Chit Chat: Shaka Sisulu

2011-02-25 10:13

His grandfather was ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu. His father, Max Sisulu, is the current Speaker of Parliament. With a lineage like that, Shaka Sisulu (31) is determined to follow his own destiny while making an impact in his own way. Mokgasi Seabi caught up with him last weekend in Orlando West, Soweto.

Who is Shaka?
I’m the eldest of five children. My older brother passed away three year ago. I believe my story is the same as most people’s.

There’s some white people involved, some struggle stories and scandals.

Throw in migration to the city, the brutality of the system and someone getting jailed, and you have yourself a normal South African family story.

What do you remember most about growing up in political royalty?
At some point when I was young, I remember playing with an AK-47 and pulling the trigger by mistake. The bullet went through the wall into the bedroom Jacob Zuma was using.

Fortunately, though, he was still out being a soldier of the movement. If it had been a couple of hours later, we wouldn’t have him as president.

You must have met many influen tial people in your life. Who had the greatest impact on you?

I look up to a lot of people like Madiba, Mahatma Gandhi and, of course, my grandfather because I like his values. I like the way he lived his life right to the end where he passed away in his wife’s arms.

What have you taken from your grandfather’s legacy?
Everything my grandfather went through was for giving his grandchildren an opportunity to make their own choices. The most important lesson I gained from my grandfather is to respect family.

He did a lot of amazing and commendable things, but through all the freedom fighting, he and his wife stayed together – even with 27 years in jail and their children exiled all over the world and others in jail.

He still kept the family together and that, I think, is his crowning achievement.

Are there any perks that come with being a Sisulu?

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers talks about people who are exceptional and found that there was a pattern that led them to where they are now – opportunity, fate that stepped in, and legacy.
For instance, a guy who becomes a computer millionaire, you’ll find that he was raised in a family that had access to computers.

That’s the impact of legacy. We all want to make life easier for our future generations.

Many people respect my family’s contribution to society and I’m just fortunate to be a beneficiary of that. If people speak well of me, it’s up to me to make sure it’s true.

Any plans to play a bigger role in the ANC?
I’m an ordinary member of the organisation. I’m also a branch deputy chairperson and serve on different committees in the ANC and the youth league.

I actually enjoy being a part of it without a big title because that puts you in a box.

I have a lot of ideas and energy that I can use in various ways.

Tell us about Cheesekids?
It was conceived back in 2007, while chilling with a group of friends who had invited me to help build a house in Ivory Park (Johannesburg) ­organised by Habitat for Humanity.

After that, because I’m an excessive type of guy, I became interested in doing this more often.

More people started joining in each time we had a project. Cheesekids was born from there.

The project is a broad-based volunteer movement with an administrative trust. We have registered to be a non-profit organisation.

Who are the other members?
Young people who like ­contributing to society and helping those less fortunate.

Where does the funding for the good deeds come from?
All initiatives are funded ­organically through volunteer ­participation, goodwill and ­­fundraising events. Last year alone, fundraisers helped Cheesekids raise more than R36 000.

What does the future hold for you?
I want to be part of a ­movement of young people who change South Africa for the better.

I want to be part of a ­movement of people that give ­others support, that goes back to our communities to help them out.

So, when a fellow young ­person comes up with a great idea, I’m the guy who supports him by cheering him. Because when one wins, we all win.

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