By Heather Cameron
Maso Nduna doesn’t smile for photographs. But when the camera is put down and asked why he doesn’t, he shrugs off the question with a huge grin spanning his face.
“The best part of this job is working with and listening to the people’s stories. Even changing the lives of a few people, that’s four or five families (which are helped),” he says, speaking of his job at the Assumption Development Centre (ADC).
Nduna’s stocky frame is a perfect match for the rugby field, which is where he spends his down time. During office hours, he co-ordinates the ADC, a small business hub established at the beginning of this year (2014) in Joza. The centre supports local entrepreneurs through training, tutoring and mentoring.
Having grown up in Fingo Village, Nduna “knows what going on”.
“It’s a huge challenge to change the mind-set of the community, because I know that people are usually content with where they are at. They don’t strive for more.” Nduna wants to change this situation and encourage local residents to aim for a better life. “The ADC provides a platform for them to change their situation,” he says.
After completing his school years in Somerset East, Nduna graduated with a BComm from Rhodes University in 2012. After receiving his degree he set his sights on working with the community he had grown up in.
Di Hornby, of the Rhodes University Community Engagement office, directed him to a new community engagement initiative— the ADC. The centre mentors local small businesses and entrepreneurs by hosting workshops and tutoring sessions. Nduna has been proactively working with the local community through the ADC for the past seven months, “It’s been fascinating to be working with people,” he says.
Nduna is a strong believer that everyone has the potential to be an active citizen, which he describes as someone who is, “involved with working with people on the ground”.
Living in Joza for most of his life, has granted Nduna an insiders’ perspective into the major issues affecting the community; one of which is complacency with their situation. The other is that there are deep divisions within the Grahamstown East community.
He believes that in order to affect change, the community needs a strong voice representing their most important needs. “Something needs to change and it should be driven by the people,” he added.
Changing the community’s mind-set and letting them know that they don’t have to be satisfied with their current situation are the biggest tasks that organisations such as the ADC face. Despite the challenges, Nduna is optimistic: “It has a ripple effect that could improve the lives of future generations.”
Maso Nduna: in his own words
How long have you lived in Grahamstown?
I grew up here in Grahamstown, in Fingo village and attended school here.
What has kept you busy over the past few years?
In 2012, I completed a work readiness programme at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) where they prepare you for the work environment. I play for the local rugby team, Winter Rose Rugby Club. At the beginning of this year I started working with the Assumption Development Centre.
What motivated you to get involved in community issues?
I’m from here, so I know what’s going on and it’s a huge challenge.
How do you think others can get involved similarly?
There is potential for all people to get involved. In this area (Grahamstown West) local business could play a huge role, especially with regards to employment.
How would you describe an active citizen?
I strongly believe that to be an active citizen you need to be involved with what is happening on the ground.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
Calm. I think you always need to be calm. That’s how I am, in any situation.
Who/what inspires you?
I think it’s the process of living life that inspires me. Also, my mother plays a huge role.
What’s your keep-awake issue in respect of public life in Makana?
Transparency; the municipality needs to be honest with the people.
Best decision you’ve ever made relating to this issue?
My best decision has been working with the people on the ground.
What’s one thing about you that only a few people know?
I graduated from Rhodes University in 2012