Her vision for South Africa entails the empowerment of young people, women, people with disabilities and any other currently marginalised group in realising and maximising their potential, for the assistance of economic transformation for the majority of South Africans. You definitely know Samantha Beynon from the SABC’s One Day Leader 3, which recognized young South African future leaders. We had the opportunity to find out more about this young leader and Samantha Beynon, who is known as “Qaqamba” bared it all in this inspirational interview.
YV: Who is Samantha Beynon?
-I am a prized daughter of Christ. I am an African and I am proudly South African. I am unique. I am a White Xhosa speaking and cultured young woman. I consider myself a leader, a youth activist and a social activist. I am resilient and I am a survivor.I am passionate about helping any South African realize and maximize his or her own potential, for a better life. I have empathy for those who struggle and suffer. I despise the superiority of some over others. I believe in equality and justice. I can be serious but I have a big sense of humour as well.
2. What was your childhood like?
I am a product of what it means to be loved and cared for by extended family and by members of a broader community. My father passed away when I was ten years old and my mother when I was 21 years old. I am now 24.
Shortly after my father’s death, I was separated from my mother – who could not afford to look after me at the time– and put into the care of extended family. Although I generally enjoyed high school and excelled in my academics, on the sports field and in leadership, the transition from one home to another was not easy. When you are not raised by your own parents you can suffer in a way that those who are raised by their own biological parents would not quite understand. It affects your personal sense of belonging and the development of your own personal identity.
However, I can allude to the fact that by the Grace of God and the willingness of my sibling, extended family and members of my particular community (teachers, pastors, mentors etc.), I came out of my personal circumstance and situation a stronger, able and matured young woman. The distance from my own immediate family afforded me the opportunity to, as a White South African, understand the general living realities of people of a much broader community and to learn various languages and cultural practices at a young age. This has been of great value to me as a young South African (aspiring) leader. It has contributed to the person I am today: an African behind the cause of African people.
YV: Why Politics?
I have always had an interest in Politics. This was evident to my extended family from a young age. It began with little things: instead of watching a movie, I’d prefer to watch a political documentary; instead of reading a love story, I’d prefer to read about the history of South Africa or a biography of a particular political or struggle icon and so on. Growing up, I dedicated my free time to engaging adults on political, economic and social matters and to learning from them. I was often referred to as a rebellious or different child simply because I explored “no-go areas” or discussed issues which caused a certain level of discomfort: racism, inequality, privilege etc.
This interest has never left me however: I am a Public Administration and Political Science Graduate andI have served two terms in the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Students’ Representative Council as the Secretary General and then as the Deputy President. I have participated in a number of community outreach projects and programmes and represented people on a national platform such as on One Day Leaderand at the ANN7 South African of the Year Awards 2014, as a leader, social activist. I am passionate about the people of this country and their socio-economic well-being. Each person deserves the opportunity to develop his or her potential, for a better life for him or herself and for his or her fellow community members. These opportunities cannot be limited to a privileged few.
YV: You call “yourself a public servant” what does the term mean to you?
I believe that a public servant does not resemble a perfect person but someone who is willing to put the needs and interests of the people above his or her own. This leader or servant is willing to translate his or her promises of efficient and effective service delivery and governance into action. He or she is consistent and willing to account for his or her decisions and actions, at all times. Essentially, a public servant is selfless and understands and accepts the notion, “The people shall come first.”
YV: What lessons did you learn from One Day Leader?
One Day Leader did teach me new lessons but it also reminded me of things I already knew (every Leader has to keep reminding him/herself of important lessons):-
One Day Leader is both a political and competitive space. Through my experience on the show, I grew stronger in areas of political strategy and tactic, debate and dialogue and how to promote one’s brand and message to a broader audience, in volume and over a long period of time.
I was reminded not to only identify problems but to more importantly provide solutions for such problems.
It taught me how to network and to be more resourceful.
I was reminded that the more you know with clarity who you are, the less vulnerable you are to what other people say and think about you. In saying this I am referring to those people who don’t necessarily support you or your cause, because essentially we all experience that (some form of rejection and/or dislike) as people.
I learnt how to adapt to ever-changing environments and fast.
I was reminded of how powerful it is when you can communicate with someone in their mother tongue. Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
I was also reminded to never give up – any struggle can be harsh and has its truly dark moments – in any challenging situation, you must fight until the bitter end. Remain focused on your mandate.
I was reminded of how important it is to be thankful for the support you do receive from those considered to be “in your corner.” You should never forget the people who assisted you on your way to success. Remain humble. Give thanks.
YV: Why is women empowerment important to you, especially in rural areas?
I think having grown up in a rural and farming community myself, I was challenged by and uncomfortable with the living conditions of the majority of our people, in particular the women and youth. Women are equal citizens with equal rights but still form part of an economically and socially marginalized group of people in our country.
In redressing the imbalances of the past and ultimately the legacy of Apartheid – which in this case entailed the systematic exclusion of women politically, economically and socially – we have to acknowledge and remedy the situation women in these particular areas find themselves in. The empowerment of women focuses on issues around: access to education and training, control over resources, participation in decision-making, changes in household structures, information and communication technologies etc.
Any woman has a valuable role to play in growth of the economy of South Africa as does any man. She should thus be afforded equal opportunities to do so.
YV: Did growing up in the Eastern Cape influence your career path in any way?
I believe the general living realities and poor socio-economic status of most people in my province is certainly a contributing factor to my interest in politics and leadership.I want to be an advocate for meaningful change, as we have already seen from leaders and public figures who have come before me and from my province in particular, for example: Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Stephen Bantu Biko, Chris Hani, Thabo Mbekietc. The Eastern Cape is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa yet it is boasting with potential. People here and across South Africa simply needed to be afforded educational and other opportunities to develop their own, unique potential to improve their lives and that of others, for a better life.
YV: You’ve done inspiring work with KICK, how did your involvement come about and while in the streets was there any moment that hit you hard that these kids have to go through every single day?
I got involved in KICK Organization through a friend who was actually involved in establishing the NGO. Participating in the In Their Shoes initiative and at such a young age was a rather significant moment for me, in terms of the development of my own critical thinking and consciousness. I got to experience first-hand what it means to actually live and survive on the streets of a City. The reality is that if you are someone who has a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in, it is difficult to actually comprehend what it is like for those who in fact sleep on the streets. One can try to imagine what it is like but one would never really know until one has to do or experience it for themselves.
Living on the streets is no easy task. One is often cold, hungry and tired. One cannot sleep in case one falls victim to abuse or some form of criminal activity. One is also judged for being homeless.There is an attack on one’s own human dignity. Issues of poverty, inequality and privilege haunted me during the days and nights of living on the streets, under the In Their Shoes initiative. The outcome of the initiative was a positive one however. R250 000 was raised in five days and we generated a national awareness on the issue of homeless children, living on the streets of Port Elizabeth (where the initiative was carried out) and across South Africa.
YV: What would you say to other young women who might share the same passion as you but are afraid of maybe standing out?
Be bold and fearless. Show strength, confidence. Know yourself. Utilize your strengths and acknowledge and work on your weaknesses. You have to work hard, if not harder, to get where you want to be as a woman irrespective of profession. The reality is that we live in an unequal society where men still dominate the workplace and where women for the most part (although I do acknowledge that progress has been made since 1994) are still underestimated, undermined and systematically excluded from political or socio-economic opportunities. Women must show unity – out biggest enemy is not just patriarchy but our own divide.
YV: Apart from being an active leader, what do you do for fun?
There are a number of activities:
• Sport! I was a quality hockey player throughout my schooling career but decided at university to engage in coaching – I have been coaching girls’ hockey for five years now and thoroughly enjoy it.
• Spending quality time with friends and family – creating long lasting memories.
• Music, dance and fashion. I cannot go a day without engaging at least one of these – I am quite the House dancer. Often my African brothers and sisters chuckle at the fact that for a White girl, I can actually dance!
• I enjoy “having a cold one” eloxion/ekasi with friends and the locals of any particular community.
• I also gain joy from my community outreach work and activities – my interactions with different people from different communities is incredibly rewarding.
• A good book is great for when I want to relax.
• I also enjoy watching in-house/live comedy – David Kau, Loyiso Gola etc. The jokes they have regarding South African Politics, Politicians has me in fits of laughter each time!
YV: What music genre do you listen to? Any particular artist perhaps?
I love music – it can be a source of inspiration and allows you express yourself. I listen to all genres of music: House, Hip Hop, Rap, Reggae, Pop, R ‘n b, Gospel etc. Although I am a fan of international music and artists: Bob Marley, Rihanna, Beyoncé’, Nicki Minaj, Iggy, T.I., Drake, John Legend etc., I am even more so a fan of our own local music and artists: Cassper Nyovest, AKA, K.O., Naak Musiq., Heavy-K, DJ Fisherman, IFANI etc. Our local music artists are incredibly talented.They have contributed to the development and success of our local music industry in such a short space of time.
YV: Who do you look up to for inspiration?
God. I am reminded of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I look up to my late mother of whom had a natural way with people. She was incredibly caring. She taught me the importance of giving and sharing even in times of hardship and deprivation. She taught me the importance of a good work ethic and to stand strong irrespective of life’s hardships. Although I was separated from her for many years, I did eventually re-connect with her in her final living years and days.
I am also inspired by bold and brave young peoplewho are in fact willing to challenge the status quo (systems) in this modern day and age. They possess the same spirit of the class of 1976.Finally, our heroic struggle icons: Nelson Mandela, Stephen Bantu Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Chris Hani, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi, Albie Sachs, Joe Slovo etc.
Their bravery and determination to fight and beat an oppressive system will forever leave me inspired. I am motivated to represent and fight for our own generation’s cause of economic transformation and a better life for all South Africans.
YV: Where do you want to be in the next 5 years?
I do have political aspirations. So I also want to attain a Law Degree and to write a book.
I also have an interest in radio, entrepreneurship and mentorship.
YV: Can we expect a book from you in the future?
I believe that as young peoplewe are creative thinkers, innovators. We have ideas to share.
A book is the perfect platform for this – to expose creativity and for the sharing of experiences and the contestation of ideas.
YV: What message do you have for the youth in South Africa?
Believe in yourself as a young person. You are talented – develop and use this talent. You need to work hard as nothing in this life will be served to you on a silver platter. Get educated, knowledge is power! Find a mentor. A support system offers guidance and provides reassurance. You will not achieve what you set out to alone. Have a set of goals and steps to attain these. Build your profile and your personal brand. Have a positive attitude. Be responsible.
Never give up – be strong, be bold, be resilient. Give back to your community.
Go out and do great things young lion!