Interview: Luthando Dyasi, founder of Dine with Khayelitsha
by MarkLives (@marklives) In just one year, Luthando Dyasi has bridged a great cultural divide in the Mother City by hosting 260 non-eKasi residents at Khayelitsha homes, where they have sat down to dinner with their hosts. “Even after 20 years of democracy, there are still huge walls that separate us,” explains Dyasi, co-founder of Dine with Khayelitsha, which aims to bridge the great divides and get people talking about solutions to our daunting challenges.
What he has learned along the way will be the subject of a presentation he will be making at the Open Design Cape Town TALK100 session on the theme: “It takes a village to raise a child. What does it take to build a community?” The session starts at 2pm today, Thursday, 11 August August, in Cape Town City Hall and is free to all.
What will be the main message of your presentation to the TALK100 session during the Open Design Cape Town festival?
Luthando Dyasi: Having nothing is the best tool of innovation and creativity. I will be highlighting the great works done within Khayelitsha (Dine with Khayelitsha, GoVarsity, have fun, etc) and how existing resources and communal unity [are] used to redesign and shape Khayelitsha for the better. I will be sharing my journey and experience of building social capital and its significance in growing our communities. Lastly, I will be sharing the [stories of young people who] stood up and took initiative and became change agents in Khayelitsha.
The Dine with Khayelitsha platform you have codeveloped aims to help people from the townships and the suburbs to bridge the great divides created by apartheid. Is Dine with Khayelitsha achieving its aims and, if so, perhaps you can give us a few examples of how it is doing so?
LD: Yes, Dine with Khayelitsha is slowly but surely achieving its aims. We are breaking the barriers one piece at a time. [First], the perception township people have about white people is starting to change and how white people perceive townships is also changing.
It’s common to hear guests saying, “This is not the Khayelitsha I hear and read about in the news.” The number of local South Africans coming to Dine with Khayelitsha is increasing as we do more of these dinners. We used to have only Internationals attending, with one or two South Africans, but now that’s changing; there’s more south Africans responding and that shows we are slowly achieving our aim.
You and your colleagues aim to expand the Dine with Khayelitsha concept to as many as 150 townships. What’s next?
LD: We are now perfecting the dinner experience and we packaging it so it can be a model that can be easily replicated and implemented in other townships. End of September we will be activating Gugulethu Township and see how things go.
You seem intent on breaking down barriers. In addition to Dine with Khayelitsha, you have developed the GoVarsity app, which helps people to enter university. Do you think we will ever be able to redesign our cities in such a way that they become more socially and economically integrated?
LD: Social entrepreneurship proves to be a great tool to redesign our cities in such a way that they are socially and economically integrated — building self-sustained businesses that make an impact in our communities. We should not build businesses to give back to our communities but use our communities to build business. Dine with Khayelitsha is a perfect example of integrating our communities socially and economically. We use local households, local taxi drivers, community leaders, gangsters, sheebens and veggie stalls. We are creating an ecosystem that benefits everyone.
You’ve clearly got a strong entrepreneurial spirit. What’s your best advice to aspirant entrepreneurs?
LD: My advice would be: you don’t have to have something to get started. Great things are built out of nothing. Always see the unseen; see gold in every problem you encounter because there lies an opportunity to offer a solution.
How alive is entrepreneurship in Khayelitsha? Any people you particularly admire?
LD: Entrepreneurship is slowly becoming a trend in Khayelitsha. It’s buzzing and everyone is curious about it. In the last decade, entrepreneurship was defined as owning a spaza shop, a minibus taxi or a sheeben, but today Khayelitsha residents are experimenting on other sectors such as tech and health — [we’re] broadening the entrepreneurship field.
If you look at people like Lufefe from Espinaca, Luvuyo Rani of Silulo and Sizwe Nzima of Iyeza Express, they clearly show how Khayelitsha has evolved. They [are] just too great.
Personally, I admire Marlon Parker, the founder of Rlabs. He’s one of the humble giants I look up to. From his personal qualities to his business mindset, he’s just a great leader. I’m blessed to have lived in the same life time as him.
How would you like to see yourself in, say, 10 years from now?
LD: In 10 years from now, I will be retired. Settle down in the Eastern Cape and work on small projects to rework the whole province. I love the country-side.
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