Thousands of people — young and old — scream and cheer at the top of their lungs as singing duo Mafikizolo performs. They know every word of the hit songs that have turned Mafikizolo into one of Africa’s biggest bands, performing around the world to wild acclaim.
But on this afternoon in December 2017, there is something extra special about Mafikizolo’s show. They are not just on stage to entertain the adoring crowd. They are here to share the joyful spirit of Christmas with disadvantaged communities.
The event, Christmas With Our People, is an annual roadshow staged by the Motsepe Foundation in East London, Durban, Polokwane, and Tshwane to share music with more than 200,000 people in disadvantaged communities. The concerts are free to the public.
In addition to Mafikizolo, last year’s event featured equally enthralling performances by 18 other top names in the South African music scene: Babes Wodumo, Cassper Nyovest, AKA, Kwesta, Emtee, Babes Wodumo, DJ Zinhle, DJ Tira, DJ Sphe, Naves, and a slew of other stars the audience would only see on TV, were it not for Christmas With Our People.
The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for millions of families around South Africa, it’s often difficult to celebrate for the 55% of the population that lives in poverty.
With the almost universal focus on Christmas as a season for family, presents, and festivities, the holiday goes hand-in-hand with stress and anxiety for disadvantaged communities and underprivileged families.
The Motsepe Foundation was launched in 1999 by Dr Patrice Motsepe and Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe with the philosophy of Ubuntu and the strong belief that we are all interconnected.
“Our success and wellbeing is intricately intertwined with the success and wellbeing of others, especially the poor and marginalised in our society,” said Dr Moloi-Motsepe.
Other than initiatives aimed at increasing access to quality health care, education, gender equality, and social entrepreneurship, the Motsepe Foundation also promotes social unity, and uses the universal language of music and the ability to unite people of all classes, religions, and races.
Christmas With Our People launched in 2011 as a way for the impoverished and marginalised to experience the concert frenzy that sweeps through South Africa between November and December every year. The concerts support the local music industry by creating a world class platform for national artists to perform, market their music, and drive their market viability.
Christmas With Our People also gives local artists a chance to earn a living from their craft and better engage with their community, and allows children and young people to interact with their heroes and role models as a way to inspire them to dream bigger than what their circumstances would typically allow.
Everyone is included
When families struggle to make ends meet, providing for needs like food often takes priority over toys and fun activities for children. The constant challenge to stretch already limited resources further becomes more pronounced over the holiday period, when parents have to also consider the new school year which starts in January and the new uniforms that have to be bought.
The Motsepe Foundation also launched the Christmas Toy Distribution initiative in 2011 as a social outreach programme that shares the spirit of Christmas with children up to 15 years old.
The programme is predicated on the spirit of giving and sharing, born out of the recognition that millions of underprivileged children cannot share the cheer and joy that traditionally comes during the Christmas season.
To date, almost 1 million toys have been distributed to children who otherwise would have not received a toy for Christmas. Toys are distributed through anchor schools, community centres, and churches to children identified by municipalities as coming from low income households.
In 2017, 195,106 children received toys from the Motsepe Foundation, and a total of R8,118,820 was spent on the procuring of toys and shipping costs.