Reflecting on 2019: a vision of Ubuntu is a guiding light in times of darkness

Written by Luvuyo Madasa (Executive director at ReimagineSA)

As we sit in darkness following the latest round of Eskom loadshedding, or read the headlines about economic decline, gender-based violence and corruption, it is all too easy to give in to despair about the state of South Africa. But during 2019, ReimagineSA has been working hard to help create a new reality for our country.

When we look at the rich tapestry of South African society and its many cultures, we can see past the gloom to find the thread of ubuntu uniting our country when it’s at its best. That’s why we have spent our year on a range of grassroots projects and advocacy outreaches targeted at laying a foundation for healing, reconciliation and ubuntu.

Let’s look back on our impact in 2019:

Fixing B-BBEE

Many South Africans agree that broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) has yet to deliver economic freedom for the majority. I wrote an article this year that highlighted some ways to enhance B-BBEE so that it unleashes more value. We believe that it’s time for B-BBEE thinking to move away from a short-term, compliance-driven approach to one that integrates B-BBEE into core business strategy.

Finding a pathway to a prosperous South Africa

During 2019, I sat down with 8een Concepts’ Ntsikelelo Mzibomvu to come up with some ideas about how we can address the many social and economic challenges facing our country. We argued that the best way to reinvent South Africa is to look to the past and the age-old principles of ubuntu for inspiration. With a sense of ubuntu, we could start to build businesses that not only serve our communities, but also give back to them. This is a long-term project, and where it starts is with the individual. If each of us takes some small steps in the right direction, this will add up to a giant leap for our country.

Scaling up acts of kindness to create sustainable social change

In June, I was a panellist at FirstRand’s Beyond Painting Classrooms event where South Africans who are passionate about corporate social investment (CSI) discussed ways to ensure that employee volunteering is sustainable and impactful. It is wonderful to see corporate philanthropy and volunteerism moving towards an approach that gives the beneficiary more of a voice, engages employees as active citizens, and takes a more strategic, long-term approach to making a difference.

The best of both worlds: marrying purpose and profit

I co-wrote an article with David Blyth, Founder at Delta Victor Bravo, that was published in high-profile business media. We proposed that it’s time to leave behind the ideological baggage and use the tools that both capitalism and socialism give us to create a better world. We believe we can turn our country around by harnessing innovation and investment to create the necessary to uplift a wider society. But growth should not be pursued without a focus on social consequence and social value.

Female empowerment: time to accelerate women into top posts in SA organisations

Mathulwane Mpshe, ReimagineSA board member, wrote an article to issue a clarion call for organisations to develop, mentor and coach women take up positions at every level and in every discipline and function of the business. It is imperative that we unleash the power of our female talent if we are to catalyse sustainable economic growth that makes our country more prosperous, fair and equal.

Rural breast cancer education and treatment

Our activators and partner NPOs have had a busy year. We are proud to support Dr Zukiswa Jafta, founder of the Beat Cancer Foundation, who is doing amazing work to raise awareness of this disease in rural Eastern Cape. The Foundation has rolled out screening programmes for more than 20 Eastern Cape communities in the OR Tambo District Municipality and Alfred Nzo Municipality over the past two years.

Vision 2030: Helping communities to create their own destiny
In November, I took part in the Vision 2030 Summit, a platform to bring public and private sector stakeholders together to expedite realisation of the National Development Plan’s goals. This was an exciting opportunity to advocate for a new model of collaboration where government and other big funders enable communities to scale and build innovative, sustainable grassroots solutions to the problems they face every day.

Re-conceptualising local and global economies in the age of climate change
It was an honour for us to work alongside The Club of Rome Youth Summit, which ran alongside the Club’s AGM in Cape Town from 5 – 7 November. Young leaders from around the world gathered to discuss the most important challenges facing humanity – not just the climate emergency, but the related issues of the emerging new civilisation, reframing and reclaiming economics, and rethinking finance. The goal of the Youth Summit was to stimulate intergenerational discussion about these critical issues and to give younger voices the opportunity to make themselves heard. A number of illuminating insights emerged from the Summit and it was inspiring to hear of community innovations and international best practices aimed at creating more prosperous, yet more sustainable local communities.

Starting a new conversation about social housing

ReimagineSA associate and social housing researcher, Stephan de Beer, has some powerful ideas about using social housing to heal South Africa’s urban fractures. He argues compellingly that collaboration among people with the vision and passion necessary can enable us to build a more inclusive urban future. The time for a conversation about the role of social housing in building a more equitable South Africa is at hand.

Looking ahead to 2020

We believe we have built a solid foundation and are now ready to scale up our impact in 2020. Our goal will be to strengthen our democracy and focus on what matters to those who have the least resources and power. A healthy, self-sustaining nation starts by building healthy villages, towns, cooperatives and communities where people feel connected to each other and engage in adding value for the common good.


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