From Struggle to Strength: Minah Koela's Triumph and the Shadow of Community Exploitation

Welcome to another riveting episode of the Free to Fly podcast! Get ready to be captivated as we dive into the extraordinary journey of Minah. From the streets of Gugulethu to the helm of a successful business and as an executive director of Beautiful Gate, Minah’s tale is one of unwavering resilience. Prepare to be inspired as we unravel her story of overcoming obstacles, championing community cooperation, and safeguarding our children against exploitation. Don’t miss out – tune in now and be part of this empowering conversation!

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Interviewee:            Minah Koela   

Interviewer:             Amanda Mhluli 

List of Acronyms:   AM: Amanda Mhluli

                                         MK: Minah Koela

Welcome everyone to another empowering episode of the Free to Fly podcast.  For those joining us for the first time, we extend a warm welcome to our vibrant community.  Free to Fly isn’t just a podcast: we’re a counter child-trafficking organisation based in South Africa.  Today we invite you to join us for an inciteful conversation with Minah.  Born in Gugulethu during a tumultuous period of civil unrest. Minah’s journey is one of resilience and triumph – from overcoming adversities, she has forged a path to success, establishing a thriving translating business.  In the meantime, she transitioned from being a member of the board to the role of executive director of Beautiful Gate which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.  In this episode, we delve into Minah’s sources of inspiration, her unwavering commitment to community service, and her invaluable insights into the intricacies of family dynamics.  We confront the challenges confronted by young mothers – the harsh realities of exploitation and the pervasive threat of human trafficking in our communities.  Tune in as Minah shares her wisdom on embracing the spirit of Ubuntu, advocating for collaborative efforts within our communities, and standing together to protect and nurture our children.


AM:  Good Day to everybody around the world.  My name is Amanda and we are back yet again on another Free to Fly podcast.  Today we have a very, very special guest who has been working in the community for over 25 years.  She’s going to tell us all about herself – she’s going to introduce herself and we’ll take it from there.


MK:  My name is Minah Koela, I am married, with 4 sons, 3 of whom are adults and 1 is a teenager.  I’d like to say he is suffering from ‘teenager-ism’.  I was born in a place in Cape Town called Gugulethu.  I was raised in old Crossroads and moved to the Eastern Cape and moved back in 1986 to Khayelitsha, when my parents divorced.  I moved to YWAM in 1995, I voted, and the Lord must have said, Let’s save this one quick quick.  I moved to Muizenberg.  I became a Christian in Muizenberg.  I think that’s where I started wanting to work in the community and to be involved with my people.  I remember, when I took over from Beautiful Gate, I saw a diary – a journal I wrote in YWAM.  Somehow, even though I wasn’t yet a Christian, I wrote that I wanted to go and work with my own people.  At the time I thought it was probably Khayelitsha because that was the recent community that I was part of.  Then I was involved with YWAM.  Beautiful Gate at the time was working with kids on the street.  So, a couple would take the kids from the street and bring them into their home.  That’s how I got involved.  I studied at YWAM and I studied at UCT, owned a little bit of a business, pastor’s wife, student worker, worked as a missionary in the universaties and led a church in the township, and in 2019 – end of 2019, God called me back to Beautiful Gate to lead the community.  Oh, this journey has always been around, and actually,  the area of Beautiful Gate where I lead, it is the people that moved from old Crossroad, refusing to go to Khayelitsha, and they settled in that industrial site of Philippi, which is called Lower Crossroad now.  I still have relatives that are there, so its like the thread of how I’ve moved in life.  And here am I right now.


AM: Is there any specific event in your life, or any specific reason why you felt called to work with the people that are in the community that you grew up in.


MK: I think that coming to faith in Jesus – I was a teenage Mum – and when I found the Gospel, I thought there was something so beautiful about it, that I wanted to go back and share what I had.  If I think of me, working now at Beautiful Gate, is the fact that I was a teenage Mum, I had kids when I was 19 and 21, and, thinking that your life is kind of at the end, I had failed matric, and having to go back to school and realise my dream – almost like a second chance.  So I think, going back, was like realising there are many like me in the township where I’m working that don’t think that there is a second chance in their lives.  I think that we, as Beautiful Gate, and the work that I do, we begin to be the facilitators of the second chances for someone who was like me.  Being a teenage Mum, – there’s a lot of things that you think about: you don’t have money, you think about abortion, you think about failing matric, you think about kicking out at home, – there’s a whole lot of things.  Most of those things have driven some of the people in the township to drinking.  Some of those things have driven people to be in abusive relationships.  Some of things drive people to be, almost like modern day ‘selling yourself’. You hear mothers say, – not thinking that they could be making their kids want to sell themselves for money, or traffic themselves – what is that boyfriend of yours, you are old now, you should be able.  Instead of taking that responsibility, you are still my child, I need to take responsibility for you.  So, its like, – the person who made you pregnant, or, you have a boyfriend, therefore, they have to pay for you.  And you must remember, that once the trust is broken at home, somehow you are placing your child’s trust to somebody else.  For me, unintentionally, I wanted to make sure that when they see me, they see a 19 year old, and a struggling minor, but also, that they see a future: if it’s possible for her, then its possible for me to change.  When I went to UCT, my two boys were in university already.  Then I went a finished my matric, and then I went to study at the business school – UCT graduate school of business.  With young people, the shame,  – also I was determined that I want to make a difference in my own life, and you don’t know how difficult that is, because of your life, you think you are not clever.  Because remember, I never failed in school until when I was pregnant, then I failed matric.  And for almost 20 years I carried the fact that I was a failure, and I was not clever enough because I never dealt with the trauma of  having a child at 19 and having the father of my children living at a, when the other one was born.  You know, you have all these kind of things . . .  And the country that changed from being discriminatory, and the false narrative that is open to everyone and then, – when I went to Muizenberg, I thought I was going to Hollywood, only to find out I was going to find Jesus.  Maybe that is a Jesus Hollywood.  So I think that those were, for me, the drivers, but also being aware of the systemic injustice that happens in the townships.  So I feel that we’re nor only building our people, but we are creating new hope with individuals.


AM: I’d like to touch on what you said about parents when their teenage daughters become pregnant and then they tell them, whoever got you pregnant is now financially responsible for you.  It’s very important, and crucial, because now what you are doing is that you are making that child more vulnerable and more likely to be exploited;  either by the person who got them pregnant, or whoever it is that going to come and offer them money.  Being realistic, having a child as a teenager, you’re thinking how am I ever going to get through this: how am I even going to raise my child.  So that is a very beautiful point that you raised.  The gist of what I am getting from your answer, is that you really want to work in the community because you see yourself – your younger self – in so many girls, and you don’t want them to go down the path of alcoholism or drug abuse, or even where it comes to the point where they end up prostituting themselves, which in turn can lead very badly for their children.


MK: Also, sometimes, we think of prostitution as people going somewhere else.  There is an element of prostituting yourself when your family and everybody is saying that in order for you to be a part of this house, you need to contribute financially.  Find somebody who’s going to care for you or whatever.  So you are selling yourself to this man – maybe a sugar daddy, so kind of, the way you look at look at boyfriends, and partners, is a kind of financial sustainability, rather than looking for love.  Then, when you are not able to contribute, you are almost driven, – or, the other party thinks, he is paying your bills, then you allow yourself to be abused.  Sometimes the girls run away and start a shack , or they get drawn into the drug world.  So, there’s a whole lot of things that, sometimes in anger, parents don’t know, you are driving your child somewhere else.  Sometimes, also, how the parents themselves are changing boyfriends, depending on the money they have, not thinking that the child is looking.  I think, for us, it’s how do we, – also recognise certain things in ourselves; I’m going to be on a journey to never be like that, but, you need to learn to put things in place to not be like that.  You can’t just say I will never be like that, because then you mimic what you have learnt and seen.  I think empowering yourselves – I think part of our job is empowering parents to recognise these things in themselves.  It’s a long journey, I can’t – oh, we got it right – its just like how we are telling our own stories.  A lot of people who came to beautiful gate, – some were clients, so telling our own stories of, where I was, and where I now am.  Sometimes, we take a time-out and say to ourselves: we are not doing this right, how are we going to do this better.  Having a nice conversation sometimes about the way that the kids are dressing out there; having a conversation with the boys – because sometimes these conversations is always about the girls.  But, who are the perpetrators, why do we never talk to them, why do we never engage with the boys.  I used to be a youth pastor, my husband and I used to engage with both boys and girls in terms of the dress code: I think that empowering both of them can create a different society.  Sometimes the prostitution is about the girls, but, who is buying the girls; who is committing all these things.  It is the boys.  Its not the girls.  Where are the fathers.  I get very passionate about these things.


AM: That is why we wanted you on our podcast – we want to hear from people who work in the community, like you do, and who are passionate about changing the lives of young children, and of the youth.  A lot of people dream it – but its very different to be a doer.  So, thank you for allowing us to have this conversation with you.  It sounds like your involvement in the NGO sphere is deeply rooted in a sense of calling, and purpose, and is driven by the desire to help the people who are around you.  Can you please elaborate on how this calling has influenced your work and how you perceive your role in addressing issues like child exploitation within the community that you work in.


MK: I think, for me, as I said, my purpose and calling happened when I became a Christian in YWAM and my first ministry outside of, you know, preach, preach, preach, the first time I saw a different way of ministry was when we used to go to town and pick up the kids.  A funny story – I was head-hunted to be working for M-Net, but I felt so strongly that God wanted me to work with my own people;  I have been on a journey of understanding that the Gospel is not about us preaching people to come to faith.  The Gospel is about how are we sharing the Gospel – how are we living it out.  And part of the Gospel is the changing of culture;  changing of culture is that, Jesus says,  we come to faith and then we are given a mission to do, – to go and be the presence of Christ.  Actually, my first verse is Ephesians – it says, ‘It is by Grace that I have been saved’ but when you look at verse 9 and 10, it says ‘for the good works that God prepared for us in advance’.  So that means that God prepared us to make changes in life – not only to proclaim the Gospel, but how to live it out.  And, Paul says to Timothy, ‘Watch your lifestyle and doctrine’.  I think for us, what does a Christ follower look like in our everyday and for us, as Beautiful Gate.  Because we do build churches, but sometimes, when you are a community organisation, you have more footprint than the church because people come for different things.  The way that Jesus does His ministry, He meets the need, then He explains the Gospel.  So, I feel that our work is, we meet the needs of people, then, when people experience the love of Jesus, then they will ask questions.  Then they will experience God’s love without having to pay something for it.


AM: As a community worker, I’m sure you have across many children and many other adults – what is the most common sign that can be used to identify that a child might potentially be exploited.


MK:  I think that its very hard to know, especially in the township, because some of these things we don’t have language for.  Because it’s a community, sometimes it will be seen by a neighbour who sees that this child is always in their house; this child never -maybe, every time they see the parent, they’re scared.  I think there are small things, or, sometimes, this child never plays outside, is shy, – almost like the eyes of the community will see.  Some of them will be drinking at a young age.  So, there is a sense of collaborative community concern that will pick up some of the issues.  For us, we’ve got Child and Youth workers that will see that, this child has been playing, – and this child never wants to go home.  Why?  Then they will go and follow up.  Sometimes, it will be the teacher at school who says, so and so is not the same way as they were, can someone at Beautiful Gate follow up.  Sometimes it will be a neighbour, or the community itself.  So I think we see those kind of things too.  I think that for us, we’re not in the human trafficking industry and don’t see it immediately like that and I think we need more engagement with people like you, because I think we see the need, and then we haven’t heard the language – and I think, the community itself.  There was one time, like, someone will go in the village, as involved, – and then this person lied – and those are the kind of things because of the poverty.  Poverty, for us, is the biggest thing.  Someone went to the village and said to this lady, there’s someone from England who wants to take these kids.  Then the daughter went to the grandmother and said, they want to take them, they’re going to educate them, but they have to come to Cape Town.  Then, when they went to Cape Town, they were trafficked, in the Eastern Cape – by someone like me, who was trusted by the granny, who was looking for a better future for the children.  This old lady thought, I am a granny, I don’t have any other means to make sure my kids are educated.  I think its things like that.  Sometimes, there are cases where people have come, invited by a friend, then the friend says I am glad you are here, now we are all going to have to work.  The person says – where?  The friend says, we are going to have to go and stand in Mfuleni or somewhere else.  So, there is these not so clear but indications.  At the same time, I feel for us in the NGO’s that are busy with other things.  We need partnering with people like you to help us to be even more aware.  Some things are happening in shebeens, in front of us, and we’re not even aware.


AM: That’s very important, because sometimes – a lot of times – people think that its just life, its normal, and we have normalised things that aren’t normal – things which are really the tell-tale signs of trafficking;  recognising that this person might be trafficked, or this person might be in danger.  Have you ever had to do a follow up, and then the person that you are trying to do the follow up with, or the child, was very resistant to you.


MK: I think that for us, at Beautiful Gate, we haven’t really had those serious issues, so what we have done, we have been able to pick up people and then, because of the tribe system we use at Beautiful Gate . . .    When I was helping at another NGO with this child, you could see how broken the child was.  I brought her into my house, and then she stole my phone.  And I thought, but this is dangerous, because she’s so used to this. I think that, in our space, we haven’t really been able to engage in a deeper sense – we will talk about it when there is child trafficking and we will put things in place for someone not to be that deep.  That’s why I’m saying, we do need to engage with organisations like yours, to be able to know what are the signs.  There was one time when this child made this big lie; it was stressful, because you work it out it was more of attention seeking.  How it came, – it made me think, – wow- we need to learn and to reach out to many organisations that are dealing with this.  At the end of the day, we realised that the child was lying, but, at the time when it was happening, we thought, we will deal with this:  looking for places of safety, looking for different ways.  When people engaged with the child, they realised – this child is just looking for attention from us because she was used to being the centre of attention.  We needed to engage with the family even more in terms of how we would be working with her.  I think, for me, those are the red lights for us in terms of how do we engage and partner.  To create awareness in the township, because I think awareness in the township is very very low.  Maybe we are even more in denial of what is going on.


AM: That leads straight into my next question:  Have you ever had a situation that happened with in the community where the people in the community couldn’t believe that such a thing was happening, to the point that they even denied it.


MK: I haven’t seen it in our community, but I have seen it in another community.  They denied it, but then, when they found out that its true, then they want to kill that person – that person had to run away.  But I do feel that we are denying it sometimes, – there is a sense of denying it, because we are not engaging with it and saying it is something that is relevant, right now.  The fact that we get kids that are missing, and no-one knows where they are, and then it dies.  Why are we getting girls missing and you never find them.  There was a video – about the kids that were bought, taken from one of the townships – and they pretended they were going to school, but this person was selling them in town.  As a parent, I should be asking why has my child got so much money and these new things.  That’s another level of denial.  A young person should not receive things from another person, especially kids that are under 21; they should not get anything that I don’t know the source of this.  If someone buys my child something expensive, as a parent, it is my duty to say why would you do that.  Where does this come from.  Confront the person – why would you buy my child something that I wouldn’t buy them.  I have a 17 year old child, – he may not go away without telling me where he’s going, and I need to know who the parents are.  Obviously, we don’t have those systems in the township where you really investigate, and especially if you are really poverty stricken, because some people come in the name of caring for the family, and when you are in a broken state, you will receive.  But there are certain things where you have to question – why would someone buy my child a phone – an expensive phone.  Then I don’t ask questions – I think, oh, they are generous – there is a form of denial within me in that situation.


AM: So, there’s a form of denial with in us ourselves also, as people because we don’t want to acknowledge the truth – the truth can be very horrible sometimes.


MK: Yes, we, the people at Beaufort West, we disassociate ourselves from these things that could be happening in our very township because we’ve got places where we think it should be – it’s in Greenpoint, it’s at Sea Point, it’s at Wynberg, it’s at Emfuleni.  And we don’t realise that sometimes it happens in somebody’s house.


AM: It goes back to the point that you were saying, that a lot of people just have this thought that, this will never happen to me.  That’s the mentality of, if you think it will never happen to you, then that extends to your family, to your community, like, those sort of things don’t happen here.


MK:  And then, girls going to drink in the township – they go to drink, without money so then they end up sleeping with somebody, and that person saying, if you want more, sleep with so-and-so.  Its not even the actual money, with this exploitation, it’s also the needy-ness that we have.  Some says ooh – this is ndisi-Slay Queen – I need these weaves, I need these things . . .  And somebody says I’ll buy you these, but if you do this for me.  That’s a transaction.


AM: It is . . . and in some cases, it is exploitation.  Because is not always that the girl – or even the boy – is looking for the latest I-phone, the longest wig.  Sometime, its because people are poverty-stricken and they have little brothers or sisters that they have to take care of.


MK:  . . . and the shame – once you’re already in, the shame of how am I going to get out.  There’s shame, there’s fear, there’s stress – there’s all sorts of things that happen in this ‘índustry’.   I feel, for me, as I said to you, the empowering of township and people – the activism of knowing, and what things we have to put in place.


AM: Some of our listeners maybe know, or live with, someone who is a survivor of exploitation – who did not go into this life willingly.  What advice can you give them to help their loved one cope with the trauma and the psychological effects that come with having experienced this kind of exploitation or trafficking.


MK: One of the biggest failures – I’m talking probably in the black community where I work – is the need for people to go for counselling, we’ve demonised counselling.  I think one of the first things is that family counselling would be an important part of that family.  And then, also individual counselling for this person.  Also the love – love conquers all fears. Sometimes, – I don’t know what tribe you are – Xhosa?  . . . we are very rude sometimes – someone will say things that they don’t even mean, when they are angry – they swear at you about the very thing that was traumatic to you.  That is an important part for counselling, for people to know what language they use in front of me.  But it doesn’t mean they must treat me like an egg – that I’m going to break.  I think its just like, the commitment to the family, – we don’t talk about things . . . Have you ever been in a black family where you know that – you only find out at the funeral that you don’t belong to that family.  I and think, those are the things, – talking about things is very important in our community.  Looking for NGOs – we would not get people to go to paid psychologists, but I think its important for people to find a place.  Also, for people to find a space when the family is able to listen to them.  When someone is talking about their experience there’s a sense of healing. There’s also a sense of, I feel they accept me for who I am.  I am able to talk about this.  Because, everything, when it’s a secret, it eats you.  So, going for counselling, creating space for that person to be able to talk.  But also, for that person and that family to create an awareness, that it can happen to your child too, – it can happen to your sister.  So, I think that, for me, its talking – openly talking – about these things which we don’t do.  We really don’t talk about the issues.  We always talk – hiding – instead of calling a spoon a spoon, you say, that thing that you use for eating.  Let’s call things as they are.  Call a spade a spade.  So I think, for me, the verbalising what the person has gone through: going for family counselling and not saying – you’re the one – because you want to problematise the thing – you’re the one who has a problem, you should go.  There is a space for the family to go to counselling together.  But also, there’s a space for this person to go.  But also, the re-integration to society.  Because you have this shame:  how do you re-integrate and create a new life that is outside that thing.  But then, what happens if its someone in the family.  Many times, we say, oh no, that’s your uncle, we can’t go to the court.  Say to the family, someone has to face the law if they are involved in this thing.  Let’s get away from feelings, – there is a victim here so how do we support the victim, not the perpetrator, because sometimes, because of family, oh no – he’s your uncle, you know, he helped me when I was not . . .    – No, no. That person has violated your child, you need to deal with that.


AM: I know in our culture – I am Zulu – I know sometimes there is a thing called Uyahlawula – you pay.  You just pay for the damages – you either bring two goats or two cows and then every body just expects you to heal and deal with it.  The cows are for themselves – that healing is not for you.  Its for them, its their shame.  What justice looks like for you as a person who is the victim – those are the things we need to navigate: what does that look like.


AM: What can family do to help someone who was exploited; what can people from within the community themselves do to help people who have come out of exploitation.  How does the community ensure that the area that they are in, the community they live in, is a safe space for people who have come out of exploitation.


MK: You know, Amanda, when I think of community, I think of . . . community has changed over the years.  I don’t think the community in itself . . .  I think everything that we do, it has to have an element of government awareness and government support.  It has to have churches – churches need to be involved.  We haven’t spoken about the churches.  Sometimes the churches are the greatest perpetrators of trafficking, because they are a trusted source.  Leaders in the community also, because they are a trusted source.  So you need an integration of families, street committees, government, churches, religious institutions together to navigate this, because if one does it, one says, oh- its their problem.  We have to come back to the spirit of Ubuntu: it takes a village to raise a child.  It takes one person to destroy the village.  We need to say, if this happened to us, what are the systems that are created in our community.   Now, and I’m not saying we must beat children, but in the past, you were a child of the village.  If you were naughty, that aunty would quickly give you a slap, or say, hey, don’t do that, and you would respect that.  Any elder in the community was your parent, But now, there’s this thing that, you cannot touch my child, you cannot talk to my child, which is a fair consideration, but we’ve lost the fact that we are custodians of the kids; we are custodians of the women; we are custodians of the community itself, – all of us in the community.  Unless all the entities work together, its going to be NGOs and few people.  When there’s few people, it’s not as effective: it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make a change, but, a community engagement, a government engagement, street committees, churches, – when all those people are involved – schools, creches, clinics.  When HIV came, every entity was talking about this; when Corona came, everybody was involved.  I think it needs the same spotlight as these big disasters in order for us to activate it.  But what it does: – its smaller, because people are perverted, humans.  And some of those perverted humans are very powerful people, and that is an issue.


AM: That is an issue.  What I am taking away from what you are saying right now is that we do need to bring back Ubuntu – we need to start caring about our neighbours, and not being angry when someone disciplines your child.  It doesn’t have to be beatings, but, so that your child can recognise the authority figure.  I remember – I was talking to my Mom the other day – and she was saying, wow, when I was growing up in KwaMashu, in her street you couldn’t even hang around with a boy, because you knew, my neighbour’s going to see me with a boy, and then I’m going to be in trouble with my neighbours, and once I’m in trouble with my neighbours, I’m in trouble with my Mom, I’m going to be in trouble with my Dad.  Its that kind of community that we do need.


MK:  And maybe, we call it community care other than maybe discipline.  In that time there was the fear of, I can’t do this, but at the same time we don’t want to create another fear, but we also want to say, I’m doing this because I love and care for you.  Sometimes you realise – like at a funeral – this person was not related to me, but my parents cared for them – that spirit of neighbouring.  That spirit of the chief that cared, to serve– like Christ came to serve.  The leadership of today wants to be served.  We need to tilt this thing upside down and say, actually, leaders are there to serve.  I went to a Daily Maverick gathering and one of the speakers, Mbali Thuli, talked about how we have forgotten that we employ the politicians – they work for us.  But, the way we treat them its as if we are under their mercy.  We put them there, but then there is no accountability.  Ubuntu, in a way, was creating accountability:  even if you father was drunk, someone would carry them in instead of making a laughing stock.  If someone was an abuser, the community would come and then people would see their shame.  I think, sometimes we have forgotten many ways – again, poverty does that to us: where you are worried about your next meal.  Some things then fall through the cracks.  Because you think, right now, I need to eat, my kids need to eat, I’m struggling.  How do we acknowledge all these different factors that causes these things.  No one goes there by choice, circumstances cause some one to be able to do that, or, to be forced to do that, or to be dragged in to doing that.


AM: For people who work with people like that, people who are very involved in the NGO sector, and who work against abuse and who are out there, actually combatting trafficking and exploitation, – what do you believe their main focus should be in addressing these issues so that they are addressed effectively.


MK: When I started leading at Beautiful Gate, I looked at the Xhosa ‘things’ that were used.  There is something called Ilima- I have a notion that I want to build a house, or I want to plough my field, or I want to harvest. What I will do is that I will make Umqombothi, Mageu, and food and say to people “Kunelima kwabani.” Here’s an invitation to come and collaborate.  I think that our biggest issue is that we are silos and entities.  I think that, working collaboratively will help us, because, like in a big play, everybody has a role.  Even a menial role which looks like it’s not a role, but to make that play work, each part needs to work.  For me, I think, in order for us to combat this effectively, is the partnering.  Partnering requires humility, recognising that I’m coming to you Amanda – I don’t know something, and you come to me, – there’s something you don’t know, but there’s an invitation of, I know that you have a skill that you can bring in order for us to build this house.  So, this house is finished, right.  The owner says, this is my house, I built it.  But in reality, the owner did not build this house.  The owner had the money and the means.  Some people put the structure, someone had to come and do the roof, some had to do the lighting and electricity, some had to do the plumbing, some had to put the paint, and cupboards. So, it’s a group of people came together to make this house look beautiful.  That’s what I think, to combat all these things, we need – we need each other and different skills.  A sector needs to come, – family care needs to have social workers, have people dealing with trafficking, people counselling for alcoholism and drugs, disability, lawyers, advocates and all those kinds of people together.  If there is a problem in Cape Town, this is the list of people that will help with this.  Sometimes, you see a child, the mother needs to go to rehab – who looks after that child.  And then, are you sure that the place you put the child in is safe enough for that child to not go the same way.  And then, when the Mum comes out, do we have employment for them to be able to say I don‘t ever need to do that – I can work.  But, all that has to deal with the mental healthiness of the person in order for that person to have a full recovery.


AM: To my last question: as someone who has worked in the community for so many years, what advice would you like to give people.


MK: I think the advice I want to give people, and myself, is that sometimes we go to the community thinking that they don’t have something already.  Part of community development is what I talked to you about:  there are systems in place.  Sometimes our job is to call out to those systems and use them.  Also, I think working in the community is also coming, and learning – someone says, you sit under the tree and you watch people go up, in and out and then you start asking questions.  Sometimes, as people in an NGO, we have a ‘call from God’, and the right and then we become so paternalistic and people are just coming to use our resources.  Our job is to empower people to be able to stand on their two feet, not to do things for them.  I think sometimes we have an agenda and a drive.  It’s a long road, it’s a journey, its not a sprint.  Sometimes we will be frustrated, but I think that at the same time we need to put mental health care systems for people in this place.  What we call, Care for Carers, – once a quarter, debrief, talking – remember we’re no longer using a train, we’re no longer gathering as people – we’re busy.  There was a sense, when we used trains and public transport where people had some form of social group to share.  When I grew up in Khayelitsha, we used to have what was called silver train – it had a carriage for church, a carriage for this and for . . .  You would sit at the station talking.  Even at the clinic now, people are anxious, but those things were outlets.  We also need to create outlets for people to be able to share, to not normalise the trauma that they are dealing with.  Also to see how do we care for them to be able to be better carers for what they’re doing.


AM: That is so beautiful – we forget how much talking is actually therapeutic: coming together and just conversing with people – even if its just an hour train ride to Cape Town, from Simonstown, or wherever it is.  That is very important, having that community – what I find a lot, in our modern day life, is that people are so individualized – I just want to be by myself in my room, I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to engage with anyone.  As human beings, that is very harmful because, by nature, we are social beings.  We socialize a lot, so we do need to bring back those safe spaces and just engage with people.


MK: Also, a lot of our gatherings now are centred over alcohol – alcohol or TV. People are no longer going emkhaya, people are no longer talking together.  The washing on Saturdays – me and your Mum were there – on Saturdays, there was a spring-cleaning day, everybody was playing their music and shouting to each other.  There was this community that now is not  . . .  all the young people are doing is snap scan.  But even, the way that they are talking, its not realistic life.  Having to engage is like – I have 4 sons, I force them to speak, because – ‘Ím fine’  –  What do you mean, you’re fine.  Go and reflect and then come back, we’re going to talk about it.  Because, we can say – he’s ok.  But you see it, or sometimes they’re aggressive, they come after a rugby game, you can see the aggression.  I’m like, but that’s not the way to speak.  ‘What’s wrong’   I say, everything is wrong about your tone, the way you are speaking is not right.  And maybe, having places where we can check in, as a family, when we gather.  How are you coming in – sometimes you may have seen an accident – when you say, there was an accident, you have put that thing down.  Sometimes we say, what do you appreciate -it’s difficult – what are we going to think about, but we have to look – there is something beautiful about each and every one of us.  So its like, creating these moments of talking.  We have to normalise counselling because we don’t have . . .   Even with the lobolo, it was a communication and a conversation – not about how beautiful the dress is – it was the day prior to that, where families were laughing and talking and doing things together.  Sometimes its like a way of finishing an old rivalry, because, someone has come and you think, why did they come.  But then, at the end, it was actually nice that they came.  You had forgotten how they contribute to the beauty of the family.  So, its almost like, how do we create a talking society.  Someone wrote a book, I think her name is Hilary Mclea   that South Africa itself is a traumatised society.  We are traumatised.  I think, Trevor Noah used to say, how didn’t we get depressed.  We should all be in depression clinics.  But, the talking and creating spaces to verbalise how we were feeling – some people are using art, expressive art, and singing, somehow in that, there is an outlet for what is going on inside – some people are artists.  So, we need to figure out ways for people to find an outlet.  Because, the very people who are supposed to help us, they become the perpetrators, so we have to be careful that we are not creating harmful people.   Some make out like they are Jesus himself and its all about them.  So it about creating a healthy balance, that at the end of the day, we have to bring everything back to God.  Our brokenness needs to create a desire to come to Him in order to be better healers, because then we can say to the person I don’t know, but I know the person who knows – Jesus.


AM:  Thank you very much Minah.  We appreciate your knowledge; we appreciate your insights.  Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to come and sit and talk to us and share your very vast and deep experience in working with the community.  I do hope our listeners do take something out of this: that we all do need to communicate, we all need to come together and be one, and call out abuse when we see it, not to just keep quiet, – oh, its just my neighbour, and I’m not going to get involved.


MK:  We are our brother’s keepers.


AM:  Yes, we are.  A lot of people have this mindset where they just think, its not my business, – its my neighbour’s problem.  Don’t just mind your business – don’t gossip, but, when you see abuse, call it out.  Let’s become active members within our communities, and within our homes as well.  So, thank you very much, Minah, for sharing and for being here with us today.


Dear friends and key stakeholders, thank you for joining us on today’s podcast.  Our aim, and heart, for these podcasts is to raise awareness about human trafficking and to highlight the atrocity that this crime is to humanity.  A reminder that human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry which is, sadly, the fastest growing, world-wide, and second biggest crime after drugs.  It is far more organised that many care to believe,  We invite you to join hands in fighting against human trafficking.  Follow us on our social media pages at on Instagram and on Facebook, \freetoflyza.  Do check out our website at  To sign up to be a volunteer or donate towards the building and running of our safe house for children who have come out of human trafficking.  For those of you who do not know, Free to Fly is an organisation that is currently starting up the first safe house in South Africa for children who have been rescued from human trafficking.  Our heart is to run a holistic, trauma-informed, survivor-informed program that will facilitate this journey of healing.  Please follow our journey on our website.  Till next time, take care and be sure to share and listen out for the next podcast.  Thanks, friends. 

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