Zwelihle Magojo

Now and again in the Wine and Philosophy blog, I will discuss people I have met who have caused me to step back and marvel at one or another characteristic that made them stand out from the crowd. Last Friday, Zwelihle Magojo crashed into that category without much warning.

And when I say “crashed”, I mean it most literally. Without trying, Zweli fits so many stereotypes of high-energy, high-achieving personas that he’s practically a cumulative prototype of them. Shiny, dancing eyes just ready to take on the world. A propensity to punctuate each statement with a funny gesture – even a song-and-dance. An alert mind. A zest for being that just draws you in. Boundless, rested energy coolly tamed so as to not overwhelm the people around him. A heartening interest in what’s happening in his peers’ lives. A thriving portfolio under his belt. And not one ounce of arrogance to spoil any of it.

I was tempted to ask whether he had “awesomeophobia” – that’s the fear of unleashing the fullness of one’s awesomeness lest one overexpose nearby mortals to toxic levels of it – but I was too dazzled by the spectacle of playful, happy human energy to interrupt. I found myself thinking, “Whatever he’s on, I want some!” The great thing is that whatever he’s on, it’s infectious.

I met him after the Progressive Professionals’ Forum meeting with the Minister of Public Enterprise, Malusi Gigaba. At this point everyone had something to say about the speech that had been delivered (as well as the tweets that had been silently flying around during the same). One of the sub-themes running through the speech was the word-picture of “clever blacks”, that is, people that criticize the government without offering any help. Naturally, no one wanted to be identified as a clever black after that. Zweli himself explained why he didn’t fit that category in very succinct, very incisive words, despite the fact that he is clever and he is black. He explained to Lee, Zane and me that he believes that rather than stand back and criticize, he’d prefer, as a young professional, to take a moment out of his busy schedule, step forward and say, “I know I’m sorted. Nobody needs to worry about me anymore. I can be put aside; nobody needs to worry about my needs. But now how do we sort the next person out?  How do we uplift people and give back? That’s what I came here to find out.”
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After 2008’s economic meltdown, financial advisors of every stripe inherited a reputation, at worst, as money-hungry, dry, unimaginative charlatans; at best, as imposing, unapproachable disciplinarians who’d say “Ttsk, tsk, tsk” about every financial mistake you’d made before deigning to manage your finances.

Now and then, though, you meet the balanced types who know what they’re talking about and can steer your wealth through choppy waters and dock it at the fair, sunny shores of prosperous retirement.

And, even rarer than those are the Zwelihle Magojos that do this while sorting out the next person and injecting you with a much-needed dose of that playful energy – which you’ll need in order to enjoy your retirement nest-egg in a great South Africa stewarded by like-mindedly progressive professionals.

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Zane Mchunu

Now and again in the Wine and Philosophy blog, I will share my thoughts about people I have met that have made me pause to think about things. It is under this most hallowed category that I introduce to you a young man named Zane Mchunu.

He is the former Youth Mayor of Msunduzi and currently works/consults for the municipality in ways and capacities that, though explained to me several times, are too technical for me to recount. Perhaps my inability to make sense of it all has something to do with the fact that this blog isn’t called “Wine and Philosophy” for its contributors’ teetotalism – the reader will understand – but at any rate, Zane is very busy and he’s very smart.

I first met Zane at Lee’s birthday party, and again when Lee and Zane dragged me kicking and screaming to a Progressive Professionals’ Forum meeting. The Forum was addressed by Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Public Enterprise, and this was naturally followed by a political conversation. And it was in this increasingly drunken state (all Lee’s fault) that I learned that Zane is . He is a visionary. He is dedicated to the cause of helping South Africa become all that it can become. He shows abundant talent in all that he attempts. And he is humble. 

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After the final tequila shot glass was pried from my fingers (with me giving my routine insistence that “I’m never like this… I have no idea what’s taken over me…”), Lee, Zane and I took a drive to Pietermaritzburg. On this drive a bet was made that I wouldn’t stay awake and that I would need frequent toilet breaks. To keep my mind on the winning course, I took the hour to “interview” Zane.

Now many years ago when I was a good Catholic boy, before an afternoon alone with the communion wine changed everything, I prayed to have a conversation with God. This Friday evening, my prayers came as close to being answered as they could be. I asked questions.

For an example, I asked Zane for his opinion about the perception that politicians are corrupt. “If I put my name on something…” I remember him answering, “And it compromises my integrity… that stain upon my soul would never go away.” Of course he explained it all more convincingly than that, but you would have to have been there to get it. That, or I’d have to have been sober.

Like Job’s friends, I pushed Zane’s insistence on his integrity to its limits. “You talk a good talk, but what will you do when larger-than-life temptations roll your way?”
He answered, “If you know who you are… and I know who I am…you’ll know that though you can cover everything else up, there is no covering up your conscience. You can never put it away.” The key, he explained, was remembering that the worth of one’s soul was tied into the integrity with which one acted. I fell back in my seat, astonished (that, and Lee took a sudden left turn next to Marianne Hill just after the toll gate).

Here’s the remarkable thing. In a world darkened with pessimism, Zane believes in this country. He sees everything that is wrong with it – he says that most people only know the tip of the woe iceberg – yet he also insists that we will make it, sooner or later.

He told me that the future is in the hands of young people who consistently make decisions towards growth and progress. He insists that we must never lose hope and we must never back down or back away from the grandest vision of what South Africa could become. That’s the message he consistently drums into young heads at every opportunity he gets to share it. He consistently drummed it into my head and left me with a renewed passion to do something to make this country work better than we ever dreamed possible.

It’s a message we all need to be reminded of.