Generosity begets hope for hopeless

Talk Radio 702 & 567 Cape Talk host Redi Tlhabi.

This has been a week of generosity and goodwill. The topic on many people‘s lips is how South Africa‘s wealthiest and Africa‘s fourth-wealthiest man has joined the ranks of philanthropists in the billionaires’ club by parting with a sizeable chunk of his inordinate wealth.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have at different times challenged the wealthy to part with some of their wealth in aid of the poor.

This week, mining billionaire Patrice Motsepe heeded the call and announced a massive charity pledge that will result in some of the revenue from his fortune being channelled to the Motsepe Family Foundation.

Many have been quick to point out that he is not actually giving away half of his wealth, as though that is some sort of scandal that invalidates the extent of his generosity.

In fact, Motsepe stressed that he would not be donating a lump sum or liquidating his assets. Instead, he said he and his wife, Precious, would contribute “at least half of the funds generated by our family assets to the Motsepe Foundation to be used during our lifetime and beyond to improve the lifestyles and living conditions of the poor”.

Whatever the methodology, a family took a look at the socioeconomic circumstances of their fellow countrymen and women, remembered their roots, remembered a time when they had nothing and decided to make a difference. And what a difference several hundred million over many years will make!

There are many others who have forgotten their roots and humble beginnings. Instead of being conscious of their consumption, they feed from the trough like gluttonous beasts without a care for tomorrow.

The Motsepe family were not the only givers I encountered this week.

Early in the week, a teacher named Tebogo phoned my radio show in desperation. 

One of her pupils, a 12-year-old girl, has a recurring and vicious case of genital warts. 

Despite many visits to the local health facility and some procedures to palliate the infection it continues to manifest itself and the latest bout was worse than the previous one.

Tebogo told us the child was in so much pain and the stench emanating from her was so unbearable that other little children did not want to play with her. After further inquiry, we learnt that the child is an orphan who lives in a shack with her grandmother. As though that is not a heavy enough cross to bear for a child of 12, she has been sexually abused and is HIV-positive. How can one‘s heart not break?

How can there not be a seething rage at the adults who decide to ruin a child‘s life and proclaim by their evil deeds that for some children there will be no childhood?

As painful as this episode is, I have to take a moment to reflect on the generosity of South Africans. Listeners from all walks of life phoned in, pledging money, books, clothes and toys.

Medical experts offered their services free of charge and one listener offered transport. It was heart-warming. Some pledged R5000, others R50. The R50 giver sent an SMS: “Redi, I have nothing, just R100. I want to give R50.” The lump in my throat has not dissipated. The contribution came straight from the heart. And when all is said and done, it is the heart that matters.

The teacher is also a generous heroine. It is her love and concern that made her pick up the phone and tell the world about her pupil‘s plight. She could just have stuck to making sure that her students gain the 30% pass mark. But her heart knew that it is not what a teacher is about. She truly gave meaning to the maxim “Going beyond the call of duty”.

Tebogo means gratitude. And today it feels good to express gratitude to the many South Africans, known and unknown, who make a difference, every day.

Redi Tlhabi is a Talk Radio 702 and 567 CapeTalk Presenter. 

This column appeared in The Sunday Times.