony and humor. Frequent tea-drinker
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
Experience 0 Comment

Earlier this week, at the South African Washington International Programme’s Woodrow Wilson Event, the South African ambassador to the United States gave a laudable speech in which he spoke of the obligations young South African’s owe to their country and those who came before them who could not realise their own dreams. Our difficult past, which entrenched racial segregation, meant that at the heart of this unjust system, many black South Africans had to capitulate their dreams and aspirations in favour of fighting for a just system.


One thing that the ambassador said which struck me was ‘we had to give up justice for reconciliation’. As a keen student of legal philosophy and jurisprudence, the choice of words perplexed me. Ideas of justice, and how society perceives justice to be done is a very interesting concept which South Africans are probably significantly more qualified to speak about than others. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) meant that we had to give up retributive justice in exchange for reconciliatory justice. At the heart of this quasi-judicial body, was the idea that South Africa will be able to bridge its broken divide by open and honest dialogue; by sharing the horrific stories that families, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers had experiences so that they may find some closure.


Central to all theories of justice is a sense of fairness and morality often based on ethics, reason or religion. The TRC was created on the realisation that in order to build a new country, an open and honest conversation about our past was needed, without the fear of reprisal, as this would likely keep those stories underground.


Justice takes many forms, and to many people, it may mean different things, but to many South African’s, a prerequisite to building a new country was allowing people to come forward with their stories so that families may properly grieve and find closure. The evidence, and perhaps impact of this can be found in the video footage of some victims and perpetrators alike grieving and mourning about the atrocities they had committed and the impact of this on families who had lived with this pain for many years.


A retributive form of justice, which seems to be— is— the conventional form of justice does not exclusively amount to justice in and of itself, and isolation of this form of justice, as a seeming exchange for reconciliation is problematic in the face of a great deal of racial and social divide that South Africa had to overcome, and still today struggles at piecemeal to overcome. The vengeance which comes from retributive justice, as Justice Albie Sachs puts it, is exchanged for "soft vengeance" in the hope that we are able to build rather than destroy.

 

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20 years of Democracy

by Courtney Roots
Courtney Roots
Hello! My name is Courtney. I am from Cape Town but currently studying postgradu
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
Experience 0 Comment

One of the bigger events that the SAWIP team attends while in DC is the Woodrow Wilson event. This year, the SAWIP 2014 team was able to listen to three different panel discussions with topics including “South Africa the next 20 years (the role of technology, business and entrepreneurship)” and “South Africa after 20 years of Democracy”. A few of the panel speakers include Enos Banda, Donna Katzin, Gwendolyn Mikell, Colin Coleman and of course a few of our very own SAWIP 2014 team members namely Thato Mabudusha, Lauren Hess, Velani Mboweni and Kessler Perumalsamy.


I found the discussions incredibly interesting. It was an opportunity to express various visions for South Africa and how South Africa has grown over the last 20 years of democracy. The discussion between my fellow team members was one of my personal highlights.


While discussing the topic of “South Africa after 20 Years of Democracy” my fellow team members brought up the following concerns. Thato discussed the idea of vision orientated and service orientated leadership. Her opinion, and one that I share, is that this type of leadership has been lacking in South Africa and it is clear that there is more that can be done in terms of leadership in South Africa. Lauren brought up the concern of inequality in South Africa (and it is quite a big concern at that). It seems as if the issue of inequality has affected various structures, racial dynamics and class levels due to the fact that opportunities are available but only to a few select. In order to address this issue, Lauren suggests that a greater focus on quality leadership should be maintained in business, at grassroots level, within government, etc.

 

It was great to hear their vision and views for the future South Africa and often their views also represented a few of the SAWIP 2014 team members’ visions. I think the best part of watching my fellow team members up on the panel was seeing the audience members and their reactions to what was being said. It was clear that listening to several thought-provoking, young leaders of South Africa was a wonderful opportunity and one that was well-received I have always enjoyed engaging with my fellow team members and very honestly, I feel that I learn so much more through these types of discussions. Every opportunity where I am able to do this makes my SAWIP experience that much better.

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You gotta drown out all the noise

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Sunday, 29 June 2014
Experience 0 Comment

Being in a foreign country all alone, particularly if it is your first time being away from home, can make you feel very disillusioned. I guess it's natural to occasionally have doubts about the decisions you make, because that all too familiar voice of certainty is drowned out by the unfamiliarity of a new environment. There were many times I felt uncertain, either literally or figuratively. There were moments I wasn't sure which exit to take or into which road I should turn after I got off the train. A more figurative aspect would be the fact that this DC experience is very much like walking through a maze blind-folded- it is imperative for one to forge one's way through, without the security and familiarity which is afforded by sight. So many questions exist, I find myself questioning my values, ethics and all pre-existing paradigms.. So many questions....

 

Where do I find the answers?

 

In a situation like this, my only resource would be myself. Somehow, I need to figure out the answers on my own- the answers are within me. I need to filter my inner voice from all the noise of uncertainty. Like one of my favourite songs goes:

 

"When there is no-one else

 

Look inside yourself

 

Like your oldest friend

 

Just trust the voice within

 

Then you'll find the strength

 

That will guide your way

 

If you learn to begin

 

To trust the voice within"

 

 

I'm no singer. My singing is on an undiscovered level of tone-deafness, but when I sing that song, I feel able. At times, it may not be immediately apparent, but I know the answers lie within me. I just have to sift through the noise, I just gotta drown out the noise....

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The Maneconomy : Part III: A perspective to investment(I)

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
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on Friday, 27 June 2014
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“Nothing’s for free, chap!”

 

 

Growing up in South Africa at the birth of a democracy and the growth of an immerging economy, the word investment become somewhat of a buzz word, a killer blow in our heated grade 4 debates. When posed with a difficult question from a friend in HSS(Human Social Sciences),  I would mutter a half baked reply using a few “big words”, out of context might I add, to throw them off- right before I detonated my verbal grenade- “You don’t know we don’t want investment”. Oh when ignorance was bliss, the not so good old days.  I had no idea what the word meant at the time of course, but what was apparent was that it is was important, and whether be it in the original Keynesian model, the Solow growth model or the maneconomy, investment is a theme that remains central to most things we deem important.

 

The etymology of the word investment is interesting for me. In the original meaning, which could be dated to 1590 or older, the meaning meant “the act of putting on vestments”. The modern day example would be the black garment (vestment) of a judge- which is a vestment and insignia of their rank and authority as an ecclesiastical official.  I prefer this perspective when it comes to developmental leadership. Investing in your leadership eventually comes out in your vestments- the day to day look of how you view problems, understand the world and approach the common man. In the maneconomy model for leadership, it is impossible to hide your investments. What you consciously seek out as a contributor to your leadership mix will inevitably have a greater proportional effect on it than otherwise. What you choose to be a key driver of your growth, they are your vestments; you carry them as you lead.

 

This view will give you a completely different approach to growth or investment. The maneconomy model holds that what you invest in with regards to your leadership- is on display for the world to see. If it is loving people, that inevitably becomes visible. The same can be said for polar opposite objectives- profits, impact, fame, and power- in the end you cannot hide that which you’ve invested into your leadership. It is your focus; it is in how you treat people, it is in how you view yourself as a leader.

 

 

This perspective to leadership is the best path keeping tool any leader can have. As much as the investment function in the maneconomy is crucial- it is in its origin truly a vestige, a microcosm, a snapshot of the leader you have chosen to become. Think and choose wisely, like an investor would. After all- nothing’s for free, chap!

 


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The Maneconomy: Part II- A perspective to Consumption(C)

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo Mokoena has not set their biography yet
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on Friday, 27 June 2014
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“Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was Cadbury?”

 

 

One of the most important aspects of your leadership will always be the input or influences you receive, in practical terms- your consumption. Now, to those screaming in their heads “he’s a purist”- hold your horses, I am in no way postulating an alarmist or extremist view of this principle, one that will advocate exclusion; as anything different is a “pollutant” or inherently corruptive. No! I am suggesting a more inclusive approach, but one that deals with the issue in its simplest form- C=TC. You cannot run away from it, you are the sum total of your influences- it all contributes to your “GDP”.

 

Though some may say the maneconomy approach to leadership is overly simplistic- I argue it is this unbundling of complex leadership tools that’ll sustain the code for not only good practice but continued successful developmental leadership. Think about it in its entirety, and by entirety I mean chronologically, everything you’ve ever done is directly related to some sort of input- some sort of teaching, influence, and even in the more biological functions, food or stimulation. As a leader- it is imperative to continually ask yourself what are you continually consuming that has you where you are right now? What could you do differently? What is your primary source of stimulation? This may be the difference between healthy leadership and subtle despotism.

 

This is essentially the goal of SAWIP. Coming to D.C has opened up something new in me- it has been a new input, a new dynamic, in reality- my Y can no longer be the same because of the nature of what I have consumed. We are always consuming- question is what are you allowing in your maneconomy? What role has this played in the leader you currently are? How will a change in consumption affect the leader you’re becoming?

 

In conclusion, there are a number of different aspects of the Keynesian approach we could’ve likened to this analogy, i.e. Marginal propensity to consume= how frequent a reader you are et al. I somehow feel as though that will detract from the primary message of the blog, the crux of the matter at hand. It is not about the quantity or propensity of your consumption- it is about the realisation of the mere fact that you’re always consuming, always being influenced, always learning. What you put in, is what you get out. Look around you- in part or whole- the state of your maneconomy as a leader is the sum total of what you’ve consumed.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was Cadbury? Sure- probably would be. Would we all survive if the world was Cadbury? No- we probably wouldn’t. What if it was Nestle? I think we might then. Lindt? Okay- I digress. Point is- when it comes to consumption, “nice” is trumped by future, convenience by growth. Actively engage in your consumption- it will steer your maneconomy towards its optimum.

 

 

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The Maneconomy: Part I

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo Mokoena has not set their biography yet
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on Friday, 27 June 2014
Reflection 0 Comment

“Let’s talk GDP=Y, this Gross Domestic Problem”

 

Oh GDP, my beloved friend. This is arguably the most obsessed over figure in global society. What is our GDP growth rate? GDP this GDP that? This, in my opinion, has created a broad disconnect between the real indicators of growth and development and those tailed for a different context ie highly formal economy.. For instance, GDP often does not include the informal sector- as it is revenue often not reported to the government as it is not taxed. It is this kind of common critique that makes this figure a problem; particularly in the context of developing countries, as the informal sector is a significant ratio of the total economic activity. This is the kind of “issue” that frustrates agriculturalists such as myself- I could only imagine the internal furry the feminist economists must feels, as most informal sectors in developing countries are both heavily populated and run by women.


 

I won’t be secretive about the revolving policy I adopted a few hours ago regarding my writing. I had made a completely different point with this initial “chapter 1” to the maneconomy series, but having had an incredibly personal and impactful session with Congressman James Clyburn and his daughter Secretary Mignon Clyburn with the SAWIP team tonight, I couldn’t help but be challenged to approach this differently. The walk to my bus stop became reflective; I now understood what the problem with this obsessed figure was.

 

In the maneconomy model of leadership, we will discuss in depth the many parts that will form composite of the whole you, and that whole you is your Y=GDP. In the world today, we are ironically plagued with an overwhelming number of position-driven leadership zealots, an egoist perspective of something best practiced from the floors of selflessness; the math doesn’t add up, does it?

 

The crux of the lesson was simple- the GDP is not a measure for it all. How do you measure hope? How do we measure welfare completely? We cannot always. Does this mean they are not the most important? Surely not! In the same way, the GDP for leaders ( goals, results, targets, mandates) can be blinding. Focusing on this alone creates extremity; a condition we will find hard to come back from once that culture is created in isolation. The Clyburn’s are competent, pragmatic and technocrats in all honesty- but they haven’t forgotten that the GDP alone is a problem.

 

 

They have kept their focus in one place- and that is people. I have not met people with more humility and reverence for the “bigger picture”, an understanding that beyond it all lays a possibility for the both of us. In the end, if the summative contribution of the different aspects of your maneconomy do not reflect your commitment to people- then I am certain we would have missed the plot, totally missed the target- what do our goals mean now? In the end we must be cognisant of the true work- and that is in the lives of others, for the lives of others. It is simple- we must not fall for the guise of the gross domestic problem.

 


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Optimizing the DC experience – Being Here, Fully.

by Kabelo Gildenhuys
Kabelo Gildenhuys
Young Urban Gentleman. Passionate about leadership and contributing towards buil
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on Thursday, 26 June 2014
Experience 0 Comment

Rushing from one event to another, balancing demanding schedules, coping with a new environment and maintaining enough scope for learning are all aspects of managing this ‘life influencing’ experience. Meeting new people on a daily basis and making sure that all interactions are valuable and authentic can be somewhat taxing in terms of energy and concentration. Today during my lunch break at C-SPAN for the first time I ventured out on my own just to explore the nearby surroundings and soak in some of the city feel. This brief moment on my own made me cognizant once more as to the fortunate position I am in as to first and foremost being able to be here, gaining exposure and experience and most importantly growing.

Being consistently surrounded by so many possibilities, while knowing you have a time limit in which to pursue them, it becomes increasingly difficult to confidently know which opportunities to further pursue and which to let go. For me this has meant redefining what exactly it is I am in pursuit of regardless of what others might think or expect.

 

The paradox of being offered numerous opportunities is that the appearances can be deceiving and the opportunities which you initially perceived as non-related opportunity ventures might possibly turn-out to be definite opportunity treasures. Thus it becomes pertinent to rather treat each ‘event’ as possible opportunities for growth as appose to the alternative attitude of consistently being on the lookout for direct opportunity related ‘events’. Both are essentially time and energy consuming, but the benefit of treating each already planned event as the next ‘big’ opportunity ensures that opportunities presented to you in your presences do not pass you by. For the remainder of my stay in DC I shall strive for optimizing the planned events instead of feeling rushed (and stressed) to consistently search for opportunities that are not in my immediate environment. Essentially I want to be here. Now.

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The Maneconomy: Introduction

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo Mokoena has not set their biography yet
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on Thursday, 26 June 2014
Leadership 1 Comment

Rethinking linear programming: Reconsidering the leadership context”

 

Limitless!” has to be one of my favourite movies of the past half decade. The basic idea that we could use more of our brain and to such a powerful extent is a concept we have all toyed with in the more jovial and often juvenile spaces of our imagination. I was thinking about it just this morning on my way to Higher Achievement- what if I remembered every single thing I intentionally set out to learn? Wouldn’t that be amazing? What would this mean to my leadership? How different would the world be?



 

The idea of infinite possibilities is one I agree with- wholeheartedly so too. I believe it should always form the backbone of our quest for dreams- but is blunt in building the rest of the frame or the substance of our vision’s vehicles of change. We are finite beings- and therefore we are finite leaders. The possibilities may be limitless like the sky above, but we, as individuals- are not the sky itself. Let that sink in. Rethink linear programming.  It is time to rediscover the context for developmental leadership.

 

The idea of capacity is one not discussed enough in developmental leadership [particularly in the African context]. Programs such as SAWIP are invaluable in counteracting this phenomenon, but the normative attitude towards this subject has been somewhat ho-hum in a pragmatic sense. We still sit with an ambition vs skill mismatch; a “dream vs capacity” inequality to be exact. Together, with our resources, growing population and somewhat conducive pro-developmental conditions, the continent could build a future that could reach into the sky- but the tower still needs to be built. That should remain the focus for this phase of the continent's development- ensuring that the limitedness of our humanness- is maximized in our leadership functions to ensure the necessary growth is achieved.

 

In simplicity, the modern day leader in the developing world could be viewed as a growing small country- with a Keynesian model governing the framework of their maneconomy. Fundamentally, rethinking the context for leadership through the linear programming perspective would mean that we, as individuals, acknowledge that we’re limited, yet have an optimum that can effect limitless change. Unless we each find our own optimum point from the linear programming perspective- we will simply be frustrated and our leadership and efficiency will always be under the possible levels of success.

 

The maneconomy can be given by the following formula [Keynesian model] : Y= C+ I+ G+ (X-M)

 

Over the course of the next few blogs, I will tackle each of the contributors to this maneconomy model of leadership, to gain a clearer perspective on the role of each factor and its overall augmentation on our day to day leadership.

 

The sky is not the limit, a lack of understanding ourselves and our limitedness, is the limit. Successful leadership understands capacity. Successful leadership understands what it is- but also more importantly- what it is not!

 


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