South Africans who inspired us in 2019

Entrepreneur and inventor Khangelani Gama with his board games, Know My Africa and Game 4 All
Entrepreneur and inventor Khangelani Gama with his board games, Know My Africa and Game 4 All

It’s been a long year for South Africans. Load shedding reached levels we didn’t know existed, the economy continued to limp and stumble, and the horror of gender-based violence shook the nation.

But even in the darkest of times, when despair was the national mood, ordinary South Africans rose to the occasion and showed what they are capable of.

Here we take a look at some of their extraordinary stories:

• Durban-based entrepreneur Khangelani Gama developed two board games that combine education, life skills and entertainment.

The games – Know My Africa and Game 4 All – are now in nine stores, including Game4u branches at some of the major malls in KwaZulu-Natal.

The 46-year-old said the idea came to him while he was employed as a social worker at shelter for street children in the north of Durban.

A desire to do something about xenophobia by educating the young inspired Gama’s Africa-themed board game. Know My Africa is a 42-piece jigsaw puzzle of a map of the continent, but with a twist.

Read: Businessman tackles issues like xenophobia through board games

• Every year, Red Bull Amaphiko selects aspiring social entrepreneurs and helps them incubate their ideas. The programme has been replicated in 15 countries.

In June, Grethe Kemp spoke to Portia Mavhungu who invented a device that allows those in wheelchairs to use the toilet without having to be lifted from their chair.

The 30-year-old came up with the idea after being confined to a wheelchair for a while after an accident.

Portia Mavhungu
Portia Mavhungu

“In 2011, I had an accident where I broke my pelvis,” Mavhungu  said.

“I was in the hospital for several weeks and in a wheelchair for the rest of the year. I fell into a depression over the loss of my independence. I needed my mother to lift me every time I needed to use the toilet.

“I was in this situation for only a short time and thought about how hard it would be for those who experience this their whole lives.”

Read: This SA-invented device helps the disabled use the toilet

• Witnessing a stab victim bleeding on the Durban beachfront inspired young entrepreneur, Blessing Nzuza, to develop a smartphone app that promises to cut emergency medical response times.

The app, Respo, has commercial potential, says Nzuza, who spent the past year on the project.

Blessing Nzuza developed Respo, an app that aims to get the help you need quickly.

Read: Young SA entrepreneur develops emergency app which may save your life

• Nkululeko Tunzi is an aspiring young entrepreneur whose innovations blaze trails and whose global vision seems to set him apart from his peers.

The computer science graduate from the Tshwane University of Technology has invented an innovative walking aid that helps blind people navigate traffic.

Nkululeko Tunzi
Nkululeko Tunzi. Picture: Mpumelelo Macu

The product, called Bulatsela, uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning features to interpret surroundings.

Read: Young entrepreneur Nkululeko Tunzi creates innovative walking aid for blind people

• The brainchild of Limpopo-born social entrepreneur Murendeni Mafumo, Kusini Water is a locally designed water purification system that uses an activated carbon filter made from macadamia nut shells.

The device purifies at least 1 000 litres of water a day.

Murendeni Mafumo, founder of Kusini Water, with his purification plant. Picture: Cebile Ntuli

It uses the nut shells, not so much for their chemical properties but their strength.

They also work to harness the use of nanotechnology fibres to separate various bacteria from the water.

Read: Local entrepreneur Murendeni Mafumo creates water purification system to help needy

• By kicking a bucket, Venda-born engineer Mulalo Doyoyo gave life to a new product: non-polluting paint that now adorns SA’s estates and malls.

“I invented this paint by pure accident when I kicked the bucket,” he said.

Mulalo Doyoyo

Today the paint is known as Amoriguard. Produced in a Cape Town factory, it is on the market and has been used to paint estates in the legislative capital and in Gauteng.

Read: How SA engineer Mulalo Doyoyo invented eco-friendly paint ‘by pure accident’

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