“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” is a rich isiZulu proverb that speaks of the humanity of society and those around us; directly translated “A person is a person through other persons”. This platitude repeatedly echoes the journey of Wenzile Mbanjwa who is so full of life, it’s almost contagious.
The young woman was born and raised in the township of KwaMakhutha, located near Amanzimtoti in the Lower Tugela region of KwaZulu-Natal.
KwaMakhutha, just like many townships in South Africa, is deeply plagued by social issues such as crime, lack of infrastructure, unemployment and limited access to information. Most of the township’s residents fall below the poverty scale and chances for them to create what may be perceived as a better life outside the community are slim to none; given the oppressive circumstances they have to contend with every day.
Mbanjwa is just one of the lucky few who was able to defy these odds, but she was not without help. She is immense with pride as she recalls the time she spent in a community centre under a youth programme that changed her life for the better.
The KwaMakhutha Community Resource Centre [KCRC], rooted firmly on Nana Gumede Lane in the heart of kwaMakhutha, has played a pivotal role in moulding Mbanjwa into the woman she is today.
The Centre is a non-profit organisation that offers youth programmes, medical and clinical services, legal aid & consultations, business and income generation courses, as well as a number of social activism groups for women.
The youth programme provides young people with the opportunity to harness their skills and talents. It gives them access to a wealth of information, arts and talent grooming as well as social responsibility initiatives.
Mbanjwa is one of the many young people who used these avenues to her advantage. Not only did she use the programme to socialise with her peers, but she also utilised its available information resources to the fullest by landing herself acceptance for a Diploma in Community Extension at the Mangosutho University of Technology (MUT) in 2014.
“In between my studies, things took a turn when I unfortunately suffered the fate of what you call umlenze. I failed a subject and had to repeat it,” says Mbanjwa.
During this time, Mbanjwa recalls feeling depressed and petrified at the thought of her dream slipping through her hands. It was a gloomy period in her life. This was until she was encouraged to become part of the centre’s youth mentorship programme. During this time, Mbanjwa threw herself into mentoring the youth academically and through social initiatives. This motivated and propelled her to complete her degree regardless of her setback.
Mbanjwa is now employed as a Landscape Mobiliser for an environmental organization in Cape Town. Part of her job description includes creating and sustainably balancing the earth’s natural resources. This is a cause she has been passionate about throughout her young adulthood.
All of this, as Mbanjwa says, would not have been possible without her involvement with the youth centre. She heralds those involved in the centre as the champions of her success story.
“There was never any point in time that they gave up on me. It is through them that I am a person,” she concludes.
~ Thabisile Ngeleka