Madiba Day 2020

‘Apartheid was wrong! Non negotiable! This realization was made when my Dad explained why I was denied access to the cloakroom and the dodgem cars on the beachfront when I was 10 years old!

I was drawn to become an anti- apartheid activist when I learnt that comrades sacrificed their lives fighting the apartheid evil. One man, however, stood out for his bravery against all odds. Nelson Mandela! It was natural for me to follow his lead. Establishing the “Sunshine Social Club” in the 1970s as a teenager to influence the young minds positively was the start. Our club members were also taught to play chess, swim, play the guitar, soccer, get involved in community projects etc.

My career choice of being a teacher, choosing history as my teaching subject was an obvious one too. I could influence every pupil/learner to treat every individual with respect regardless of race, creed, color, religion or class. Non-racism was key. I tweeked the history curriculum daily! I made it relevant and current  Living history!

Exciting! I matriculated at Witteklip Secondary in Croftdene, Chatsworth in 1974. I came from a very poor background, having gone through much difficulty with an alcoholic father, including being evicted from our home. I sacrificed a bursary to attend University to assist my mother cope with the family of five children. However I completed a bachelor’s degree through correspondence at University of South Africa in 3 years while in full time employment. I then took on a teaching post and continued to complete the post graduate Higher Education Diploma and Bachelor of Education Degree as well. This is the hardship by which I stood tall – totally motivated!

Tata Madiba was responsible for me to be totally involved in the vision “a better life for all” after the unbanning of the ANC in 1990.

As an educator I did much to enlighten the lives of children. My  life’s task was to empower learners to believe that they were not inferior or superior to anybody and that anyone can succeed in the face of any diversity with a positive attitude. I resigned as a teacher to pursue business in property development and security.  However continued to be a community activist. I formed the Sunshine Social Club when I was a teenager during the ‘apartheid’ years. The youth were gainfully occupied, politically conscientised and empowered to become  successful members of the community. It was also natural to become a political activist fighting apartheid! I was very active in the NIC, UDF and ANC. I  had been a member of many community based organizations, amongst which are Friends of R.K.Khan Hospital, Parent Association of KZN- Chatsworth, Kharwastan Civic Association, Kharwastan CPF, Parent Learner Monitoring Forum and the Anti-Drug Forum.

I dedicated much time and effort to convince our electorate to support the “rainbow nation” concept too. However, after the turn of the century I realized that I did not fit into the political world no matter how lucrative it could be!

Tata Madiba talked about making a difference in our communities. I chose that route. Being the community activist that I was, I decided to refocus on the community directly and not through politics.

My focus was the Anti-Drug Forum because I was worried about the possibility of a “lost generation” of youth indulging in drugs and other social ills. As founder/Director of the Anti-Drug Forum, I highlighted the substance abuse problem through local and national newspapers, radio, television and community outreach programmes since inception in 2005. I also enlisted the support of volunteers, medical doctors, pharmacist, psychologist and counsellors and established a day clinic at the Chatsworth Youth Centre for people who could not afford rehabilitation.

The day clinic assisted over six and half thousand people seeking rehabilitation until December 2007. To be more effective, the ADF Wellness Centre was opened in January 2008 at the premises of the Chatsworth Child Welfare. In 2015 I secured premises from Operation Jumpstart and funding from the Department of Social Development to implement the youth development programmes more effectively.

Through the Smart Club Concept, learners are empowered to take care of themselves through exciting programmes. The social ills are dealt with a stimulating and fun approach. Learners are taught to “do the right thing!”  One hundred schools embraced the program and are experiencing the positive results.  It was evident that cutting down the supply of drugs was not possible due to many factors like political will, bribery and corruption and the well- organized underworld. The focus had to shift to education and awareness to deal with the problem. We had to ‘kill the need’ especially in primary and secondary schools.

I addressed many organizations and governmental departments about substance abuse and other social ills. I also works closely with Departments of Education, Justice, Health, Social Development, Correctional Service , Metro Police, SAPS and other concerned NGO’s and CBO’s, including the South African Hindu Maha Sabha..

Many networking partners were established with the ADF to achieve its objectives. Extreme gratitude would go to the South African Maha Sabha who eagerly participated in ADF programmes especially dealing with the Youth. The South African Maha Sabha collaborated on many school and community programmes. For example, clean-up Campaign at Monterena Secondary, Durban Diwali Festival NPO stand,

I am currently serving as the Co Deputy Chair together with the MEC for DSD, on the KZN Anti Substance Abuse Forum. I am also Director of the S.A. Harm Reduction Association.

On this day as we remember Madiba and his legacy I will forever remain committed to helping others in need.

Sam Pillay