Thamsanqa Pooe is a member of the Student Representative Council for the 2015/2016 academic year as the Social and Community Development Officer, an Allan Gray Orbis Fellow and considers himself a “servant leader”. He is currently doing his BA in Politics and International Relations. He is one of the founding members of the West Rand Debating Union that teaches young people the skills of public speaking and debate in the area. He is now participating in a popular reality television show, One Day Leader.
What makes you want to get involved in helping other people?
I grew up around very hardworking parents that could provide for me. I was tossed between Acorn Park the suburb and the township of Sebokeng. But I’d visit Sebokeng very often, my closest friends are from Sebokeng. I grew up relatively comfortably, my friends didn’t. So growing up in that space and making sure that [bra waka o kena university,] and making meaningful contributions to their lives at peer level, not imposing myself on them, was important to me. That’s when it clicked to me that service is not about imposing yourself, it’s not philanthropy-those things are so condescending. I think service is about being within the community, looking at what you have, personal resources on your body that you can use to empower other people
Why did you enter One Day Leader?
There was this one friend, Katleho Selepe, she called me every day for two weeks telling me to enter this show. At the time I didn’t even know the magic of One Day Leader, what it really means. Admittedly, I thought it was just a competition, like Idols, I didn’t think it has a sense of magic. When I got into the show I realised it provides me with different opportunities and contexts to serve.
What do you hate about One Day Leader?
Doing tasks superficially. So for example if there’s a food crisis at Wits, and you tell the leaders this, then they come up with this quick plan, give people food for an hour, on camera and then they go. That’s pretentious, that’s philanthropy. We try our best that it doesn’t end once we [the cameras] stop rolling. We want to at least empower people, to empower themselves. When you see those tasks on television, know that they have started something in those communities.
What does your participation in One Day Leader mean for your responsibilities in the SRC?
With SRC, I have decided to work differently to how I worked last year. I have decided to concentrate on my office alone, on Community and Social Development-specifically Wits Community CO. Making sure that we have an efficient Food Bank system, making sure we have computer literacy and clothing drives for needy students, making sure we talks on gender-based violence at residences with the Gender Equity Office. I want to just concentrate on this. I can’t neglect this portfolio, this is my ministry.