Professor Somadoda Fikeni has described true success as that which is characterised by being of service to others and the community.
He made the remarks at a graduation ceremony for Tshwane South TVT College engineering diplomandis at Helderberg Gemeente Lede in Christus Church in Eloffsdal.
He urged the crop of TSC 2019 to make a difference in the lives of others, saying the ultimate mark of success and achievement rested on that.
“If you work and make yourself beautiful, that’s good. If you work and can look after your family, that’s significant. But when you change society and touch the lives of others in a positive way, that’s a legacy,” Prof Madoda said to stunned reflection and applause from the audience.
The PhD holding Prof Madoda is a well-known political analyst who has earned degrees from universities in South Africa, Canada and the United States in a range of disciplines including political studies, conflict resolution and communications.
“The Mandelas, Sisulus, Bikos and Sobukwes were the Moses generation that led us during apartheid. We’re not where we were meant to be in 1994. It will be up to you to be that generation of Joshua, to lead us to the promised land,” remarked Prof Madoda, during a stirring two-part keynote address.
In the first part of his speech, Prof Madoda congratulated the students who were receiving their certificates for their hard work and the sacrifices they had made in order to be capped. He also paid tribute to TSC lecturers for their invaluable guidance to the graduates and emphasised that graduating was only the first step on the road to success. He compared it to receiving the keys with which to unlock their futures.
“It’s merely giving you an advantage which may give you a competitive edge in life,” he said.
By succeeding, the graduates had demonstrated their potential but it was important that they turned that potential into success, Prof Madoda said, adding that education had been proven the single most vital tool to uplifting oneself and to change lives.
In an inspiring address that quoted from Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Franz Fanon, Prof Madoda told the young graduates that they were the custodians of their future and should look only to themselves to solve the many problems besetting the country. This was especially as South Africa was a relatively young democracy with a mainly youthful population, he said.
He implicated the older generation for overseeing such ills as corruption and state capture in our society, challenges which he said added to problems such as crime and unemployment.
Quoting from Fanon, he said: “Every generation must define its mission, fulfill it or betray it.”
The challenge for the graduates was therefore to be leaders in their own right and to “provide the healing to the wounds” they carried but had not inflicted on themselves.
“Ask yourself, ‘What’s the purpose and meaning of my life?”’ He then urged the graduates to not use their disadvantaged backgrounds as a source of reference, citing his own example as a boy who was raised in a village in Eastern Cape.
He also cited luminaries including Mandela and former ANC president Oliver Tambo for having overcome adversity to succeed.
“It’s only education that can take the child of a miner and make him the CEO of a mine,” Prof Madoda quoted from one of Mandela’s most famous statements. He pointed out that they too would succeed like Mandela if only they made sacrifices, as Mandela had been brought up in an extended family following the passing of his father at age nine. Oliver Tambo too, had overcome an unlikely beginning as his upbringing was at the hands of missionaries, argued Prof Madoda.
At the end of the day, it was all about leaving a legacy, he said. In order to do that, a certain mindset was required, according to Prof Madoda, who pinpointed the essence of values and principles in attaining one’s goals.
“You must begin to make that sacrifice, not only for yourself but for your family and society,” he said and added that even if one’s beloved and supporting grandmother was no more, one could repay her memory by helping others.
“We fail to read the fine print of what we’re capable of,” noted Prof Madoda, who quoted a truism from Martin Luther King, on the importance of performing to our utmost abilities: “Ïf you’re a sweeper, be the best sweeper that anyone has ever seen.”
Leaving a legacy thus required certain behaviours, including respecting the guardians who had supported the graduates through life and education: “Your certificate must not elevate you above your community.”
Good values and principles involved remembering your roots as it took a village to raise an African child, Prof Madoda emphasised.
This entailed being humble and staying true to one’s origins as those who stayed loyal to their old customs had been proved to have greater chances of success. “My degreees have not changed my dietary content,” said the professor, who shared his love of roast maize with the audience and said he still alighted from his car to buy it by the roadside.
Prof Madoda then spoke about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and said, “The 21st century’s biggest challenge is not illiteracy. It will be your ability to learn and re-learn.”
This was more so as technology was growing exponentially, with Artificial Intelligence taking over jobs that previously were done manually.
He cited the example of a major South African retail bank whose massive retrenchment drive had been argued on the basis that customer needs could be conveniently serviced online.
It was essential therefore for the graduates to distinguish themselves. This was as every growing economy in the world, including the economies of Germany and Switzerland, prioritised artisan skills, he said.
“How do you turn that into success?” he asked. The answer, he said, was to have an entrepreneurial mind.
He encouraged graduates to look out for demands they could service in their communities. That way they not only created employment for themselves and secured their futures but helped others too by creating employment.
Through it all, it was important to remain hopeful even if they did not receive immediate responses to their job applications, said Prof Madoda, who cited and quoted from King: “Even if we may face the difficulty of today or tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
He also quoted from Mandela on the essence of being optimistic: “Ït may look impossible, until it’s done.”
That they had come thus far was an indication that they were capable of success, said Prof Madoda. “Where legacy ends, faith must begin,” he concluded.