On the Trail of Nelson Mandela

Saturday, 14th June 2014 – Afternoon

This was an amazing day.

The Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum Ticket

Apartheid Museum Ticket

Saturday afternoon we were taken to the Apartheid Museum and this was fascinating, shocking and moving but ultimately it is the inspirational element that stays with you. On entry you are given an immediate jolt when you see you have been arbitrarily classed as either white or non-white.

We are all familiar with parts of Nelson Mandela’s story and some of the terrible acts carried out under apartheid, but coming here to see and hear so many exhibits, anecdotes and quotes makes for a deep experience and gives a real sense of the struggle. You simply have to admire the South African people for how far they have come.

No photos are permitted inside but this picture below of some of our team was taken just outside.

Nelson Mandela

Soweto

We followed the Mandela trail to Soweta and visited his simple home. He has left us numerous inspirational quotes and this one features prominently in the back yard of his former home.

Mandela Quote

Also in Soweto, we stopped at the Hector Pieterson memorial, commemorating the children who died during the student uprising in 1976 when police opened fire on the demonstrators.

It always seems impossible until its done

“It always seems impossible until its done”

Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg

For the evening we returned to Johannesburg and enjoyed a relaxed introductory meal with our clients in a very upmarket mall off of Nelson Mandela Square. Looking down on the square is a huge portrait of Mandela with some words to inspire us all when we see a supposedly insurmountable problem ahead.

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Introduction to South Africa

Saturday, 14th June 2014 – Morning

IBM South Africa

In the morning we visited the IBM office in Johannesburg and met the General Manager for South Africa, Abraham Thomas, spending a couple of hours learning about IBM’s strengths and challenges here. I was particularly interested to learn that the law now requires that every organisation should mirror the population of the country, so 60-70% of employees should be of either black or African descent. This means that there is an ongoing focus on training and recruiting from the country’s previously disadvantaged communities.  The equity of this is undeniable and it illustrates how far the country has come but it takes time and attention to achieve this kind of transition.

The message was reinforced again that our purpose as part of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is not to win business for the company.  Instead it is a corporate social responsibility initiative that aims to bring about lasting change for communities in developing markets whilst providing global leadership training for the IBM team.

We finished the morning with a security briefing with further advice on sensible precautions that need to taken. Although the security issues facing the country remain a concern, most of the restrictions are based on a common sense approach that should be applied in any major city where you stand out as a visitor in a foreign country. So far my experience of the South African people has been that they are extremely friendly and usually smiling 🙂

Just To Kick Off …

On 12th June 2014, tomorrow, the adventure begins!

I leave the UK for a 1 month assignment to Mafeking in South Africa as part of a 14-strong team with the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC).  This blog starts as my journal of this adventure for any friends, family and colleagues interested in following my personal journey.

I am very excited to be spending this time in Africa, not least due to this being the only continent I have not visited before (Antarctica included!)  I am sure this will prove to be a rich cultural experience with both personal and business challenges and many lessons for me along the way.  I will do my best to record these here in a way that makes for an interesting read for those around the world giving up their time to read my blog.

The CSC brings teams together from around the world to create strong teams with diverse business skills and then gives their resources freely to help communities work on major projects and make positive changes in developing markets.