Egoli showed its true heart of gold

Saturday Star - - OPINION - KASHIEFA AJAM

YOU KNOW bet­ter than any­one, just how tough life is in South Africa. We of­ten say in the news­room that this is a bril­liant coun­try to be a jour­nal­ist in, but of­ten a re­ally scary place to be a ci­ti­zen.

Open any news­pa­per and it’s a case of page af­ter page of tur­moil, hor­ror and angst: lead­ers at each oth­ers’ throats in hor­ri­ble dirty po­lit­i­cal bat­tle; sports teams chok­ing when we so need them to suc­ceed. Some­times the rain­bow na­tion looks more like a rain­bow myth, with very lit­tle for us to cel­e­brate.

And just then comes a story that throws all of that on its head, and it hap­pens right here in Joburg, our town.

Peo­ple who don’t live here tend to think Joburg­ers are money-ob­sessed and cold-hearted, as we tram­ple over each other in the race to get to the front of the queue.

Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

I’ve worked on this pa­per for al­most 13 years. I’ve had the priv­i­lege of be­ing your ed­i­tor for three of them.

You don’t have to look very far to find the beauty, the gen­eros­ity and the kind­ness of what re­ally is the City of Gold.

We re­cently in­tro­duced a weekly fea­ture en­ti­tled “Peo­ple of Jozi” to quite lit­er­ally give each of you a peek into how the other half lives. Peo­ple who we might pass on the streets in our cars, the cor­ri­dors of our shop­ping malls, or even across the hall­ways of our of­fices.

Ev­ery­one has a story. It’s our priv­i­lege to tell you your sto­ries.

Last week Petrus Mo­fo­keng told us his.

He’s a beg­gar. He never chose to be. He was a builder un­til a work ac­ci­dent crip­pled him a cou­ple of years ago.

Now he begs to pro­vide for his fam­ily. He doesn’t get a state grant. His fam­ily is in dire straits, but he’s de­ter­mined to do the best that he can.

What was killing him was the fact that his 18-year-old daugh­ter, Ler­ato, had a ma­tric dance to go to, but – much like Cin­derella – wasn’t go­ing to get to the ball. He didn’t ask for help. Nei­ther did we. You, though, re­sponded in your droves – from across the city, across the coun­try, across the world, ac­tu­ally. The re­sponse took our breath away: help, money, clothes, shoes, hair-dos, fa­cials, you name it.

Ler­ato will get to the ball, she will get her princess mo­ment thanks to you.

But that’s not all; we’ve de­cided to do­nate to the Princess Pro­ject, so that other girls like her who have beaten the odds to stay the course all the way to ma­tric can get to their ma­tric dances, too – all thanks to you.

I’m a jour­nal­ist, it’s the only job I’ve ever done.

My friends think I’m fairly hard-bitten and cyn­i­cal, my col­leagues know me as a”foot-in-the­door” hard news re­porter; it’s how I cut my teeth in this trade.

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried this week. They weren’t tears of frus­tra­tion, or grief, but of joy.

Ler­ato will get her day, you gave me mine – per­haps the great­est af­fir­ma­tion I’ve ever had of the real im­por­tance of do­ing this job and help­ing make a dif­fer­ence in oth­ers’ lives.

Thank you.

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