Located in the north-west region of the Northern Cape province, this rich district houses one of South Africa’s largest economic sources – mines. Specifically, Kuruman, the capital of John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, is home to the world largest iron ore and manganese deposits. Mines in this part of the country are like stalls at a bustling pop-up market – plenty.
JTG District Municipality is made up of three local municipalities, namely: Gasegonyana Local Municipality, Gamagara Local Municipality and Joe Morolong Local Municipality. Due to a lot of mines being constructed, Kuruman and other towns such as Kathu and Hotazel have subsequently attracted a large number of people to come and seek a living in this fine district. Like Kimberley and Johannesburg before, Kuruman has become a buzzword for those who are seeking better opportunities in the mining industry.
Despite the euphoria of economic hype in the JTG District, its residents and citizens harbour sentiments that they are often overlooked, undermined and disrespected by those who are coming from other parts of the country, the continent and the world to eke out a living here – especially the mine owners and shareholders. Complaints from locals range from the employment opportunities not favouring the children of John Taolo Gaetsewe District, mine bosses erecting their company headquarters in Sandton – approximately 600km distance from the dusty grounds of Kuruman – to mine owners and shareholders not investing in real solutions to create a sustainable economic growth independent of the mining industry. Granted, some complaints are mundane, if not downright stupid, while others are reasonable and sound.
However, in the past few months, the question of creating a sustainable economy that is independent of the mining industry within the JTG District has become a bone of contention. Key to that question is the escalating unemployment crisis within the region; a crisis which has spawned an uncontrollable series of tragic events such as hopelessness and despondence, leading to theft, drug abuse and violent crimes – young people being the most affected by these issues.
Thus, a group of young, curious and brilliant minds convened almost two months ago somewhere in the district’s capital to respond to an old, taxing question asked centuries ago by those who came before us: what is to be done? This group would resolve to form an organisation, officially declaring thus: it is no longer business as usual in the JTG District. Things are going to change. To put in an urban language, in their resolutions they emphatically pronounced thus: ‘Iskhati sa mapopaye sphelile manje.’ While the language could be deciphered as radical and controversial, the statement alludes to a logical and progressive transformation from how things were done in the past; meaning that while it may be not be seen with a naked eye, the JTG District is undergoing a profound evolution.
This ambitious group of young people who also happen to be graduates from various institutes of higher learning around South Africa, having resolved to establish a body that will formulate effective solutions that will permanently address problems faced by their immediate community, settled on a starting a private non-profit organisation; deciding to officially name it Tswelelopele Foundation. Directly translated into the Queen’s language Tswelelopele is Setswana for ‘progress’.
This newly founded organisation – an infant who can barely walk – hit the ground running. In less than two months in existence, the founders of Tswelelopele Foundation took it upon themselves to conduct a sample research to find out, using real data, the reasons behind the high unemployment rate among the graduates of the JTG District. A small group of candidates were randomly selected from the organisation’s ever growing database to conduct a pilot project, establishing for a fact why graduates of this district were not employed in their locale; and the results were eye-opening if not astonishing. A report is currently being compiled and it will be shared with the relevant partners and stakeholders upon completion. The report, as it is the case with any report worth its salt, will contain the organisation’s findings and recommendations to improve the career prospects of the graduates of John Taolo Gaetsewe District.
In the future Tswelelopele Foundation intends to extend the programme, perhaps turn it into a permanent programme, to include the rest of the graduates in the foundation’s database; the point being to achieve one of the foundation’s key objectives – improve and enhance career prospects of the graduates of this fine district.
Ladies and gentlemen of JTG District, the kids are back home. Welcome them, embrace them and above all, support them. This fine district of ours has potential to become a major global economic player, if we believe it and most importantly participate in realising that potential. In its motto – advancing the hopes and dreams of our community – Tswelelopele Foundation pledges to always put the needs of this community – our community – first, ensuring that it becomes an independent, self-reliant community that is solution-driven. At Tswelelopele we imagine a community where the triple scourge of inequality, poverty and unemployment is a thing of the past. Granted, this is an ambitious goal, but yet achievable with your backing. If you don’t believe it, come watch us work.