Most people think of difficulty and fatigue when you’re talking about climbing a mountain, but one township organisation is using hiking as a way of overcoming social challenges. Langa Township Mountaineers (LTM) is an NGO that ‘offers hiking trips to teach the youth the lesson about hard work and dedication involved in reaching the top’.

“Langa Township Mountaineers was formed while I was studying and we had been to a leadership camp of five days in Grooeveint Hoek Mountains. I came back with the desire to hike with the Langa community so we could build brotherhood and sisterhood within our struggle. At the end of the day we are all we have – our problems, our solutions!

“We needed to realise that one’s success out of the township is dependent on the person next to them. We needed to celebrate each other’s little achievements and be deeply saddened by one’s failure to accomplish a goal, but also give hope,” explains Siyasamkela Kilani (24) who is the chairperson and founder of LTM.

Siyasamkela has had his fair share of challenges but his faith could move mountains!

“I was born in the Eastern Cape in Centane, and have been staying in Langa township for 19 years in an informal settlement called Joe Slovo. An informal settlement is where kids are raised in chaotic environments, a world where a child young as 13 has already seen a mob justice take place. This is my story.

“We live in a world where by nine o’clock on a weekend soldiers would beat you up if they see you going to the shops or walking your loved one home. Tell me what kind of a youth is expected in that social construction?”

He is using his position at LTM to help others climb.

“My role is to inspire, mentor, provoke meaningful conversations, listen to what the challenges are in our society and mediate to find solutions, even calling a person of power to account using a vast network of social activists in our society. I preside over meetings of the group, conduct the group’s business in an orderly fashion, and make financial decisions. I have nothing I would rather do but to ‘live love’ and ‘leave a legacy’ for the unloved.”

Siyasamkela has also earned himself some notable stripes.

“In 2016, I was awarded a Young Enterpriser of the Year by LifeCo Unlimited SA. This entrepreneurial potential within me will blossom in the garden of despair and many young birds from Langa will come to enjoy its sweet nectar, and, in the process, pollinate the garden to produce many more young entrepreneurs, all I need is an opportunity to pitch once again. I won’t let hopelessness bring our people down for the rest of my life…again I am just a kasie dreamer, right.”

Siyasamkela won’t stop till LTM has reached the pinnacle of the mountain.

“I see us expanding to Gugulethu, Bonteheuwel…etc. for all the townships there is a need to restore the identity and dignity of these loving human beings. Maybe we would be able to tackle this crisis of social construction in our generation so it ends with us. I see township mountaineers inspire a world where a foreign national is not called a ‘kwerekwere’ but a brother with whom we can share our rich cultural differences. I envision a South Africa where little boys and young girls, black and white, would hold hands and fix our country.”

He concludes the interview with a few words of encouragement.

“Marge Piercy, a famous writer, once said, ‘We must shine with hope, stained glass windows that shape light into icons, glow like lanterns borne before a procession. Who can bear hope back into the world but us.’”


Tell us: What are your thoughts about Siyasamkela’s initiative?