MAHLANYA, Swaziland | Sat 5 October, 2013
Over 300 people poured into the Mahlanya Fun Day on Saturday 5 October to enjoy a good dose of food, music and sport – not to mention the fashion.
The warm weather matched the hospitality offered by the young men of Kwakha Indvodza, who have been planning the event – with help from the program’s mentors – for several months.
Kwakha Indvodza – “building a man” in siSwati – is a male mentoring project that supports young men by teaching them practical skills and offering a diverse range of opportunities.
“It raises our awareness to be a man for tomorrow, not thinking there’s no job. We learn things that you have never learned, never known in life,” said Njabulo Nyembe, a 16-year-old from Mahlanya, one of the 40 or so young men who are part of the Kwakha program.
Putting his words into practice, Nyembe said: “My job today is being in the kitchen, preparing some food for the visitors and the crowd. We are cooking porridge, chicken stew and beef stew.”
The surrounding Lobamba community – nestled in the palm of Ezulweni Valley, rolling green and grey hills an arm’s length away – chipped in to make sure the day was a success. The Moya Cedntre, an NGO that helps children, and entertainment venue House on Fire allowed its grounds to be used for day’s activities.
“It’s fantastic to see the community come together,” said House on Fire icon and Kwakha Indvodza Board member Jiggs Thorne. “It’s great to see the young men have the opportunity to partake in planning and presenting a day where the community can participate.”
Mahlanya residents braved the heat in their numbers. Many found their way to the second-hand clothes stall.
“It was so wonderful, we like it,” said happy shopper Bonisile Nhlabatsi. “They come and sell us some cheap clothes, and it’s quality too.” For E50 Nhlabatsi bought “some bras, some pants, and some beautiful tops”.
The community event also attracted many people, performers, and praise from outside Mahlanya.
“I think it’s so good for the community. I wish it could be held in my community too,” said 16-year-old Elangeni resident Mthokozisi “Sonex Jr” Magongo.
Magongo’s hip-hop group, “Via Squad”, wowed the crowd with its unique style of sound and dance.
Flanked by his four brothers, who make up the band, Magongo said “Via” was “African slang for something that is in motion”.
This description – “something in motion” – sums up the work of Kwakha Indvodza, which was celebrating its first birthday on Saturday.
Corporate support also helped the event. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an audit firm, gave E2,500 to help with the running of the day.
“The donation went towards continuing the Kwakha cause – developing young Swazi men into the successful professionals of the future,” said PwC consultant Rebecca Lewis. “If we can help out, then we’re thrilled to be a part of it, and we just hope that we can help to empower these lovely young men and their mentors.”
PwC was well represented at the Fun Day. Many staff members helped out, offering words of support and practical advice to the young men involved with Kwakha, and to the wider Mahlanya community.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the day – apart from the “jumpy castle” that kept the kids happy – was the soccer tournament. Six teams from the area competed in a display of tenacity and skill, all working hard under the glaring sun. Upsetting some of the young men was a team of mostly young ladies, Lobamba Lomdzala Ladies (“LLL”) team.
It wasn’t the fact that the team was mostly ladies that perturbed some of the young men – it was the fact the ladies team almost won the tournament.
“It’s a big day. We find it very interesting to be in the Kwakha Indvodza Fun Day,” said Fundo Mawoman, coach of the Lobamba Lomdzala Ladies team.
Asked if he thought his team would win the final, Mawoman’s determination shone through. “I don’t doubt it. We’ll bury them,” he said with a wry smile. He is clearly helping to impart this spirit into his young players.
The team of young ladies (and three males), was “formed some months back”, said Mawoman. “We are starting to gel in the formation we are using, so I’m very, very proud of them.”
In the end, however, it was the Kwakha Indvodza team that took the title, beating the ladies in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out.
The sportsmanship (and sports-womanship) was not lost during the day. After watching the girls play, Kwakha member Ndumiso Dludlu, who was umpiring the football matches, said: “The women’s team are going to get in the final, they are strong, they are fit. Even me, I wish I were a lady.” Of course Dludlu was speaking in fun, but his sincerity and his message was clear: let’s all just work and play together.When asked how the Kwakha Indvodza mentoring program has helped him, Dludlu said: “Many things. Now, I don’t do bad things, I’m always doing the right things, I enjoy it very much here.”
The winner on the day, undoubtedly, was the community: boys, girls, men, women; Swazis and expats – all pushing in the same direction to help the next generation of young people.
Khulekani Msweli, 29, one of the 20 or so mentors who guide and teach the younger men in the program, said the event was a “great initiative” and hopes to see many more of them.
Director of Kwakha Indvodza Tom Churchyard, an English teacher at Waterford Kamhlaba United World College, was a proud and exhausted man at the end of the day.
“It was a lot of hard work. Everyone really worked together, pitched in, and it was a huge success,” he said as the afternoon breeze soothed the sting from the day’s sun.
“We showed Mahlanya and Swaziland what real men can be – and that responsibility and hard work pays off.”
The young men in the Kwakha program – which is split into three groups: the Lions, Leopards, and Cheetahs – echoed Churchyard’s words.
“When they told me about this day I thought it was some joke,” said Njabulo Nyembe.
“But now I’ve experienced that it’s a real day, and I’m proud of this.”
- The next event for Kwakha Indvodza is a writing and motivational workshop with renowned local artists Qhibo and Sands.
Report by Bill Snaddon.