What initially started out as an initiative to discover and develop future citizen journalists in three provinces, has now turned into a rare opportunity for no less than 62 candidates in all nine provinces of South Africa. The programme is supported by the Google News Initiative (GNI).
The word “sinelizwi” is of Xhosa origin and it means “We have the word.” And this is exactly what the successful candidates – including high school learners, unemployed youth, small-scale farmers, farm workers and community workers – will be doing in a structured online programme.
Food For Mzansi co-founder Ivor Price describes Sinelizwi as a dream come true. “We are excited about the programme’s potential to not only salute more unsung heroes, but to also document untold stories from forgotten communities. Many of our 60 participants have never before touched or read a newspaper, for example, simply because they live too far off the beaten track. This is a life-changing experience to turn them into smart, active digital consumers of news who will hopefully become engaged, informed participants in civic life.”
Sinelizwi’s selected 62 candidates have until Tuesday, 18 August at 15:00 to accept their spots on the programme, failing which available spots will be offered to some of the other top candidates who are currently on the waiting list. Keep an eye on your WhatsApp for official communication from Food For Mzansi within the next day or two.
Thabiso Ndobo from Virginia
No stranger to the world of journalism and media, Thabiso Ndobo currently volunteers as news editor for a community-based online publication. He holds a diploma in journalism and media studies, and also completed stints at a daily newspaper and a community radio station.
Monnapule Mashoala from Bloemfontein
After matriculating in 2016, Monnapule Mashoala studied biochemistry and microbiology at the University of the Free State. In 2018 he took a gap year during which he started food gardens to support his local community. He is back behind the books, currently studying quantity surveying at the Central University of Technology. His big dream? To become a farmer.
Amanda Timbe from Bloemfontein
Quiet, everyone, we officially have a teacher on the programme. Amanda Timbe describes herself as passionate, driven and hardworking. She loves developing young minds and positively influencing her learners. With a degree in her pocket, she is currently also mentoring students and graduates. She believes the gift of motherhood has given her greater insight into the youth’s potential.
Lieketseng Lecheko from Sasolburg
Aspiring writer, blogger and community activist Lieketseng Lecheko dreams of a day where rural communities will rediscover the beauty and potential of farming. She is also keen on exploring the impact of digital technologies on agriculture. Her big dream? To write books. Lots of it too, from biographies to fiction. The young writer from Sasolburg is a visionary and hopes to add script writing to her bio as well.
Thabo Tsosane from Parys
Concerned about rising poverty levels, drug abuse and gang violence, Thabo Tsosane is a passionate storyteller. His interests are diverse, ranging from literature and journalism to photography and fashion. For as long as he can remember he has always been interested in writing and reading.
Zipho Mfihlelwa from KwaNgele village
Hailing from the rural Eastern Cape, this farmer, permaculturist, agro-ecologist and Imvotho Bubomi Learning Network member also joins the ranks as a Sinelizwi programme participant. Zipho Mfihlelwa hopes to shine a light on some of the small-scale farmers in her area, who are often using innovative practices to get the job done.
Qhayiya Mhlahlo from Burnshill
The 14-year-old Qhayiya Mhlahloa is a high school learner at the Ntlanzi Christian School. He lives with his mother and siblings in a rural village. About rugby, you can tell him nothing, but his passion for food far outweighs his interest in sports. He tells Food For Mzansi that food is a reflection of our values and dreams.
Busisiwe Mgangxela from East London
Having just received her junior degree, Busisiwe Mgangxela is a passionate, young farmer who owns a piece of land in Cambridge. She describes herself as an agro-ecological farmer and seed guardian. Also, she is an advocate for traditional seed saving techniques and excited to document her passions as part of the Sinelizwi programme.
Mzuvukile Kwatsha from Burnshill
Immediately after Mzuvukile Kwatsha completes his studies, he wants to take the first steps to position himself as an up-and-coming farmer. His life goal is to help other farmers gain knowledge about producing high-quality vegetables in both rural and urban areas.
Xoliswa Xulubana from Keiskammahoek
Sustaining the economy of her community is at the top of Xoliswa Xulubana’s priority list. Currently, she passionately labours as a development agent at Ntinga Ntabe ka Ndoda. This organisation is a rural movement which seeks to develop local communities in the Eastern Cape through various programmes.
Melesizwe Mtshemla from Alice
As a police officer, Melesizwe Mtshemla’s main prioroty is to protect the members of his community against sexual predators. For him this is a labour of love to protect his community. Apart from his community work, he also enjoys agricultural activities that involve crop farming. He is currently reading for his Master’s degree at Rhodes University.
Thembani Mpondo from Mkhubiso
Not so long ago, Thembani Mpondo set about farming with 37 chicks that have since grown significantly. Already, his chickens have hatched him 500 eggs that were sold to community members. The budding poultry farmer is passionate about egg-layers and brooders, and plans to produce fertile eggs which he will then sell to markets in his area.
Ludwe Majiza from Mkhubiso
After leaving his influential IT job in Cape Town to return to his birthplace in the Eastern Cape, Ludwe Majiza had one goal. That was to make a difference in his community. Today, he is a successful permaculture farmer who is working tirelessly to encourage others to join Mzansi’s vibrant agricultural landscape.
Xabiso Gayika from Burnshill
Surrounded by animals as a child, it was only a matter of time before Xabiso Gayika would carve a career niche from this. Today, she is a hound breeder and dreams of becoming a veterinarian because it urks her to see animals suffer. But that is not all, the zoophilist hopes to one day get her hands dirty as a farmer.
Manyano Rasmeni from Frankfort
Besides being a father and educator, this gentle giant is also a passionate poultry farmer. One of the primary reasons why he initially became a farmer was to live off the land. He is inspired by its richness, and marvels at the ability to create a livelihood and career from the soil and the animals he breeds.
Thangolomzi Hogana from East London
Amandla! to Thangolomzi Hogana who farms with her heart and teaches the younger South Africans about agriculture. As a leader of the Mxumbu youth co-operative, she teaches learners from schools in her community about the world of farming. She is also a small-scale farmer of livestock and crops. As a citizen journalist, she hopes to bring much-needed change in her community through news and storytelling.
Ngcewelekazi Dlanjwa from King William’s Town
At just 17 years old, Ngcewelekazi Dlanjwa is occupying the honourary seat of deputy provincial junior commissioner of the Eastern Cape. Although introverted and slighty on the shy side, shei is passionate about her community and every project they embark on. She also enjoys reading and writing.
Vuyolwethu Shezi from Piet Retief
For as long as he can remember, Vuyolwethu has always dreamed of toiling as a writer. He loves interviewing people and listening to their stories. The aspiring writer tells Food For Mzansi that it is his mission to help people appreciate the art of writing and reading.
Solomzi Gcelu from Bizana
Solomzi Gcelu is all about youth and community development and sport. As a 2019 activator, he already forms part of various youth organisations. He loves all things educational and entrepreneurial and can’t wait to get going with the Sinelizwi programme.
Yola Mgoboza from Durban
Yola Mgoboza is a man of lights, camera and action. He is a film and TV graduate, and a freelance film maker. He loves infiltrating unfamiliar territories that will add to his personal growth while impacting those around him. Other than that, he has always been a writer at heart and wants to explore it more earnestly.
Mondli Maphumulo from Durban
Confidence oozes out of this 24-year-old Durbanite. Mondli Maphumulo is confident and describes himself as an articulate communicator. He believes that for growth in any industry one needs to be determined, energetic, driven and goal-oriented. He considers himself to be a very hard worker who strives for excellence in everything he does.
Johan van Veenendaal from Pietermaritzburg
Johan van Veenendaal’s life seems to have always oscillated between technology and crop production. At primary school, he was the winner of a home vegetable garden competition. Then at high school, he became besotted with electronics, which he took through to university. For the past 12 years he has been lecturing at Cedara College of Agriculture.
Gugu Mehlo from Pietermaritzburg
As a peer educator at PACSA and the seventh member of a group of young minds who strive for emancipation, Gugu Mehlo is a force to be reckoned with. She and a few of her peers are currently working to start their very own NGO to fight against the injustices that young people face on a daily basis. She is also currently studying public management at Elangeni College.
Nombulelo Malevu from Pietermaritzburg
Agriculture, environmental issues and basic human rights form part of a list of things that Nombulelo Malevu is deeply passionate about. Currently she serves as a team member of the Food Justice Collective, where community members learn and are educated about agriculture, climate change and the environment.
Sivuyile Majikijela from Durban
With a heart for arts and the media, Sivuyile Maikijela lives by the words, “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” This has led her to a path of promoting the welfare of others. She loves helping women and youth, but has always managed to create change for herself. She is a radio presenter for a campus radio station as well as the social media manager for a digital arts festival.
Smanga Mhlophe from Stanger
While studying journalism at Rosebank College, Smanga Mhlophe already started freelancing for a local newspaper. Today, he is the author of a book called TakeNotez and also a radio personality. For his radio work, Smanga has even scooped two awards along the way, one from the Mzansi Kwaito and House Music Awards 2019 and the other was as the third runner-up spot at the 031 Awards 2020 in the media personality category.
Nkululeko Shabalala from Durban
He is a proud honours degree holder from the University of KwaZulu-Natal who has attended a handful of leadership programmes that enhanced his writing and researching skills. Over the years, Nkululeko Shabalala has has made it his mission to do volunteering work with organisations based in his community. And currently he is a sub-contractor with the South African Institute of International Affairs.
Thembelihle Memela from Durban
Thembelihle Memela is currently studying towards a B.Sc. degree in agriculture with a focus on animal and poultry science student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The aspiring farmer dreams of owning a small farm operation one day. She is not afraid to work hard. For her, in terms of financial returns, farmers do not always get what they deserve. She tells Food For Mzansi that she thinks that organic farming will be the future.
Thalente Ncube from Mtubatuba
Thalente Ncube is a journalist with nearly four years’ experience in the field. But there is more to him – he is also a humanitarian with a sharp eye for news. The Sinelizwi candidate considers himself as a food lover, although he also remains active. He is very passionate about agriculture and the environment in general.
Thabo Batshe from Warrenton
Thabo Batshe is a recent graduate from the University of the Free State and currently studying further towards a BA in communication science with a specialisation in corporate and marketing communication. This funky, young mind is often complimented as a great communicator and writer. Another cool thing, he spends his time writing search engine optimised content in his capacity as a social media manager. He is an active leader in his community and very passionate about empowerment.
Tebogo Madalane from Kimberley
Tebogo Madalane takes pride in uplifting and celebrating her community. She believes in exposing people to the beauty of mother nature. As a journalism graduate, she is excited about joining Sinelizwi to, in her own words, “help put my underrated province back on the map”.
Ahluma Memela from Khayelitsha
Ahluma Memela spends his days practicing Xhosa praise poems and trying his hand at DJing. This grade 9 learner at the Manyano High School also serves as the deputy president of his student representative council. He recently became a YouTuber, blogger and has published poems about covid-19 and youth on his channel, Imvaba Imvaba. Currently, he is raising funds to do online coding lessons.
Jason Jakuja from Strand
He is one of the voices behind a local community radio station, Radio Helderberg. And when he is not having fun in studio, Jason Jakuja can be found on stages working as a public speaker. Personal development has always been his obsession and he often speaks at business and other events community-based events.
Terri-Ann Brouwers from Plattekloof
Her passion to amplify the voices of people of colour, especially women, have already led her to completing a higher certificate in journalism and digital media. Terri-Ann Brouwers is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism at Pearson Institute of Higher Education. The 22-year-old is also on a mission to use every platform at her disposal to fight and speak up against the injustices her minorities face.
Mikhulu Sidzatane from Goodwood
Shy and modest, but a lover of lover of people. This is the perfect description of Mikhulu Sidzatane. The 20-year-old especially enjoys being around people who are able to inspire and motivate him. Other than that, he loves reading books and regards himself as a bit of a creative who wants to use every gift he has been blessed with.
Melanie Baumeister from Sedgefield
With her strong roots in the Eastern Cape, Melanie Baumeister was raised to celebrate diversity and listen to, and learn from the stories of other people. Growing up during apartheid and living through the changes of democracy in South Africa, she believes she was one of the lucky ones. Melanie was raised by liberal thinking parents, and as a family they were already living “the rainbow nation dream” during the troubled 1980’s.
Emke Hartnick from Macassar
Emke Hartnick aspires to be part of a sustainable developing community where all natural resources are conserved for future generations. After obtaining a degree in environmental and water science graduate, and completing her MSc thesis in soil science, she was fortunate to work as a research project assistant on various sustainable agricultural projects. These projects focussed on economic innovation and ecological infrastructure.
Vateka Halile from Khayelitsha
Meet a patriot and a script poet who is already known for poems and short stories in isiXhosa. For Vateka Halile, writing has always been a coping mechanism – since her childhood days, in fact. She absolutely loves languages and considers herself a storyteller.
Evan Rosant from Kraaifontein
The 14-year-old Evan Rosant is currently in grade 8 at The Settlers High School in Bellville. He has already made up his mind: one day he’ll be a scientist, but in the meantime he is learning as much as he can, including a weekly coding class. Evan describes his community as crime-ridden. Often when people hear gunshots they simply say, “I wonder who it is this time around?”
Lea Steenkamp from Somerset-West
The 16-year-old Lea Steenkamp is currently in grade 9 and dreams of one day becoming a qualified journalist. She has always enjoyed storytelling, whether it’s through books or movies. And her school subjects are as diverse as her interests: biology, chemistry, arts, Afrikaans, English and German as an additional subject.
Juanita Wildeman from George
Juanita Wildeman is a skilled report compiler of environmental issues and has experience in the field of environmental management. She is a young, energetic and ambitious woman with plans to further her studies and gain more experience in her field of interest.
Jessica Isaacs from Firgrove
Artistic and and full of life. This poet, writer and singer enjoys encouraging people with her gifts. Jessica Isaacs says her mission on earth is to be a voice for the voiceless and her greatest desire is to prove to her two children that anything is possible. Recently one of her dreams came true. She was informed that her poems will for the entire month of August be broadcasted on a local radio station in Grabouw.
Nozipho Ntshingila from Johannesburg
Nozipho Ntshingila is a BA marketing communication graduate from the University of Johannesburg with experience in journalism. She worked for a newspaper called The Messenger and loves news and current affairs. She is also passionate about storytelling. She recently completed two children’s book manuscripts in isiZulu and IsiXhosa. As a cultural activist, she advocates for “ukuhlolwa” cultural practice in order to promote a healthier lifestyle in girls and young women. She tells Food For Mzansi that she envisions a South Africa where indigenous languages and knowledge are appreciated.
Siboniso Xulu from Johannesburg
Siboniso Xulu, a man of languages, is a former isiZulu language teacher and an aspiring writer. He holds an honnours degree in Nguni languages and has compiled a manuscript of folklore which consists of 50 isiZulu idioms. In addition to that, he is also a co-author of Songs of Peace, the world’s biggest anthology, and a top-ten winner of a recent covid-19 relief competition for poets from 38 countries.
Monako Dibetle from Westonaria
Meet Monako Dibetle, a budding pomegranate farmer who is also fascinated by citrus. Over the years he has also developed a passion for indigenous trees, and is currently reading up on all South African indigenous trees and their uses.
Sbanesihle Lekopa from Soweto
Ambitious and a liker things, this 17-year-old high school learner loves taking on new challenges and considers herself a very fast learner. She enjoys writing poetry and has always been fascinated by the way in which poets play with language and words. She tells Food For Mzansi that she loves cooking and enjoys whipping up new recipes.
Petunia Buhle from Soshanguve
The bubbly and energetic Petunia Buhle from Soshanguve has known from a much younger age that she wanted to pursue a career in journalism. At 16 years old, she considers herself a sponge for information and believes in being consistent in everything she does.
Siphokazi Siluma from Brakpan
There is nothing that will stop this 17-year-old. Siphokazi Siluma is in grade 11 at Dalpark Secondary School and can be described as smart, ambitious, kind, friendly and respectful. She loves music and radio, especially Metro FM. Her mom is her super hero and she hopes to be like her when she is an adult.
Duduzile Siluma from Johannesburg
Learning about food and how it is grown and preserved, has always fascinated Duduzile Siluma. As an aspiring farmer, she looks forward to being taught different methods of cultivating certain vegetables. The 20-year-old is a big fan of Ikwekwezi FM.
Rulani Rulani from Lephalale
Rulani Rulani is a bit of a comedian, we think. He tells Food For Mzansi that his greatest strength is not taking anything seriously, while his greatest weakness is not taking anything seriously. His lecturer once called him childish and he agreed with her. Then, on another occasion, a former friend poured their heart out to him and Rulani respond with giggles. He is passionate about news and storytelling, though, and feels honoured to tell untold stories through Food For Mzansi’s Sinelizwi programme.
Lebogang Siabi from Polokwane
Lebogang Siabi is a 32-year-old woman who has a huge passion for driving change through her writing, mentorship initiatives and business level skills. Lebogang has two books under her author’s belt, Why mama did it and My father. In 2016, she had an opportunity to do a three-month master class on creative writing. She believes it was during this class that her love for journalism developed.
Thuka Mamabolo from Polokwane
At 14, Thuka Mamabolo already finds refuge in speaking up for those who struggle to speak up for themselves. As a very curious individual by heart, she finds herself, every now and then, questioning everything and everyone. Other than that, she enjoys helping people in need. Believe it or not, this high school learner’s favourite television channel is the parliamentary channel.
Rejoyce Legodi from Polokwane
The 24-year-old Rejoyce Legodi holds a degree in public administration from the University of Limpopo and also graduated from the Young African Leaders Institute. She has published over 50 articles on the Opera newsZA platform and is very passionate about community news.
Mologadi Ngoetjana from Polokwane
When Mologadi Ngoetjana’s nose is not found in agricultural and educational books, you will find her sharing her knowledge in animal production with youth from rural areas. She does this in her capacity as a skills programme facilitator and mentor. Recently, the 30-year-old graduated with a diploma in animal production and acquired training in piggery, broiler, and livestock production. She also done extension work with the Polokwane Municipality.
Mary Morotola from Lehalale
Reading and writing has always been a passion of Mary Morotola. She is a 17-year-old high school learner who considers herself to be a hard worker with great communication skills. She enjoys sharing ideas in order to get different perspectives from different people. She tells Food For Mzansi that she enjoys watching reality shows because she believes most of them address real issues.
Tumisho Phillip from Burgersfort
Self-determined and very open minded, that is Tumisho Phillip. He is always ready to for a new challenge, especially when it comes to writing and technology. He says he is a good public speaker with the great leadership qualities. Many people know him as someone who does not hesitate to share his opinion on matters, only this time around, as a citizen journalist, he will give others a platform to speak.
Hazel Mampane from Groblersdal
Hazel Mampane is a single mother who has not had it easy in life. She tells Food For Mzansi that raising her baby boy as a single parent is not always easy, but feels fortunate that she is getting help form relatives. What makes it even more difficult is that she does not have a matric certificate and this has negatively added to her unemployment predicament. However, despite these challenges she looks forward to taking up space with Food For Mzansi’s Sinelizwi programme. Watch this space. Hazel is going places!
Godfrey Thwala from Mbombela
Godfrey Thwala has been toiling the lands in Mpumalanga for over a decade now. He is passionate about agriculture and works as an agri-business consultant specialising in business development and marketing. What is even more cool about his agricultural journey is that he led a team at an international community-based agricultural project.
Elias Sello from Marble Hall
Elias Sello loves community work and sharing knowledge with others, hence his decision to study education at Unisa. The 28-year-old is currently volunteering as youth development advisor in his community.
Sharon Ndlovu from Nelspruit
Sharon Ndlovu is not only smart, but hard-working too. The Nelspruit visionary tells Food fFor Mzansi that she is a team player and very creative. Working under pressure and delivering on time are some of her strongest traits. This graduate cannot wait to get started on the Sinelizwi programme, telling untold stories about local entrepreneurs and game-changers.
Khomotso Phora from Dennilton
Khomotso Phora has been a fan of words and literature for as long as she can remember. After matriculating in 2013, she went to study policing because she always believed that her true calling was to investigating issues. However, she is currently unemployed, but excited at the opportunity to sharpen her writing skills through Sinelizwi.
Gugulethu Mahlangu from Rustenberg
Gugelethu Mahlangu is an avid reader who has been writing since her high school days. She tells Food For Mzansi that she is a very selective and picky person. She is also a traveller at heart and extremely passionate about the growth of agriculture in the youth sector. She says, food is her forte and she loves cooking it.