South Africa is a nation in rehabilitation. It got very sick from power abuse at one stage and thankfully had timeous intervention to prevent a messy downward spiral. Since 1994, however, there have been relapses into its chronic condition of corruption and abuse of authority. The previous ruling racial minority were deluded, thought they were humanly superior and entrenched laws to enforce this, whereas now a certain cohort of the current minority seems devoid of moral substance, imagining they deserve ill-gotten riches because of the bad treatment of the past. Neither style of leadership is any kind of leadership at all, although to be fair, the latter is far less blatantly cruel.
One good thing about the adversity of political oppression is that it provides fertile grounds for heroes to rise up, break through the imposed barriers and take hold of their destiny.
One such triumph-in-progress over adversity is Joyce Malebye who rose from depressing depths of oppression to new heights. Hers is not the tale of a high-flying, politically connected, mega-wealthy entrepreneur, but one of a girl born to humble beginnings who worked hard and believed in herself and the plan God has for her.
Joyce was born in a small village called Moretele in Northwest Province, just under one month before all South Africans queued for the country’s first ever democratic election. Her teenage mother worked as a house cleaner; the kind of job many of those sought who were restricted from higher career aspirations by Apartheid’s insane iron ceiling. Joyce spent the first four years of her life with her grandparents before moving to where her mother and great-grandparents lived, in Soshanguve township just outside Pretoria. Her father was not in the picture, although they met when she was fourteen years old.
Like many housemaids Joyce’s mother only made it home on weekends, having spent all week at her employers’ residence. Their home’s three rooms were occupied by six people (seven when Joyce came home from the University of Cape Town), but Joyce remembers gratefully that their house was “fortunate enough to be in an area that has running water.”
This type of cramped accommodation was and still is the reality for millions of South Africans, corralled to the meagre environs allocated to them by the racial lottery into which they were born at that time in history. Yet for myself and those born on the lucky side of the racial lottery, this is an incomprehensible scenario. I am so sorry, I must express, to those people so strongly disenfranchised, by a rigged system, from opportunities and the chance to be trained to work a skilled job for good reward. Please forgive us for Apartheid.
Apparently unperturbed by her humble beginnings, Joyce set about working very hard at her school, her goal from a young age being to succeed academically and lift her family out of the poverty trap. In a moment of reflection, she told me her life’s mission was, “… that God brought me to this earth so I can build a legacy for the Malebye’s and deliver them from poverty.” She rose through the academic ranks with excellence, always working as if for her Creator and not limited by the unequal esteem a skewed society tried to force upon her. She is now near the end of an accounting degree, steadfastly writing her own story, changing the script which an inhumane regime handed to her for her perceived role in the theatre of life.
Putting one’s head down and slogging away in order that you can help your family and community lift their eyes to a future unthought-of is among the noblest of intentions and a solid gold reason to make your life count.
Joyce was lucky to be chosen as part of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, an organisation she believes helped “unleash the greatness in [her] and believed in [her] when [she] had doubts.” She is now part of a community of Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows poised to positively shift the trajectory of South Africa through their uplifting entrepreneurial spirit and application.
I speak as a man who has suffered serious adversity, albeit of a different nature to that which Joyce encountered and still wages against. But I take inspiration from this young heroine and many other protagonists determined to overcome the harsh hand life dealt them by working hard, having faith and always believing. There are many reports to give about South Africa and out of all of them, I choose as my headline that which tells of a land where miracles happen.