Growing up in a township can pose many disadvantages. Add to this not being able to afford to continue your studies after matric and not having someone to guide you on whatever path you choose, and life can be even more challenging. But unlike many, Mboneleli Gqirana chose not to let circumstances determine his future. He chose to be part of the change in bettering his community, making sure that future generations don’t have to deal with the obstacles he dealt with growing up.

Born in 1990, Mboneleli grew up in Site C, Khayelitsha. He attended primary school at Nolungile Primary then went on to attend high school at Harry Gwala Senior Secondary in Makhaza. This is where he was first exposed to community development.

“There was an organization, ekwakuthwa yichildren resource centre. There we would discuss various topics like health, leadership and community,” he says.

Through his work with the resource centre, Mboneleli realised from an early age that he wanted to better the lives of others.

He finished his matric in 2008 but because of a lack of finances and “the lack of understanding in terms of the options you have after matric,” he was not able to further his studies to university. No one was there to educate him about all the options he had after finishing school. By 2009 he was very depressed because he was sitting at home doing nothing for about six months.

In 2010, Mboneleli decided to go back to school. He studied office administration and computer literacy at the Salesian Institute Youth Project in Greenpoint. Between 2010 and 2013, Mboneleli worked for a shipping company which he then he left to work for a community-based organisation in Site C. There he was involved in starting a tutoring program.

Today Mboneleli works as a community development worker for Amandla Development in Philippi. This organisation works with young people between the ages of 15 and 20 years old, but they don’t turn anyone older away if they are interested in joining the programme. They offer workshops for young people to learn how to DJ, they have music studios and drama lessons as well. They have various partnerships with other organisations that offer counselling, HIV testing and they even help young people get jobs by helping them with their CVs.

The organisation also links youth with health services and services that can assist them in school. The aim of the organisation is for young people to stay in school and provide them with tools that will equip them to know what to do upon finishing. These are all the things that Mboneleli didn’t grow up with, which is why they are important to him.

Gqirana is most interested in exploring different projects that are related to community development.

“In 2018 for example, I worked in Elliotdale and started a tutoring programme at an organisation called Ikhaya Loxolo. So, I also assist organisations who are starting out tutoring programmes,” he explains.

The young man is involved with many different projects that help his community’s development. One such organisation is Activate.

“In 2015, I became a part of Activate, a network of about 3000 young leaders driving change across South Africa.”

He is also studying community development through the organisation.

Mboneleli says he draws courage from the people of South Africa.

“I am inspired by the people I work with, the people who get up everyday to try and make things happen. It’s difficult to be positive in our country and the fact that people find time to help other people warms my heart.”

Mboneleli has one hope for the young people in our country: “The youth need something to look forward to and I hope more programmes are developed to help more.”


Tell us: What inspired you about Mboneleli’s story?