Activist Busisiwe Mkhumbuzi has been thrust into the international spotlight once again after hosting the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture held last Tuesday, July 17. Mkhumbuzi started the South African chapter of the international feminist organization, V-Girls, hosted a TEDxWomen talk at the age of 16, played an active role in the UCT Rhodes Must Fall and Fess Must Fall protests, and founded the social enterprise initiative, Tshimong.
How did you get involved with the Nelson Mandela Foundation?
I run a company called Tshimong with two partners. For the past two years we’ve partnered with public and private institutions to get mostly disadvantaged youth into programmes where we teach them the skill of debating, critical thinking, and public speaking skills. We partnered with the Nelson Mandela Foundation last year and for the centenary they wanted us to have a youth programme to interrogate Mandela’s legacy where kids would analyse historical facts to debate the relevance of Mandela’s legacy. After that so many other opportunities came about including the opportunity to host the lecture.
How did you find out you had been selected to chair the 16th Annual Lecture?
I’m very close to the Foundation CFO and she called me to tell me that I had been shortlisted for the lecture and to ask me if I wanted to do it. I got back to her the next day and said ‘absolutely, yes’ but kept telling myself that I had just been shortlisted, not selected, so I kept myself on my toes for another phone call to say “come in for an interview”. Instead I got another phone call saying “come in for a David Tlale fitting for the lecture”. And I think that’s the day it sank in that I’m the host.
And how did it feel standing up in front of all those people and cameras and hosting the lecture?
I was very nervous beforehand. I asked to meet all the speakers beforehand backstage so that I could interact with them and humanize them before I went on stage. President Obama was kept in a separate area but I got to introduce myself to him. He shared a joke about how when he was last here the Former President had been booed and my nerves literally melted. By the time I got on stage I felt like I was part of a squad of golden oldies with white hair and so much wisdom. I felt like I was part of them, and it just felt natural.
Would you consider this your proudest achievement to date?
I wouldn’t say this is my proudest achievement. I think it’s the culmination of every achievement I’ve made. It finally puts everything I’ve done into perspective. It elevates all my previous achievements, perfectly concludes them, and sets me on the journey for new things.
Where do you see yourself in the near future?
I hope I’m a speaker at an event of that magnitude because if my life is going the way I think it is based on everything that has happened, I’m going to be an education, human development, and media entrepreneur. At that point I want to be on global platforms speaking and collaborating with Obama directly.
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