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We may yet transcend our history

Friday, 1. April 2011

Nombulelo Khanyile (Photo: Mike Brown)Nombulelo Khanyile from South Africa gives a personal perspective on the changes taking place on her continent.

What is the relevance of Initiatives of Change in today’s world? When I consider this question I think first of the fact that IofC offered me a new way of life. A life that was not only about me, myself and I, but one that gave me an opportunity to recognise the value in each individual, the acceptance that as spiritual beings, we belong to one family, and above all, the realisation of our connection as individuals to an inner power source that could transform us and the outer world.

Like many Africans, I grew up hearing about African Humanism (Ubuntu) from my parents, teachers and other elders. The word Ubuntu comes from a Xhosa/Zulu word – umuntu (a human being) – and is regarded as a philosophy or lifestyle that is reflected in how people behave, interact and communicate with one another. Although this term is common and mostly used in the southern and central parts of Africa, its principles, however, are instilled and practised throughout the continent. Through ubuntu, I came to know about its core values of forgiveness, caring, sharing, respect, compassion and morality to name a few. Even though I embraced this philosophy, I still struggled to relate and interact meaningfully with white South Africans.

As a young student, I longed to see a different and better South Africa, a country that belonged to all who live in it. As a people, we had never known peace and prosperity was still eluding us. We were a broken nation, a wounded society and healing through forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation was needed. Through IofC, I was encouraged to start living a life of moral integrity. This meant a life lived on the basis of moral standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. I was also made aware that the destroyer of moral integrity was human nature and that it was only our Creator who could help us deal with human nature. I made a commitment to live this life. As a result, broken relationships were healed and trust was rebuilt within the family members. This was one of the defining moments in my life.

Through Ubuntu, I learnt about the practice of silent reflection, a practice that is also at the heart of IofC. This space and time of silent reflection formed part of the African communities. The notion was that there was great value and sacredness in being by yourself and with yourself. It is believed that this practice was the central moral principle that guided some of our leaders in the struggle for liberation of South Africa.

Today, South Africa is known as the 'Rainbow Nation,' that gave rise to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose purpose was to deal with our country's past. However, we still remain a deeply divided and wounded nation. We need a vision that will help reconcile South Africans of all races and cultures. This will be a painful process, but a necessary one.

Through one of IofC's programmes called 'Connecting Communities', some of us who have grown up in this divided society are committed to working through our painful past that will take us to a future that is full of promise and possibilities. Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela correctly states that 'we may yet transcend our history – if we are willing to recall it'.

As I begin to travel a lot within the African continent, I see ample evidence that Africa will never prosper unless we in Africa commit to good governance, sound economic management and respect for human rights. Many countries on this continent have not known peace and security. There are countries where young people were born in war, died in war, and produced children in war. I now know that Africa's recovery will only happen when each one of us takes responsibility for cleaning up our lives. This means being honest with ourselves and those around us and being guided by pure motives and thoughts in our daily operations. When we as Africans begin to live like this, we will usher in a new era of ethical consciousness that will go a long way in destroying the fallacy that corruption and bad governance are synonymous with Africa.

IofC helped me to think differently and opened my mind and heart to the struggles and realities that face society today. My decision to live a life of moral integrity has come with a price, because it is a decision to constantly say, 'your will and not my will'.

Nombulelo Khanyile was born in Kroonstad, South Africa. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Fort Hare, and in 2005 obtained an MBA specialising in Tourism. After graduating she worked with Initiatives of Change in several countries including UK, USA, Canada, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Nombulelo worked for a spell as Research Officer for Mobil Foundation, as well as a Student Advisor for Vista University. Since 2007, she has been a member of the African Coordination Group whose mandate is to care, listen, support, nurture and coordinate the work of Initiatives of Change in Africa.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.