Lessons in lead­er­ship from a ’for­eigner’

Grocott's Mail - - WOMEN’S MONTH - By MOONO CHUNGU

Logged on to Face­book. Clicked the ‘ Rhodes Con­fes­sions 2017’ page. There it was, Sub­mis­sion num­ber: 3913, star­ing into my eyes. It read: “… So nje for­eign stu­dents were out of the ques­tion in our (protest) strug­gle… I just won­der if peo­ple know that should we have a stu­dent leader that will have to choose be­tween their visa and the “prom­ise” they made to the stu­dent body siny­ile ban­tase lo leader that will be a walk over in­stead of a bar­ri­cade to man­age­ment”.

The anony­mous Rhodes Uni­ver­sity stu­dent was propos­ing that a for­eign stu­dent should not be elected in the Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil (SRC). Other anony­mous con­fes­sions were sim­i­larly posted on the page sug­gest­ing that a for­eign stu­dent would never re­late to South African strug­gles.

They logged on to Face­book. They typed. In the process, they en­gaged with the ir­ra­tional dis­like of peo­ple from other coun­tries; yes their fin­gers adopted xeno­pho­bia and typed it for all to see.

At the cen­tre of all this xeno­pho­bia was 22-year-old Zim­bab­wean stu­dent Ku­dak­washe Re­joice Chin­gono. La­belled as ‘noth­ing more than a for­eigner’, there is much more to this in­ter­est­ing young and vi­brant young woman.

“Yes, I’m a for­eigner. It’s who I am, but it doesn’t de­fine my un­der­stand­ing or re­ac­tion to strug­gles,” Chin­gono said. “I’ve been a stu­dent here for four years. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve been able to iden­tify with peo­ple dur­ing the strug­gle.”

Chin­gono hails from Hwange, a town in Zim­babwe. She grad­u­ated with a Bach­e­lor of Arts in Law and So­ci­ol­ogy last year and is cur­rently pur­su­ing an Hon­ours De­gree in De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies, a branch of So­ci­ol­ogy.

“I am a per­son who loves work­ing with peo­ple so it made sense to con­tinue study­ing So­ci­ol­ogy. I am con­cerned about the de­vel­op­ment of Africa. I want to chal­lenge the fact that Africa is still be­ing called a de­vel­op­ing con­ti­nent,” she ex­plains.

Her love for “work­ing with peo­ple” prompted her to stand for SRC Pres­i­dent for 2018. She says, “I wanted to be in the SRC since first year, but it was im­por­tant for me to ma­ture first and learn how things work.”

Chin­gono says it was “sad to see” dis­cour­ag­ing xeno­pho­bic com­ments dur­ing her cam- paigns.

She ex­plained, “Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent feel­ings to­wards for­eign­ers be­ing around, and that’s okay. Ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to their opin­ion, but I think we need to re­alise that we are all Africans and our strug­gles are the same. It’s not good to fight against each other; we should be fight­ing to­gether for a bet­ter Africa.”

Dur­ing the SRC Graz­zle, can­di­dates are in­vited to in­form stu­dents about their plans when they are elected. A stu­dent asked Chin­gono, “Why haven’t you said any­thing about what you’ll do for Zim­bab­wean stu­dents?” Chin­gono in­tel­li­gently re­sponded say­ing that she was stand­ing to rep­re­sent all stu­dents and not only stu­dents from her coun­try.

She fur­ther sug­gests, “We should not have in­ter­nal con­flict at Rhodes. Let’s stand to­gether to solve th­ese things. How do we achieve trans­for­ma­tion, for ex­am­ple, when we are di­vided?”

On Fri­day 18 Au­gust, the SRC elec­tion re­sults were an­nounced. Kuda was sworn in as Vice Pres­i­dent.

She says, “I was happy that the stu­dents be­lieved in me in the midst of what was be­ing said about for­eign­ness. The strength of a leader is not in them stand­ing for what they be­lieve in, but stand­ing for the peo­ple who they are lead­ing.”

The Vice Pres­i­dent will be pur­su­ing her Mas­ter’s De­gree next year. She says that bal­anc­ing her de­gree and SRC po­si­tion will be man­age­able. She hopes to get ad­vice from the cur­rent SRC Vice Pres­i­dent, Din­gani Booi, who is also pur­su­ing his Mas­ter’s De- gree in So­ci­ol­ogy.

So there you have it! She’s in­tel­li­gent, pas­sion­ate, she’s a for­eigner – and a for­eigner who flour­ished de­spite at­tempts to bury her in xeno­pho­bia.

Photo: Moono Chungu

In­com­ing deputy pres­i­dent of the Rhodes Uni­ver­sity SRC Ku­dak­washe Re­joice Chin­gono wants to chal­lenge the no­tion that Africa is a de­vel­op­ing con­ti­nent.

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