Hello… okay, let’s start right from the top.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Alright, so I am a 30 year old South African. Who is involved in a couple of really good charities. I own an incredible agency that works in the activation space. I am incredibly blessed, I have an amazing family. I have two amazing step kids. Work hard, play hard… I basically wear five different hats. So I have got the business and that is where my bread and butter comes from and has been for the past seven years. I have the radio show which is every Tuesday from 10-11 on Cliff Central. I do CNCB catch ups every Friday, it’s a social media catch up at 6:30. Tune in, I would like to keep my job. How many is that… that’s business, radio, TV… I started a website three or four months ago called Good things Guy, the aim was to stop sharing negative media on social media. South African’s have got a… not South African’s, sorry the world have got this infatuation with bad news. We love to share it, spread it and be the bearer of it. I got sick of it, so I decided to start finding really good news stories be it international or South African and just plugging it all over social media. One of my first posts has been reached by four million people. So people do want to share the good stuff and I am a family man.
Brilliant…NekNomination… what were you thinking?
So NekNomination, there were two things that led up to that moment, maybe there were a million things that led up to that moment. But there were two that I can really point out. The one was that NekNominations had gone viral around the world, it was this trend that started happening from Australia that spread globally. I was watching it online and I thought two things. One, it is incredibly stupid to be drinking alcohol and daring people to do stuff, that is going to end badly. The second was that the problem with social media is that a lot of people think that they are anonymous online and what they post online doesn’t matter. There are a couple of scenarios that you can look at, the FHM editors… Justine Sacco…So I think for me, posting stuff online, people need to start being more cognitive of the stuff they are putting on-line and becoming responsible. If you wouldn’t put it on the front page of a newspaper, don’t put it on your social media, because it can come back to bite you in the bum. Just imagine the people that were snorting cocaine and eating goldfish while doing NekNominations (these videos do exist) imagine them applying for a job. Once they grow up just a little bit and their boss Googles them and finds that video, they will not get hired. Anyways that was the first thing. The second thing, Burger King had just launched in South Africa and they had come up with this great marketing campaign to give free burgers away to people that could already afford it. So it was a great ad campaign, well done to the fundis. But it doesn’t work in a third world country, where a huge portion of our population are poor and don’t get to eat. I think they gave away ten thousand burgers, if they had gone into a location and fed the people who need it the most, it would have gotten more publicity and better traction. That all happened the same time I got NekNominated. I decided that I could either do nothing and nothing would have changed or I could try do something and create a change just within my circle of friends.
You got a call from CNN that you would be on African Voices, what was your immediate reaction?
Blown away… blown away, through everything I have gone through my whole life, thirty years… I am no different to anybody else. I am just a guy, a guy that got given a really cool gig and was able to do really cool stuff. I have been given the opportunity to be on radio and TV and all of those great things but I am no more special than anybody else. I am not any different and when CNN phones you because they want to do a feature on you… blessed, overwhelmed, honoured, incredibly overwhelmed. I don’t think I told anybody even my close family, I didn’t tell them for like the first two weeks because it was just too unreal. I am absolutely honoured to have been featured as an African Voice.
What impact did being on CNN have on your life?
That is really crazy because CNN is this international, multinational, all over the place news channel and that little feature that they did on me, it took four days to film. It was one of the toughs things that I have ever been through because of the camera… it’s like being Kim Kardashian, that is how I explain it. They met me in the early hours of the morning and they followed me around through the day for four days. It was exhausting, it was really exhausting, and having three or four cameras on you is hard work. I take my hat off to the Kardashians if you could do that. What was the question, I totally forgot…
No worries, CNN… impact…
The impact, so this feature that is nine minutes long and took four days to film, that’s where I was going with that, four days to film and nine minutes long and it’s being featured on CNN for a full month, twice a day. My social media is glowing. Every time it is on, someone from somewhere in the world sends me an e-mail or a Facebook or a Tweet and they just say “Thank you”. They thank me for doing something different, for doing something for other people, for inspiring them. That is what really matters, inspiring other people, being able to use what I have to make a difference in someone else’s life and inspiring others to do the same or even better.
Do you get a lot of people coming to you and asking how they can help?
So everybody wants to be involved, everybody wants to help. Everybody wants to make a difference in other people’s lives. What I have realized in the past two years is that helping charities is not an easy process. It is not simple. There are certain people and organisations that are trying to make it easier for you. One of the greatest ones that I do a shout out for whenever I can is For Good. It is like a dating site for charities, so if you are cleaning out your cupboard and you are a size 4 shoe, you decide you have two or three pairs you want to give to charity you can go onto the website. You can then put in the info that you have a few pairs of size four shoes and that you want to give them away. It will then marry you with the organisation that needs shoes. Whether it’s a soccer ball, clothing, and time, whatever it is. There have been thousands of people that get in contact with me that want to assist. I am not a charity, so I push them to where I know they can make a difference in the easiest way possible.
What does it mean to be kind? What exactly does kindness entail?
Being kind isn’t about money or stuff or goods. It is about time, it is about sharing and about acknowledging someone else’s humanness. I think as a society, the world, we have become very numb to everything that is going on around us in the sense of poverty, people standing on the streets begging. We have a way of making it okay in our own heads to not help the guy that is begging. We have forgotten how to be human. I think being kind is about the little things. It is the little things that make up the big things. It’s smiling at a stranger, it’s greeting people, it’s manners. I mentioned it before so I might be repeating myself but it is helping someone with what you can, with what you have. It’s not about the great things, I think that is where people fall short, sometimes it is a big burden to bear – the crime, the poverty, the situation that South Africa is in. You think that you are only one person and that perhaps you won’t make a difference. There is a term that I coined during this whole process – microactivism is it about the little things. It is about being able to give someone a meal to get them through the day to perhaps get them a job the next day. They might be able to help themselves then, so it is the little things that make up the big things.
Let’s talk more about the charities that you are involved with?
Okay, so there is a hell of a lot of charities that I get involved with and help out. I am always the go to guy if you need a little bit of awareness, maybe MC work. Wherever I can use my resources to assist. At the moment there are two big ones for me. The first would be Goodbye Malaria, it’s a cause that I believe in. I lost my father to malaria five years ago, he went to Mozambique on holiday, got back two weeks later. He thought he had a cold and passed away the next day. So it is a serious thing in my life and Goodbye Malaria’s aim is to get rid of malaria in my lifetime. I support them wholeheartedly and whenever I can raise money for them I will. The second charity that I work hand in hand with is Ependy Angels, they look after a lot of kids with cancer. It started it with little Layla who got diagnosed at four years old with ependymoman, it is a very serious cancer that not many people know about. Ependy angels look after the kids, puts them on medical aid. I do a lot of work with them. That said, I am willing to work with any charity. I am willing to open myself up and to raise awareness and help wherever I can. Every week on my show on Cliff Central, I dedicate ten minutes to a charity where I try to highlight, raise awareness and either raise money or whatever they need. I give them ten minutes to just talk about who they are. What they are about, what they are doing. That is one of the ways I give back.
Back to Cliff Central, let’s talk more about your show. How long have you been on the air? Well, Cliff Central is still pretty new.
So Cliff Central started on the first of May 2014 and I joined them on the 21 of June. So it was quite quickly after they had started. I got hold of Gareth, I stalked him basically. I checked for him online, I got his details, I messaged him, I messaged Rena, who is the station manager. I messaged whoever I could because I believe that what Cliff Central are doing, what we are doing because I am a part of Cliff Central is we are being mavericks. Radio is something that is evolving quite quickly. Smartphones are a huge part of how we live our daily lives and it is a huge part of how you can get media across that is not politically influenced. I got hold of Cliff Central, I pitched to them what I would like to do. Lucky Gareth knew who I was because he had interviewed me through the NekNominations and I pitched a show on the good stuff. Well, it’s called The Good Stuff now but the whole idea was to spread good news and to interview inspirational, motivational change-makers, thought leaders. The people who are making a big difference to South Africa and the world. It would also give charities a platform to speak about what they are doing. There are a lot of charities that you don’t know half of what they do. So I pitched the show and started on the first of June and the reception has just been phenomenal. I have got a great following, they tune in every week. They download the podcasts they interact with me online and through our various mediums while I am live. It has taught me that people really want to share good news.
For those that don’t know, what is Cliff Central about, how is it different from other stations?
So Cliff Central is an online content platform that allows content to be created without it being licensed by a political side. So if you think of radio in South Africa right now any radio station you listen to right now has got terms and conditions that they need to abide by that has been brought up politically, because the political people own our radio stations. Whereas the internet gives you freedom. You can talk about what you want to, you can discuss different topics. Gareth Cliff has created this platform where he has over 38 shows at the moment, that are just speaking about what people want to hear. There are varying degrees, you have got the Laws of Life with Garry Hertzberg and Kate Pater. They bring the laws of South Africa into discussions. You have got the sex show SexTalk, I mean you would never have that on traditional radio. It is talk radio on steroids.
I know that you are sympathetic towards the students that are protesting, how would you suggest that they channel their anger and energy to obtain better results?
They need to work together. Student protesting has been a precursor to massive change throughout history, whether, in South Africa or international, the students have a voice. What started out as a conversation about school fees or university fees has quickly become a discussion on corruption and mismanagement of funds. All of a sudden you have all of these numbers that are coming out the woodwork. It feels like for the first time our country is actually speaking about a huge problem. A problem that we all speak about at dinner parties but nobody is walking to the doors of parliament and saying we are sick of it. Our students are finally doing that. Our students are showing us the way forward. It’s so cliché to say but they are our future. If they can channel their energy into non-violence but rather into showing our leadership where they are going wrong, pointing out the challenges that are being faced, real positive change can start to happen.
Communication is an important topic. We need to learn as a country how to communicate in a manner that is both productive and constructive instead of turning to violence.
One hundred percent, whether it’s protesting or business or relationships or life in general communication is the key to driving positive conversations. Unfortunately, a lot of people jump on the bandwagon. Whatever the students were setting out to do, whatever the protesting was about, there have been a lot of political agendas that are jumping on board. Recently the EFF jumped up in parliament and said that they are joining they were trying to get their political agendas out there. What I find is that a lot of students don’t have a political agenda, they know the difference between right and wrong and they are fighting for what is right. Their message needs to stay clear, it has evolved… a few days ago there was a hashtag trending on social media which was #feesmustfall which moved to the #ancmustfall so the message has moved to government. It is incredible to see one collective voice fighting for education. That is mind boggling and inspirational to see that kids are doing that.
You are on a personal crusade to empower through the power of positive thinking, you are a motivation speaker…
The term motivational speaker is terrible, it’s like a self-help book. I like to think of myself as a change maker and a thought leader. I do have certain opinions that could assist other people in making very cool choices, to empower themselves and to think a little differently. To see the world in a different way and in that way, yes motivational. I have been very lucky that corporates jump on board. They book me and rebook me, apparently, I am okay on stage. I do enjoy inspiring other people so the biggest thing for me is that there are so many good stories in South Africa, so many amazing people that I have been able to connect with and so many life lessons that I have already learned, so I can pass on that knowledge. Hopefully, I will inspire others just to think a little bit differently. One of my biggest mantras which is something that I believe in and use in my daily life is “Change one thing, change everything”. I have a real belief that in all of us we hold the power to make a huge difference in other people’s lives, in our own lives, in our families’ lives. It usually takes one small change to start making that positive difference.
You just said you have learned many lessons…
This is someone else quote “Be kind because everyone is facing a battle that you know nothing about”. The biggest lesson for me is that every single human being is going through their life experience whatever that is. Some people have got it really good and some people have got it really bad. Everybody is going through some sort of life experience and we need to start understanding as a society, and we try to, that we are all the same. We are all looking for the same things. We should all be afforded the same rights. That’s deep.
Whoever knew! I know you will share my belief that we all have a role to play when it comes to contributing to the growth of our country each in a different shape or form. For somebody who is trying to figure that out, where do they begin?
This question pops up a lot because people do want to make a difference they just don’t normally know how to start, or where or what to do. My standard response is “action” it is all about action. There is a certain word which has been thrown around and it because we live in a world where social media is part of our daily lives. It is called slacktivism. Slacktivism is where you try to be a part of something but you land up doing nothing. So hashtag trending is a great way of showing slacktivism. You are for a cause, you Tweet, you Facebook… and yes, you raise awareness but no money is actually made. If you decide that today that you want to make a difference somehow, figure out what that is and do it. It is all about the action of change. Without buying a lottery ticket you are never going to be able to win the lotto.
If you could change one thing in South Africa right now what would it be?
Make our government accountable for the corruption. Make our government accountable for the misuse of funds. When Joyce Banda become Malawi’s president she sold off the expensive cars, she got rid of all the planes. She cut all of the salaries of the people who were a part of the government. She made them realize that they work for the people and that their job is to serve the people and look out for their best interests. Our government need to realize that they need to look after their people. There is a huge portion of our population that are living below the poverty line. I think the stats are 21% of South African’s don’t eat every day. Our government needs to step up.
What does the future hold for you?
Good things, great things, president of South Africa… who the hell knows. I have been put on a path where I have been afforded the opportunity to help other people and the future for me is exactly that. Before NekNominations, pre-2014 I was just a businessman, just another guy. Now I am a guy that wants to help people, make South Africa and the world a better place. I actually sound like a miss universe contestant but for me that is real.