The International Republic of Emzingo

by John Mady. Emzingo Fellow Jan.2014

“A delegation of 11 Emzingians have landed in South Africa on Thursday 16th January, and have several meetings planned with different key South African figures during their short stay in the country.”

Looking back, this is how it felt from the very first week. The calibre of people we were meeting right from the beginning, together with the awesome hospitality of South Africans, and the interest people have once they hear our Emzingo story, made us feel like we were VIPs on a diplomatic visit. The general interest is quite justified by the fact that we are 11 people, of 10 nationalities, working with 5 different non-profits in Johannesburg. That fact on its own gets anyone asking hundreds of questions. Our VIP sessions started by visiting Robbie Brozin, the CEO and co-founder of Nando’s at his house, and continued with a visit to Thulani Madondo, a CNN hero – who is a good friend of 50 Cent by the way – at his very impressive Kliptown Youth Program centre in Kliptown, Soweto.

Being a foreigner here seem to always generate interest, people want to know why you are here, what’s your story, how are you finding South Africa, while wanting to hear stories about where you came from. Being from Egypt, and being a supporter of Al Ahly, the Egyptian club that beat the Pirates at the African Champions League final, is enough to start a long conversation with any South African. Especially with the events Egypt is going through on the political front, and  the many parallels to what’s happening (and happened) in South Africa, I have had many deep conversations with lots of people here. Johannesburg reminds me a bit of Cairo in terms of size and some of the infrastructure, but it’s 100 times less chaotic, and traffic is significantly better.

One of the reasons I came here was to learn; about the country, the people, the non-profit sector, social investment, etc., the list is endless. And I must say, the program over-delivered so far. By the end of the first week I learned about Madiba and his life, the Apartheid, TRC, AIDS, townships, Zulu, Afrikaans, ANC, DA, NPO, NPC, Section 18A …. I am running out of space to write. And it is just the first week.

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