Vodacom’s people are dedicated to Connecting for Good, and making the world a better place. And perhaps none more so than Tankiso Motaung and Dzunani Mathebula, who have been named among the 100 Mandelas of the Future.
In celebration of Mandela’s 100th birthday, Media24 launched the 100 Mandelas of the Future campaign, honouring 100 young people who are doing incredible things to change South Africa and live Madiba’s legacy.
Thousands were nominated from all walks of life, and among the 100 finally chosen are two Vodacom employees. We spoke to them about the causes they are passionate about and their inspiration.
Making dreams come true
Many people may remember a photo that went viral on Facebook in 2015, of a young electrical engineering graduate standing at the traffic lights on Grayston Drive, Joburg, with a placard asking for employment. That graduate was Tankiso Motaung, and he is now excelling in his new job after Vodacom offered him the opportunity to prove his skills.
The idea to stand at the lights came after months of looking for employment, equipped with a BTech from Central University of Technology in the Free State. Tankiso borrowed money to travel to Gauteng, staying with a friend in Pretoria and travelling to Sandton daily.
It was a challenging experience. ‘There were mixed reactions. One person called me an educated hobo, which came close to breaking my spirit. But I knew I was at rock bottom, and so the only way was up. You can’t listen to negative energy.’
He planned to stand at the lights for a month, and on the third day, he almost gave up. But on the fourth day, a woman named Ashley Tate Ball approached him. Although she couldn’t give him a job, she snapped his picture and put it on Facebook. The post went viral immediately. By the next morning, on his way to his spot, a friend had already sent him the post, and journalists were phoning asking for interviews.
‘People were phoning me to ask for my CV, but other people called just to tell me that I’ve given them hope. The experience has changed my whole life,’ he says.
Within days, Vodacom got in touch to offer Tankiso the chance to join their Graduate Programme. He scored a six-month contract, but within two months, was doing so well he was offered a permanent position. He is currently a Business Solutions Architect.
‘I worked hard because it was such a great opportunity and I didn’t want to mess it up,’ he says. ‘I needed to show Vodacom they didn’t make the wrong choice.’ Because of his dedication, Tankiso was voted Top Graduate of the Year.
Not only does he have a new career at Vodacom, but he has also been speaking to young people about his experience and the importance of hard work. ‘It’s hard out there – I tell them you can have qualifications, and still not be able to find a job. You need to hang in there – if you give up early, you might miss an opportunity.’
Tankiso was nominated as a Future Mandela because of his resilience and leadership skills, as well as his work with school kids and his NPO that supplies basic school necessities.
Mandela is an inspiration to Tankiso. ‘My favourite quote is: “Any man who changes his principles depending on whom he is dealing with, is not a man who can lead a nation.” Whatever I am doing, my principles must be at the core. Irrespective of the position of the person you are dealing with, they still have human dignity. If someone has negative energy, they don’t help you grow, but if someone has positive energy, everyone can feed off it. Even when Madiba was president, he was always learning and developing himself. For 27 years, he preprared himself to lead. He forgave everyone and moved forward.’
Tankiso is not only continuing his great work, but also studying at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), and planning on completing his MBA next.
Dedicated to education
Dzunani Mathebula, like Tankiso, is passionate about helping young people achieve their dreams. His NPO, Jumpstart Your Career, had humble beginnings in his community, Mataffil, just outside Mbombela. ‘In our village, many people aren’t educated, so they don’t see the value in education,’ he says. ‘I decided to help.’ Using his own laptop, he started after-school sessions with local kids, assisting them with computer skills and helping them find information for assignments.
The organisation then gained recognition – and funding – from the Department of Social Development Mpumalanga, which allowed Dzunani to acquire ICT equipment, data and furniture. Premises are provided by Mbombela Municipality. ‘The youth centre started in 2014,’ he says, ‘and through the centre we have managed to link 100 young people to job opportunities, and over 60 young people to bursaries.’ For example, Vodacom’s bursary scheme enabled two students to study Actuarial Science at the Universities of Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The centre also now employs five people, so it’s created jobs in the community as well. One of Dzunani’s favourite success stories is a kid who has literally crossed oceans to achieve his dreams. ‘This young man achieved seven distinctions in school but had no money to study, so he got a job as a petrol attendant. We helped him to apply for a bursary, and prepared him for the interviews, and he’s now in his third year of medicine in Cuba.’
The NPO has also trained around 50 women to sew. ‘So many people in our community have no skills, so they are unemployable. They haven’t finished school, so aren’t eligible for most learnerships. We are trying to give them skills and help them find sustainable work.’
As well as running Jumpstart Your Career, Dzunani’s day job is Network Specialist at Vodacom. He also presents a class every Saturday for Grade 8 girls, teaching them ICT skills that help them learn and grow.
With Vodacom, he runs an annual essay competition, the Annual Ethics Essay, in rural school. This year’s topic looked at finding creative solutions to the scourge of gender-based violence, including how technology could assist. The winners are given tablets by Vodacom, on which they can access Vodacom e-School.
While he’s happy to be recognised, Dzunani is taking the honour of being named a Future Mandela in his stride. ‘This work is something I had to do,’ he says. ‘To be recognised has made me see that our work makes an impact, and it’s encouraged me to do more.'
His dedication to education extends to himself as well: he has just completed a three-year Programme in Thought Leadership for Africa’s Renewal with the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute and UNISA.
Mandela’s dedication to service inspires Dzunani. ‘He left his law practice, which he had worked so hard for, to create a better South Africa for all. His compassion for people encourages me to serve without expecting any personal gain,’ he says.
Be a part of the change
Join Vodacom to be part of their drive to make South Africa a better place - it's just one of the key reasons a career at Vodacom could be right for you. The Vodacom Foundation has granted over R1.2 billion since 1999 to various NPOs that tackle issues as diverse as education, gender-based violence and empowerment.