The Time to Challenge

Vanessa will be 50 years old this year and lives in an informal settlement called Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay with her sister and her siblings. Kathrin is 38 years old and lives in Victorskloof, Hout Bay with her husband and three children.

What is your profession and what work do you do? Well, professionally I’m a trained child rights worker and I’m also well known as a community worker, more importantly social development. At present I’m not working but I do a lot of volunteer work, also around human rights and children.

Where were you trained? I was never particularly trained in a school. My experience as a young woman in an informal settlement, experiencing poverty, was my training. My desire to fight back and to fight towards change was another part of my training. However, I only went to school up until grade 7, and in 1994, after the new government came into being, a lot of us were allowed to go back to school. And in this case, to university where there were adult courses. I was one of those lucky recipients.

Is there something you would like to learn? That’s an interesting question. Well, I would like to still travel a bit and one of the things I would like to learn is a language, and that’s the French language, a little bit of French. Other than that, I have had the opportunity to learn and work to many different kind of carreer opportunities, recently I’ve moved towards senior citizens and home-based care. That’s an area I think I could still learn quite a few things around.

What do you do in your free time? In my free time I work in the community, I spend as much time as I can helping others, if I can.

Do you have a hero, a mentor or somebody you admire? Well of course Madiba is my hero as well, I don’t have anyone in particular, but I do have a big admiration for women who come from my kind of background and have made it out there. A very strong admiration, especially politically, for women that have been able to stand up against male dominance in their respective fields. So no one in particular except Madiba.

Are you currently saving money for something? No, I’m not. I haven’t been able to save in a very long time, every 10 cent piece is actually important to help to buy a loaf of bread. So no, I’m not saving.

Do you have a dream that cannot be bought by money?  Yeah, I think one of my dreams at this point is a very personal one. I would like to find somebody to love me for who I am, and that is not something that money can buy. My last few years to be happy and relaxed. I haven’t found that yet, but that’s what I’m dreaming of.

What do you think you will be doing in 10 years? In ten year’s time I’m hoping that I will be the house mother or maybe the director of a shelter for either women, children or senior citizens. That is one of the things I would like to see myself do in the next ten years.

Where will you be when you are old? Oh, gosh. I don’t really know that, I pray that if I do get old that I will still remain independent, in my own space and own little place with my grandchildren around.

What is your favorite food? Chicken curry.

Do you have a favorite book? I haven’t read for a long time.

Do you have a favorite movie? No.

What music is your favorite? I love the Golden Oldies, but I’m also more into Gospel music which I adore.

And what TV-show? Everybody is watching these soapies and because at this point I don’t own anything and there’s nothing of me in that house, I do not choose what is on. My favourite movies at the moment is the crime thing. I like „Law and Order“, „NCIS“. I like tracing missing persons because that has been part of my training around my own victim empowerment work. So, if that’s on, I like it.

What do you like about South Africa? At the moment, when I look at the educational sector, there’s a lot of mishaps and a lot of things going on, but I like the mere fact – that our children may not always be aware of – that there have been some major spaces created for them in terms of education. For instance my youngest daughter failed badly in grade 11 and she had a baby after that and I believed that she could go back and do her matric. She’s been able to do that over two years. So, a little bit of those things have changed. I wouldn’t say I like them, but I appreciate those changes. Because if we would have had these chances in our young years, we probably would have been different people.

What don’t you like about South Africa? At the moment, politically, I’m one of those angry citizens. I don’t like the politics at the moment. Being a political activist myself, I’m disgusted at what’s happened politically in the country. An absolute disgust, how our people are treated, if you look at the mining sector for instance. It takes you back to where you came from and why you fought apartheid and it’s like we never stopped fighting.

What are your hopes for South Africa? I think my hopes would be a fair South Africa, an equal South Africa. An opportunity for everyone, and especially our young people, matriculating, getting out of school. You know, the dream to see our kids have the things we never had. Those are my hopes and dreams still, it will remain. I probably won’t see it before I die.

Is there anything you would like to say to our Swiss friends and families? I would ask the international arena to monitor what’s happening in South Africa and to critique that, constructively. We are supposed to be the leaders on the African continent, but again there’s a lot that we’re not doing in our own country. We’re not washing our linen in our country in the way we should, and that is where I think the international arena should put it’s feelers out, begin to challenge. I don’t believe we should accept the given that it’s ok because it’s the ANC, in fact I think now is the time to challenge.

Dankie, Vanessa!

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