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Up, Down, Left, Right, In and Out: An extraordinary discovery of finding inner peace

Growing up my dream was to become a professional soccer player. I started playing soccer from a very young age on the streets of Hambanathi township, in the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The only thing I wanted to do was to play soccer and represent my country at international competitions. I will never forget the year 1994 and at the tender age of 6 while playing soccer at the local football stadium, near the sugar cane factory, tragedy struck. One dreadful day in an attempt to recover a soccer ball we had been playing with, I found myself stuck in a swamp of hot ash, till this day I cannot explain the surreal circumstances that were materializing before my eyes. Overwhelming feelings of disbelief and shock, there are no words to comprehend what I felt on that day. Funny enough, I was not feeling any physical pain at that moment, all I could hear was hysterical sounds from individuals within the vicinity of the incident.

The next thing I remember was being carried by a group of men into a vehicle and rushed to the hospital, I have never seen my mother cry so much before. Wittingly or Unwittingly than reality struck, I started to feel excruciating pain on my feet and to my dismay, when I took a peek at my feet, all I could see was skin peeling out faster than a speeding bullet. I thought I was going to see my bones, my whole world was falling apart, my mother’s frantic crying was not helping at all, then I realized the painful reality, I was burnt by hot ash, mixed with dumped chemicals from the sugar cane factory next to the unfenced sports field.

I remember being in hospital, my parents and teachers would bring me school work to complete while in a hospital bed. I am so grateful to them for that because they understood the fundamental principle that though my feet were burnt, my brain was not damaged and the only thing that would distract me from my painful misery was a sound education.

After being discharged from hospital, one had to face other challenges and stereotypes, there would be those people who would genuinely feel sorry for me and others who would mock me. At that point in time I was in primary school, school kids can be nasty and cruel, if you know what I mean, there were those who teased me and called me names. Some of the nick names I was given were“KFC”, “Chicken Licken” and “Mapheki Nyawo (Roast Feet)” I must be honest at that time it was so painful for me emotionally, it was a huge set back, because my self-esteem and confidence was at a “junk status”.

I remember while still in primary school, I hated the subject Physical Education (PE). I did not hate the subject because of the teacher and content, however I hated it because we had to wear shorts. Till this day I dislike shorts because at that time it meant I had to expose my feet and other mean kids would make me a laughing stock.

Fast forward to 30 years later, having had a supportive family helped me cope with all the tragedies and struggles I faced growing up. Being raised by God fearing parents, who prayed for me was what gave my life a sense of purpose.

My purpose in life is to inspire greatness and change people’s lives. If I chose to be bitter and angry I wouldn’t be fulfilling my purpose in life. So many people are filled with anger because of the things which have happened to them. Truth is you will never fulfill your purpose and receive your blessings in life if you allow yourself to be held back by your circumstances.

In conclusion, I think it would be befitting that I share a quote from Mr. Musa E Zulu, who is a World Class Author, Artist and Motivational speaker that I respect and look up too, as a matter of fact, I am currently reading his book titled: WHEELS ON THE SOUL OF MY SHOES.

“Think about it, I’m young, I’m Black, I’m free, I’m possible, I’m diverse, I’m open, I’m smart, I’m an African and I’m possible!”


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About the Writer:

Nhlanhla Mhlongo is open-minded, friendly, crazy and down to earth person. He loves to work hard and also enjoys life to the fullest. His academic background is in Public Administration and Management, Public Financial Management and Public Service Delivery. He obtained his qualifications from The Durban University of Technology (DUT), he is currently studying towards a master’s degree in Public Management at DUT. He is currently working at Ethekwini Municipality, Ombudsperson and Fraud Prevention.


Light cyber stalking- the unspoken thing we all do!

These days when you meet someone and there is an attraction from either one or both parties, there is bound to be some light cyber stalking involved. In my unresearched definition, light cyber stalking is:

“Going through someone’s social media platforms, sometimes saving their images without wanting the person to know. The aim is to satisfy your curiosity about the person.”

I purposely termed this ‘light cyber stalking’ because there is the unpleasant definition of cyber stalking in the Oxford English dictionary, which is described as:

“The repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone, for example by sending threatening emails.”

For the purpose of this article, I humbly ask that we stick to my unresearched definition of light cyber stalking :-). And according to that one, I think most of us can agree that we have been light cyber stalked or we have light cyber stalked someone. I have had a couple of suitors go on a ‘research exercise’ by viewing my social media platforms as a means to satisfy their curiosity about who Bongeka is, some even to the extent of saving my photos on their phones…hmmmmm still not comfortable with the latter part!

I have also been on a social media expedition, seeking to satisfy my curiosity about my crush-lol yep and after disclosing this to a few friends, guess what I discovered? That we all in this together comrades! Hahaha… I have come to learn the comforting truth that a  couple of my friends also cyber stalk their ‘crushes’. For example, they look at photos dated 2010, investigate the females in these photos, interrogate dress codes, find out where they like hanging out, how they think and what they like.

Light cyber stalking is a new way of gathering information about someone in the digital age. Though this seems like an innocent exercise, my slight concern is that it may lead us to form inconclusive perceptions about people. A friend of mine shared an example of wrong perceptions being formed about people on social media. She echoed that, if you are a woman in her late twenties and your social media is flooded with images of your frequent fine dining visits, trips with the girls around the world, looking good and always posting about how glorious life is, you will be placed in a category of people called ‘abathanda izinto’ (loosely translated to mean those who love and consume the finer things in life). She continued to say some men will even go to the extent of being intimidated to approach you because they feel you will be high maintenance and ‘not’ wife material-whatever that means!

In my own light cyber stalking, I have also formed exaggerated conclusions about my crush’s photos and status updates, sometimes to a point of working myself up over nothing. Since most people are doing this already, I started this dialogue to say it’s OKAY! lol, and as we continue with our light cyber stalking journeys we need to employ self-control and do it in a manner that serves to appreciate the existence of another glorious being!


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Different valid forms of work- they all have a right to co-exist…

My friend and I have been engaging in dialogue about redefining work and creating a meaningful life in today’s world. We are both independent consultants with very different lives from our peers who work a 9-5 in corporations. More so, we are quite selective about the kind of projects that we choose to get involved in because we think differently about our quality of life. Work is not just about paying bills, but about choosing projects that we believe in and being in spaces where we feel we are able to make meaningful contributions. But even more importantly, it’s about getting projects that create room for flexibility so that we manage our time in a way that allows us to pursue our God given dreams and enjoy a fuller life.

As we explore projects that will fit well with our lives, most of our days look like this: We choose what time we wake up and go to bed; we choose where we have breakfast and where to work from. We plan our week according to our hearts desires and always slot in things we enjoy doing, such as going to book launches, doing research, reading and getting our nails done – This is the life right! 🙂

It is definitely going against the grain and as a result our way of life comes with scrutiny and confusion from people in our lives. When people know you don’t have a project, work a 9 to 5, or run a business, they struggle to understand what you do with your life. When I tell people I am working, I always get the confused response of ‘doing what?’, since I don’t fall in the normal parameters of what is considered ‘working’ or ‘having a job’. People would say to me  “You must have a lot of time in your hands, right?”  insinuating that I am less productive and don’t know what to do with my time. Sometimes they would even say, “wow, you probably have lots of money then.” Both of these assumptions are not a true reflection of my life. I can understand why people think this way because when I was in corporate I also thought in that same way. Our socialisation has taught us that ‘valid’ work is having a long-term job in a particular institution. Part of the reason I am writing this article is to challenge narrow perceptions of what productivity is and should look like. Often the assumption is that, you have a ‘proper’ job or are more productive if you wake up early, go to an institution and receive income end of the month. Whilst this is great, I challenge that it cannot be the only true voice in a society that is comprised with different kinds of people with various lifestyles.

I believe that we are moving into an era where more and more people are wanting to really do work that fulfills their divine purpose. My friend and I are not trying to go against the norm just because we can, no. Actually, this is a very divine journey for us because despite the opposition we face daily, we remain peaceful knowing that we are grounded spiritually. This journey has made us think differently about work, productivity and money. I say this because the things we do, don’t have immediate tangible pay off benefits. But we have a peace about that because we recognise that what we invest in today will pay out gigantically in future 🙂

I want to end with this note- friends, it’s okay for our lives to look different. We need to be more understanding of other valid forms of working and just appreciate that there are multiple views of what productivity is and should look like and guess what, they all have a right to co-exist!

A glimpse of how God feels…

Thank You, two of the most powerful words in any language. Did you know that there are about 7000 languages spoken in the world today? ( In all these languages a significant percentage has the dialect of thank you or some way of showing gratitude through speech.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, let me share where this came from. I recently assisted someone with something that they needed. In my conversations with this person, they seemed to talk about everything else, even offering their unsolicited advice about my life. But I noticed that this major thing I had done, was not acknowledged at all. Now, I am aware that some people may question why am even I raising this as an issue. I know we have been socialized to believe that when we do things for people, we are EXPECTED not to want any sort of acknowledgement in return. I have the words “EXPECTED” in capital letters because I want to zoom into this a bit more.

The reason I raise the person’s lack of acknowledgement is because I strongly felt the emotion of not being appreciated. To a point that as I drove after seeing them, I actually broke down in the car and cried. It was in that moment that it hit me, perhaps this is how God feels when we ask Him for things and we don’t go back to say, “Thank You”. In a book I was reading recently the author wrote the words, “God has emotions”. I can’t tell you how liberating it was for me to hear that. We often think feeling certain strong emotions is ungodly and that we should contain them. I realized that wanting a sense of acknowledgement was actually a very Godly thing.

When we desire to hear the words “Thank You”, It is not because we want someone to stroke our ego’s, but that we would like to a feel a sense that someone values the contributions we make in their lives, however big or minuscule. I think this is a very powerful thing that makes our human connections even more meaningful.

I was sharing with one of my friend’s that my default mode in life is peace and joy. Part of the reason why that is so, is that I have cultivated a habit of saying “Thank you”. Most mornings when I wake up, I write down three things I am grateful for and that really helps my positive outlook on life.

Back to the short story, the person eventually said the words “Thank You” and other encouraging words, and we are now living our best life 🙂

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It’s not just words, it’s your whole life…

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about relationships and I said to him, “You know, I really don’t like clingy friends”. But let me explain myself. My dislike of clingy friends is born from personal experience. A clingy friend will make it seem like it’s wrong to have other friends in your life.  I am blessed with the ability to connect with various people and have long lasting friendships and I struggle when I have a person in my life who wants me to give them my undivided attention.

When I explained to my friend my predicament with clingy friends, his response was, “Bongs, maybe you should rather say, I love secure friends”. I smiled and looked at him, admiring his use of words. What he said resonated with me because of its profoundness and the fact that I had not looked at it that way before.

I love friends who live their lives to the fullest and who understand that even when we don’t talk every day, we still love and care deeply for each other. When my friend said, “rather say, I love secure friends”, I reflected on that, and there was an incredible shift in my mental and belief system. I am learning that language is not just about the words we use but it is a cornerstone of our whole life! Though reshaping how I see and engage with the world is a life long journey, I am happy with the progress I am making. There are some days I get it wrong, and some, right. But I have made a conscious decision that I will be intentional about how I shape my words daily.

In another personal example, I remember growing up in an isiZulu speaking church and reading the isiZulu bible. The way I perceived God then and how I perceive Him now is completely different. In the isiZulu church, I experienced God as this no nonsense, ready to punish, quickly angered character. Whereas in the English church, God is presented as a loving father, still no nonsense but always ready to forgive and who wants us to love the world like he does. What a difference! My relationship with God in my isiZulu church was always filled with fear and feeling inadequate. Whereas in my English church, it was filled with an understanding of God’s unconditional love.

Obviously, I am not saying that English churches are better than isiZulu churches because there are many English churches that still preach the ‘law message’ rather than the ‘grace message’. There are also many isiZulu churches who preach more of the ‘grace message’.  I would advocate that it is perhaps a combination of different things, i.e. doctrine, revelation and language.

Scientifically there is also much to be said about this idea. I am reminded of a Ted Talk where the speaker beautifully detailed how language shapes our thinking-( The speaker had conducted research on how language has deep effects on our cognitive and reasoning abilities.

She then posed three questions to the audience which I would love to also leave you with. Please ask yourself:

  • Why do I think the way I do?
  • Could I think differently?
  • What thoughts do I wish to create?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this article, please share them at



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