Every year the Mail and Guardian newspaper features interesting 200 young South Africans who have stood out from the pack and who show South Africa what to look forward to in the country’s future.
These under – 35s are talented and have shown themselves to be leaders. The names of the 200 trailblazing young South Africans were announced at the Galleria Conference Centre in Sandton on 27 June 2019.
The Durban University of Technology (DUT) alumnus, Sihle Phungula (30), is one of the under – 35s who have shown themselves to be leaders in South Africa. He has a National Diploma and Bachelor of Technology degree (Btech) in Town and Regional Planning.
He is the Senior Town Planner-Development Planning Shared Services for both the Maphumulo Municipality and Ndwedwe Municipality. He provides Spatial Planning and Land Use Management support to the two rural municipalities.
Phungula is also the founder of the Door to Door Organisation, which aims to harness the potential of youth to become great leaders and active citizens while enabling young people to become self-reliant through education, entrepreneurship and activism.
“I am really humbled and honoured to make it onto this prestigious list. It is a validation that hard work does pay off. This recognition has not only inspired me to do more in terms of advancing myself but also intensify my social upliftment initiatives,” he said proudly.
From childhood he has always been diligent and a visionary. However, he never had proper guidance or mentorship that could propel his thoughts and ideas into tangible actions. Furthermore, being born and bred in a semi – rural township with little resources for young people he saw his peers falling into substance abuse and others with failed dreams.
“The lack of access information in terms of opportunities that are available for youth is what inspired me to establish the foundation under the slogan: opening doors and creating opportunity. With a bit of mentorship and guidance the nation’s future rests safe in the hands of young people. In my interaction with young people I always seek to inculcate the culture of each one teach one thus creating ripple effects of change,” said Phungula.
He also added that his activism is at grassroot, while informed by lived experiences it is also supported by his academic background. “It is hinged on strengthening democracy through Civic education engagements and mobilisation of youth and marginalised groups in order to increase political consciousness with the aim to better organise and drive societal change,” he stressed.
Phungula said that as the Executive Director of his organisation, a major part of his work also entails social facilitation and business development. “The organisation aims to harness the potential of youth to become great leaders and active citizens. While creating a self-reliant youth through education, entrepreneurship and activism thus building social capital,” he said.
Speaking more on his studies at DUT, he said that DUT is one of the best planning universities in the country and offers a very vibrant learning environment. “This is quite a diverse field that is not only limited to issues of spatial planning and land use management but also explores topics such as development economics, environmental management and advocacy Planning. There is a demand for planning skills in local government and in various sectors of society,” he said.
In terms of what this achievement means in the road ahead, he added that he was now part of a network of formidable leaders. “I will be drawing from the diverse skills set within this pool as well as offering my expertise with the aim of inspiring and mentoring other young leaders. I would also like to see my brain child Door To Door Foundation grow in reach and impact particularly in townships and deep rural communities,” he said.
Also, apart from enrolling for his Masters next year, he would love to establish a youth resource centre in his community that would be an information and skills hub.
“What keeps me going is the impact and constant feedback that one gets from the projects and small actions that one under takes every day. I firmly believe that it is the small actions that we all do in our little corners that result in tangible impact in the long run,” he said.
Pictured: Sihle Phungula.