I am because we are: South Africa’s future is our people

Celebrate each other's humanity, and we can overcome our challenges, writes ITHUBA CEO Charmaine Mabuza.

South Africa is a continent of stark contrasts in its landscape, climate, socio-economic inequalities, and the diversity of its people.

South Africans face unique socio-economic difficulties and opportunities which often rip our communities apart, but also bring us together, and the way to get there is through our actions.

In today’s complex world, where challenges both historical and contemporary seem to constantly test our resilience, I am often reminded of the powerful South African concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are.” I feel strongly about this principle.

This philosophy, eloquently championed by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, resonates deeply with my personal and professional journey, especially in my role as CEO of ITHUBA.

The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a true humanitarian, was a proponent of this remarkable view, when he wrote, “Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human,” and that “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good.”

This concept sits very close to my heart. I grew up with a single mother, a strong woman who defied poverty and oppression through becoming an entrepreneur to feed her family and succeed in business. But her secret was community. She was not just an entrepreneur; she was a pillar of strength who understood that success is not a solitary pursuit.

She knew that nobody is truly ‘self-made’, that we all rely on others, and others rely on us. She taught me the importance of community, that we thrive not by isolating ourselves, but by being part of a community, by being there for others as much as they are there for us.

Giving back is so important. But I don’t see it as giving back. That suggests a debt. I’m not fond of that view because it sounds like a burden. I see it as cultivating what has cultivated me.

This understanding has been integral to my approach at ITHUBA. As the National Lottery operator, we do more than just conduct games of chance. We create opportunities. It’s a mission that goes beyond business – it’s about making a tangible difference in people’s lives by. channelling resources into communities that need them most ITHUBA.

But it’s not enough. We strive to do more, to uplift and empower. Through the ITHUBA bursary program, we have helped over 600 learners become professionals. Our bursary programme has already helped over 600 learners qualify as professionals. We started a project to provide homes to our employees, which has since expanded to replacing houses for people across South Africa, including the KZN flood victims and differently abled people. ITHUBA also nurtures and develops small businesses, with a keen emphasis on women-owned enterprises.

Yet Ubuntu is not a social investment project, the essence of Ubuntu transcends these structured programs. As the Arch said, it’s about being human. How do we care for one another? What little things can we do to support each other? Even a friendly greeting in the supermarket queue or sharing empathy with drivers huddled at a broken traffic light—these things matter.

They celebrate our humanity and remind each other that I am here because we are. It’s about the everyday acts of kindness, the simple gestures of empathy and support. It’s about understanding that our individual actions, no matter how small, contribute to a larger tapestry of community and shared humanity.

South Africa’s people are its future. We have many challenges. The whole world does. But we’ve also achieved great things and can continue to do so while bringing everyone along. This is the spirit of Ubuntu and the effect of our ability to not just coexist but to support, uplift, and empower each other.

Today, do something small for someone else that doesn’t benefit or enrich you. Just do it for the love and respect of others and our beautiful nation. The dividends will pay out for generations. We come from a dehumanising past, but we can build a very empowering future for everyone.

These acts, these moments of shared humanity, are what will build a future that is not only empowering but deeply enriching for all.

We come from a past that sought to divide and dehumanize, but we have the power to forge a future that is inclusive, supportive, and empowering. This is the spirit that drives ITHUBA, and it’s the change we can all contribute to, one small act of kindness at a time.

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