Reputation Matters


My late teens were arguably the most tumultuous and complex years of my life. There was a lot going on; most of which resulting from the apparent lack of control I had over my life then.

The word “angry” soon became synonymous with my name. The regularity of being called angry bothered me. Did it come from a valid place? Was it true? Could I fix it? Why would I want to fix it?

Yes, I was angry. ‘Probably have been my entire life. I poured most of it out in my journals which proved to be very therapeutic. I knew then what I know now -that you can never be in control of the world’s perception of you.

It also makes one’s life a lot easier to not obsess much about that. Either way, your character will always speak volumes.

An incident that occurred this week brought home the realization that my reputation is important to me. While I may not care how others perceive me in my personal life; I deeply care about how I am perceived in the professional realm. The idea of being relegated to the unreliable and untrustworthy lot got the adrenalin rushing, pulse racing and defense mode on. I needed to save face!

It is important to keep in mind that one’s reputation can make or break them; open doors or keep them closed. Many business people understand that trust is a very important currency in business.

Trust is key to building relationships, advancement and creating viable networks. None of these would pass without a good reputation in place. Hence, a good reputation is invaluable.

It isn’t surprising to see more and more businesses actively enlisting the services of PR agencies for Reputation Management purposes because, simply put-mistrust is costly.

The most recent example is the KFC Braamfontein meat scandal that saw the franchise scrambling to restore its image. They will probably not suffer a great loss of sales, but people will always wonder.

The good news is that a tarnished reputation can be salvaged… with a bit of extra effort.


It ain’t what they call, it’s what you answer to

W.C Fields once said, “It ain’t what they call, it’s what you answer to” (that matters).

Often, we react defensively to the perceptions that other people harbour about us. The degree of that reaction varies, depending on what we know and feel about ourselves. It also relies heavily on how much influence we think the external world has on our lives in general;how much it matters.

I recently listened to Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful talk on why we should all be feminists. Long overdue, since excerpts of it were incorporated into Beyonce’s Flawless many moons ago. Anyway- I took away two points of discussion from the talk:


  • “Feminist” is usually NOT a compliment- not when it emanates from patriarchal doctrine.
  • Feminists are viewed as angry women, who hate bras and men“.

These points resonated with me because earlier this year, I had a social media encounter with someone I know. This was after he posted a Facebook status stating:

“The Feminist: This type of woman can never be pleased by a man and she believes that men are the cause of all pains and sufferings of society. It is her strong belief that women are much more intelligent than men and are capable of doing things “the right way”. You don’t want to waste any time with this type of woman because anything that you do will always be negative to her.”

I only realised later that it was from a viral “article” on the Types of women men need to stay away from (or something to that effect). Then again, people also tend to share things and information that they relate to in some way or the other; information that could covertly or obviously speak to their own belief and value systems.

So, ‘friend put it out there- what I deemed “sexist babble”. Another young man bravely entered the fray and declared, “(Laughs). I love such women. I take them on and shred them to pieces”. The discussion then proceeded to questions from both men on my own stand against what was clearly a flawed view of Feminism.

The men cried foul, “indoctrination!!” , they said. The feminist woman deserves to be alone. Cry the beloved country!

However, the discussion took on an interesting turn- after explaining to the two gentlemen that feminism, in essence, is not male-centric. It is neither focused on the bashing nor emasculation of men but on the political, economic and social emancipation of women. It is about ensuring that women flourish to their full potential and are afforded equal opportunities.

It was highly amusing when it emerged that neither of the men knew what feminism is. One only decided to do an online search when he realised I was steadfast and confident in my argument (which only comes from knowledge), and admitted that he actually didn’t have a clue. He put the cart before the horse, sadly. I’m still waiting to see myself in pieces. I rest my case!

Studies have shown that the participation of women in the economy could raise GDP substantially. The International Monetary Fund recently released a report titled “Women, Work and the Economy”, which highlights the negative impact of gender inequality  on economic growth.

These are the important discussions we ought to be having, so we can create solutions. However, it appears that the patriarchists and chauvinists are too preoccupied with thoughts of being obliterated off the face of the earth by so-called “angry”, morally bankrupt and aloof women who will render them useless.

Instead of adopting a culture of collaboration at every level, there seems to be a fast decline into senseless competition. There’s now them and us. We’ve completely taken our eyes off the ball to engage in mud-slinging. Unfortunately, most of it comes from a misinformed place.

What do I answer to? -Fairness and equality. Merit and excellence. Integrity and responsibility. What do I NOT answer to?- Anything that seeks to pigeonhole me.


The Elephant in the Room: Can We Really Colour-block the Race Issue?

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”– Steven Bantu Biko


Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed people around me being on the receiving end of racial slurs which could otherwise be interpreted as ignorant, narrow-minded or narcissistic.

Of course, this isn’t news. Discourse on racial discrimination is an on-going part of South Africa’s history and one is constantly confronted with the reality that the rainbow nation is rather a superficial farce,with tensions simmering underneath.

As opposed to the light-hearted manner in which comedians address stereotypes attached to different racial groups, it is especially challenging to take on the same approach if one emanates from circumstances that render them disadvantaged because of the colour of their skin. You cannot simply laugh it off.

I believe this is what informed US First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech delivered before graduates at Tuskegee University-a speech rendered “anti-American” and racist because it encouraged black graduates to rise above their circumstances.

Again, this won’t materialise if the world keeps skirting around burning issues and viewing any act of motivation towards economic, social and political emancipation for historical victims of racial discrimination as an attack on other groups.

It is, and should be a good fight-a fight for what is just and equitable.

Anyway, if I may back-track a little: On one occassion when someone I know was told that…well, she can’t blush because she is black, she took offense. Without going too far in my own opinion about the individual who uttered the words, I was more inclined to take a step back and remember that people don’t GIVE offense. On the contrary, people TAKE offense in response to a range of perceived offensive stimuli.

More importantly, the realization that dawned on me was that as Africans; as so-called black people we remain sensitive about the colour of our skin. This to the point where it seems an insult to be referred as such by anyone from a different racial background. It suggests that not even the black man is comfortable in his own skin because then the natural response would be “of course I am!

Our self-hatred rings even clearer when we attack migrants from the continent (and unwittingly our own compatriots) based on the perception that they are too “dark” to be South Africans. Therefore, most of our lives are spent in a defensive and trust deficient mode.

The reality is that the world’s expectation of the black man is to “deal with it”- and that is, of course paramount if our desire is to start building a positive legacy for future generations. However, it shouldn’t be a rushed process that will allow historical oppressors to feel better about themselves. It is a process that will require (without shame or justification) constant and consistent messaging around positive change.

At the same time we must be wary of allowing a defeatist attitude to fester.

In the words of Steve Biko, “Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being”.





Freedom Comes With Responsibility #NoToXenophobia

These statues, mounted at the National Heritage Project’s offices yesterday couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

When our country is this volatile, it is important to reflect on where we come from…

Cissie Gool and Abdullah Abdurrahman

Zainunnisa “Cissie” Gool was an anti-apartheid political and civil rights leader in South Africa. She was the daughter of prominent physician and politician Abdullah Abdurahman.


According to the South African History Resource, Chief Langalibalele was “known as ‘Long Belly’ by Sir Garnet Wolesley, who could ‘never spell his infernal barbarian cognomen’. Langalibalele’s rebellion caused a crisis in Natal. It was described as ‘the most wonderful case of blunders for men past infancy to have made’ and strengthened Carnarvon’s case for confederation.”

Chief Langalibalele

Lest we forget what it took to attain our freedom; the liberties we enjoy today are indeed the culmination of collective efforts in and outside our national borders. Until we free ourselves from our mental chains and truly begin to see the world as a place that holds infinite possibilities through collaboration, then we will never be truly “free”.

Fight or Flight?

It is a hot day in Johannesburg. Just past midday, it feels like one has entered hell’s kitchen. It is ridiculously hot when one considers how nippy it’s been sometimes.

A refreshing stroll down Jorrissen in the hub of Braamfontein has done wonders for my current mental state. Relief is the word.

So, I get into a taxi and bargain with the driver to take me up Jan Smuts and he obliges. I thank him profusely, grateful that I can get back to the office on time.

Sitting on the passenger seat is a woman. I now realize she is his girlfriend. A moment ago, I was oblivious to the tension building up in the air- I had just entered a battleground.

A fervent exchange of words in Xitsonga takes place right before my eyes and at best I attempt to avoid the commotion. I’m bolstered back into reality by the driver slapping the woman with the back of his hand. “Oh no, oh NO!!” What is happening? What do I do?? I sit there. Shocked. I do nothing, say nothing. A short trip has turned into a long one.

On the 9th of March, the news of Nkululeko “Flabba” Habedi’s tragic death spread through our media pores like wildfire. In what is speculated to have been a lover’s argument, Flabba was fatally stabbed through the heart by his girlfriend.

head buried in

“A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa, a probable underestimate because no perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study […] co-authored by Professor Rachel Jewkes of the South African Medical Research Council”

Whether this in response to already existing abuse or mishandling by their spouses, the numbers of women languishing in prison for serious crimes such as murder and attempted murder tells another story.

This is the harsh reality many live with on a daily basis. Some live with the scars while some never get to tell their story. What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of a violent altercation?

As incensed as I felt, I chose to not get involved. It was a selfish decision- I thought of my child and what would become of her in the event that I interfered in the affairs of total strangers- only to lose my life in the process.

I thought of my own upbringing and remembered the violence in it; and how damaged I am. I also thought how dangerous it is (can be) to get caught up in other people’s vicious cycle of upswings and turbulence.

My experience with physical violence has made me wary of anything that smacks of- or comes close to violence. It has completely dis-empowered and weakened me and I’m afraid I won’t be a martyr. I am a coward.

Some say we attract who we are. Therefore, how we feel- and what we believe about ourselves reflects in the world around us. We ultimately draw people who can sense our insecurities (and whom are insecure themselves) into our lives without even knowing it.

Sometimes we pay dearly for this…

…In my mother’s words: “Gaabo legatlapa ga go lliwe”.



Give and Take- What are we missing?


The idea -and act- of giving is my passion. I have written about it on many of my blogs because it is something I value- not only in myself but in others as well. I believe if one is able to give (read share) then they’ve realized the value of a purpose driven life.

I admire individuals who give effortlessly, selflessly and without expecting a pat on the back. For this reason,it never ceases to amaze me when someone gives to another and broadcasts it to the world. An awkward incident occurred on my birthday last month, that really took me aback and made me realize that…well, we are cut from different cloths sometimes.

As the recipient of a particular gift, it was extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing to have someone announce to people around what they had presented to me on the day. Very unnecessary.

A profound tweet was posted this week: “Don’t eat with someone who is going to brag about feeding you”. It summarizes what I deem to be narcissism in  some people. This is primarily because ideally the onus should be on the recipient to show gratitude in their own manner. In all honesty, making utterances like “I gave someone X amount of money to do YZ” or “I gave Gomo’ XY because blah blah” is very distasteful.

Perhaps that is why Corporate Social Responsibility seems to be a bit of a farce. It is said that, “CSR policy functions as a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law [and] ethical standards”.

Today CSR is firmly entrenched in many corporates (and it is a good thing, don’t get me wrong) and they can donate a few things to the disadvantaged, take a few snaps and get some publicity out of it. The more the better, so they can see we genuinely have the interests of society at heart.

Perhaps they can be forgiven because they need to do some sort of reporting? Then again, CSR is also linked to business objectives- which means the more a company is seen to be doing good, the more likely it is to get more business: that’s capitalism giving us the middle finger.

I reckon there is a significant difference between giving because one has to- as opposed to one being inclined to. Motivation is a defining factor and ultimately determines whether an act of giving is genuine. Otherwise it is nothing but an attention seeking, point scoring and meaningless gesture.

What does “giving” mean to you? Let me leave you to mull on this with the words of Mother Teresa, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”


Ode to Bongani “B” Mahlangu

I reckon that sometimes it is necessary to get out of the ordinary scheme of things; to escape normality and do things differently.

Today is one such day for me; an opportunity to pay tribute to a man who believed in me so much that he went to all lengths to make sure that my dreams became reality.

Ours is a relationship that began in 2011 following an article I had written as an unemployed graduate. Through him, I was given the opportunity to go on radio and tell my story. Doors opened as I was also able to gain access to one of the most formidable men in the Coaching fraternity, Mongezi Makhalima– who served as an invaluable life guide.

Both taught me that it’s important to have vision, drive and determination because it makes it easier for people to support you.

We show gratitude in different ways: We cry, salute and smile. Sometimes words escape us and we don’t know how to say “thank you”- not sure if it’s enough at all. I guess the greatest lesson that Bongani has taught me is that the rewards of giving are greater than the rewards of receiving. Giving of your time, resources, networks and knowledge can benefit others ten-fold (even more).

Especially important is that the baton gets passed on and they also give of themselves to others in need. That is how better societies are built!

To Bongani…Words can never be enough to express how proud I am to be associated with you and to learn from you. You did way more than you needed to for a stranger and now you are family. Ndo livhuwa nga maanda!



He’s Ben 10, What’s Your Superpower?


So over the weekend I decided to watch the film Their Eyes Were Watching God, an adaptation of the novel by Zora Neale Hurston. Of course for the umpteenth time, but then again a good movie never goes out of style.

So Janie decides to get herself a man twelve years her junior- or rather, he happens to her! I suppose love does come in shapes and sizes, and it’s not quite what we anticipate at times. Obviously, the entire town watches the love affair with great intrigue and expects it to go downhill. After all, she’s the revered mayor’s wife and he just a hood-rat; probably looking for a quick buck.

What I also did was to look at websites catering to the infamous Cougar and found Gerry Ellenon writing candidly on the “10 Rules of Dating a Younger Man”. Ten Rules. I thought how strange it is that such rules exist; more like breeding a Maltese Poodle or something! What a lot of work these Ben 10’s are…“Keep exercising and eating well, do Yoga and meditate”- Be impressed and supportive BUT please- DON’T MOTHER HIM!

Personally, I’ve never encountered as many rules being applicable to Sugar-daddies- if they give them a second thought anyway. The rule of thumb is simple : Just have deep pockets, the rest will follow. So, one gets the sense that the older, more confident woman without much hang-ups is really nothing but a facade.

Anyway, I’ve never understood the allure of a younger man. This is simply because of my bossy nature and knowing how being in that situation would push me to be domineering. Besides this, I’ve always been of the opinion that sex begins in the mind before it wanders off elsewhere.

It’s been scientifically proven that women’s brains mature faster than men’s. Mental stimulation is underrated when in fact it is a significant factor that can determine the longevity of a relationship. Therefore, maturity is non-negotiable.

Playing mum to a full-grown man isn’t all that appealing to yours truly I’m afraid and gets in the way of any advancement toward a “real” relationship.I hear this is sexy in some circles- many more circles than we are aware of these days. Again, a (huge) part of older women’s attraction to younger men is the sex. Nothing makes a cougar’s heart beat faster than virility, abs, energy, enthusiasm; it’s crazy :-)

One cannot deny the huge ego boost that comes from getting the nod from someone younger- it gives you the feeling of relevance and that you haven’t become a fossil- just yet. It provides motivation for one to be more aware of themselves, to groom well etc: Things we should be doing for our own benefit anyway! So, while the heat is bound to fizzle at some point for some; for others it’s a dizzying fairytale- Just ask aus Monkie! ;-)


Different strokes for different folks, they say.

Age is…


Every Friday in my office we have a culture of asking the “Friday Question” and this could be any question under the sun with the aim of getting to know fellow team members better.

Most of the time the responses from these questions are interesting, funny and give one a sense of having better understanding of the other.

My questions have always been controversial- and this is not because they have anything to do with religion, politics, sexuality or anything that is not permissible in the office. I’ve been told that, well…I’m just too deep. Perhaps I should have been a Psychologist instead?

Anyway, I posed this question this week: “At what age did you become an adult?” Pretty simple question I thought, and if not, it would be a nice way for people to apply their minds. I was mistaken and realized that what we perceive is shaped by where we come from and our experiences. All of that comes together to shape reality as we know it.

I love this quote by Martha Graham, “‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.”

How many times have you looked at some people and thought their age is not in line with their maturity (or lack thereof- read stupid)? How do we then effectively gauge whether someone is mature or not without imposing our beliefs on them? We can’t. Without applying our own experiences and knowledge- and therefore judgement on the actions and behaviour of others, we would probably see the world in monochrome.

I had a conversation with a friend about a family member of his who bought a car that he cannot  maintain despite the fact that he couldn’t even put fuel in it without asking for cash from someone else. It didn’t come as a surprise considering the number of people who live beyond their means.

The saying, “age is nothing but a number” is often used to define and/or justify cross generational relationships, among other things. The phrase also correctly indicates that the crux of maturity lies in discipline, responsibility and one’s ability to respond to their environment appropriately more than it does on actual age. We see immaturity in others when we realize the deficiency in these qualities.

In the same instance adulthood does not necessarily equate maturity. I became an adult at the age of twenty-two when I had my child and even though I had assumed full and unequivocal responsibility of her and my own circumstances, I feel maturity had not quite settled in. This was long after the age of 18 when I could legally drink whatever titillated my taste buds, etc.

In essence, maturity is work in progress. For some it comes very early; for some just in the nick of time and for others  – it just never shows up!

Dear Mageza


Having been a victim of an unprovoked verbal attack on my way to work this morning, I feel I need to say a few things.

I am not certain, however, that you will read any of this-seeing how things like reading are last on your list of priorities. Again, you say absurd things like “stelling” when you mean “steering wheel” but that’s none of my business since I know better than to ridicule anyone who doesn’t speak the Queen’s language properly.

It’s funny because you like things: You put up bumper stickers all over the place, about overweight people, people not being allowed to doze off in the front seat and lo and behold that people ought to shut up because they don’t have cars- we must see you, we must feel you. And who the hell told you that everyone who takes a taxi doesn’t have a car of their own??

Then again, your narrow-mindedness precedes you! You probably suffer an inadequacy complex, you can frog march people because it gives you some sort of power and that’s the thing-we let you get away with it.

This Mageza rained on yours truly this morning following a request to be dropped off where I get off each and every morning. He maintained that he had asked where everyone was going. “I speak Tswana”, I said- wait, is it a cardinal sin to not speak Zulu in Johannesburg? When did Zulu become our primary national language?It doesn’t end there, he continues his tirade by telling another that if he were to insult me-I would hear. Yes, I heard everything. I maintained a dignified silence. It could have been cowardice or perhaps the realization that no wise person in their right mind should argue with a moron.

Now, dear Mageza, you are uncouth and arrogant- the last word should always be yours. No matter what. You treat commuters like they owe you the world, as if your service is a favour. That’s what you do when you overload a taxi and expect everyone to pay the same price; when your seats are so in ruins one has to hold on for dear life to avoid falling over; when you risk the lives of passengers by skipping traffic lights.

You bask so well in the stereotypes attached to you that you ruin it for other taxi drivers who are decent and treat commuters with respect. I will not offer any remedies for your condition or try to school you- you are a lost cause, completely consumed by the little world you inhabit; complete in waking up and not impacting positively on the world around you. Unfortunately, half of this country depends on the taxi industry to bridge the gap between home and workplace-so you must be chuffed.

I’ll tell you though that customer service and courtesy is not some foreign exercise meant for the corporate world or as you would say “those who know too mush (much)”, they are everywhere you go. Respect is earned and not demanded.