South Africa does have good stories to tell


“We have a good story to tell.” President Jacob Zuma was not completely off the mark when he uttered what has become something of his slogan.

But while Zuma was trying to paint a pretty picture of an often ugly South African landscape and cover the gaping holes of corruption, crime and poverty we face, the truth is we really do have many good stories to tell. Most often it is ordinary South Africans – and not the government – who are creating these good stories.

The story of Vusimuzi Mbatha is one of these good stories. In a week where Eskom tried to justify a ridiculous tariff increase, the story of Mbatha brought a little smile to our faces as his big dream got lift-off.

Mbatha – an unemployed man from the Popo Molefe informal settlement in Rustenburg – made the news after trying to build a helicopter from scrap metal last year, hoping to one day fly the aircraft.

While he hasn’t quite managed to make it just yet, he experienced his first flight yesterday as Bidvest Protea Coin stepped in. Mbatha was overjoyed as he took to the skies.

“My dreams have come true. I never thought it would happen for me. I feel liberated,” he said.

And Mbatha is going places as Bidvest offered to help him find a job. In the vicious cycle of poverty and helplessness that comes with life in an informal settlement, Mbatha should be applauded for rising up.

His is not the only inspiring story. South Africans can lack humanity – as seen during the xenophobic attacks – but we can also produce some of the most heart-warming moments.

One of these people is Nerine Gardiner, known as Girl With Cake. Gardiner started the initiative to bake cakes for the less fortunate.

Gardiner says on Facebook she has her fair share of critics whose questions include: “Why cake?” and “Why homeless people?”

Her response: “The first time I gave cake, it wasn’t just about giving cake. It was about showing kindness and care to someone else. It was about breaking through a clutter of negativity in South Africa, with love. I baked that cake, and every one since then, the way I would for family and friends – with the very best ingredients and a lot of effort, because I wanted the person who received it to see that I wasn’t just giving him or her or them something I had lying around or a second-hand something, I was giving them something special.”

Not inspired by cake? Then there’s the story of Reabetswe Ngwane and Thato Kgatlhanye, two young women whose company, Rethaka, recycles plastic bags, turning them into schoolbags that have built-in solar power packs.

These packs are charged in the sunlight while children are at school and are fully charged when the sun goes down, providing light for doing homework or walking home safely.

Kgatlhanye – who came up with the idea – was named first runner-up at last year’s Anzisha Prize, which is awarded to young entrepreneurs from Africa who develop and implement innovative solutions to social challenges.

Young people in this country are doing great things that often get lost among the grim stories that make headlines. This past week, City Press profiled young people reaching for the stars.

Unlike Hlaudi Motsoeneng and co at the SABC, we shouldn’t be highlighting these “good stories” to hide the failings of government. We should be highlighting these stories in spite of these failings.

South Africans see the future as bleak and dark – and with load shedding who can blame us – but sometimes we need to tell a few good stories to remind ourselves that we can be the change the country needs.

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