Port Elizabeth – Reasons to be Proud is a newsletter, started by Nelson Mandela University roughly seven years ago. The aim is to celebrate its students and their achievements in various fields, but who are the people behind the accolades? Here we provide you with the answers to the questions you might have had about the recent honourees and we take a closer look at the reason we are proud of these individuals.
For our readers who don’t know you, who would you say Wandile Msomi is?
Wandile is an easy-going young man with a keen sense of humour. I’d also like to think that I’m funny. I get sarcastic or very quiet when I’m tired, I get along with everybody – unless you’re the problem – and I’m very stubborn.
You’re a politics student – what attracted you to the world of politics?
I’ve always been fascinated by politics. You probably won’t believe this, but my love for politics started in 2006 when I was in grade 2. At the time, President Jacob Zuma was embroiled in his legal battles. I couldn’t even speak English, but I remember watching the trial [on TV] and I would have my family explain to me what was going on.
Also, I come from a political family: my mother’s sister was a UDF leader, back in the ’80s in Kwamashu, my mother works for the IEC and my grandmother was a member of the ANC woman’s league, so in a way, it was only natural that I gravitated towards politics. I am however the only child of my parents who are interested in politics.
How did your trip to the New York WFUNA International Model UN (WIMUN) come about and was this always your goal? (WIMUN is a simulation organized by the World Federation of United Nations Associations).
It started with an internal Model UN early last year. At the time I didn’t even know what the Model UN was, but I managed to [ ] get two honourable mentions. From there I was selected to go to Pretoria, where I was a UK delegate in the Security Council and I got the Best Delegate award. There the adjudicator suggested that I put my name forward for the WIMUN, which I also didn’t know about until I Googled it. I applied, not thinking much of it at the time, and I was accepted [ ] about two days later. After that, the processes of fundraising and visa application started. Three weeks before going to New York, I heard that I had been elected as the chair of the committee I had been assigned, meaning I was no longer going to be a delegate.
Your journey to secure funding for the New York trip wasn’t easy. Can you tell us about that?
I started looking for funding here in PE. I first asked Nelson Mandela University in August. I think that might have been short notice [ ] because they didn’t reply. I then asked the city, but I didn’t receive any financial support in PE. I then went back home, to Durban, where I received plenty of support. I went to many media platforms and they were very excited; I went to three radio stations and I was featured in a newspaper article. The Department of Education in KZN [ ] managed to organise funding for me. The journey wasn’t easy, but my parents were willing to take out loans for me and we also opened an account where private individuals could [ ] make donations – I managed to raise a lot of money there. My friends also supported me by contributing whatever they could.
At the WIMUN your job was to ensure that your committee reached a consensus. Would you say that you’re a great negotiator and what do you think makes a great negotiator?
I think I’m a great listener. I can tell you what makes a bad negotiator – someone who doesn’t want to listen to anyone else’s view and [ ] just wants to focus on their view, which they consider to be the best thing since sliced bread. Although I’m stubborn, I think the greatest gift I possess is my ability to listen. It allows me to see other people’s points of view. That’s something I tried to pass down to the other delegates while I was there.
The topic you discussed at the WIMUN was Violence and Harassment against Men & Women in the Workplace. What did you identify as the causes?
We didn’t discuss the causes of violence and harassment – we looked at who is most likely to fall victim to harassment and how you can remedy it and stop it from happening. We also looked at what you can do once it has happened.
We had people representing the government, workers and employers (which is different from other UN sittings where one would usually only see representatives from the government) all in one room to discuss the topic and come up with a solution. The debate was predominantly centred around the question of who is most likely to fall victim and the protection they should be afforded. It was easy to agree that women are vulnerable, but when it came to men, the discussion required specificity, for example, ‘men in the LGBTQ+ community’.
Were there any solutions that came out of the discussion?
We came up with a number of solutions. The ones I remember at the moment are: to have hotlines where people can report an incident anonymously, clear legislation that protects people should be introduced and there should be campaigns to educate people on what it means to be harassed or violated [ ] because some people don’t know what harassment is.
What are Wandile’s plans for the future?
My short-term goal is to send a delegate to New York in January [ ] next year. There’ll be another WIMUN and I hope that I can go back with a delegate that I have passed down the knowledge I gained through my experience to. Something interesting about the WIMUN is that it was the first time the United Nations simulated the International Labour Committee, which is a committee that has been established for about one hundred years already. History will show my name amongst the first participants in this venture [ ] which is something to be proud of, but I want to expose more people to the WIMUN. Career wise, I am not completely sure, but I’d like to work in the UN and represent my country in the Human Rights Council.
How do you think your experience at the WIMUN will help you and the community?
The reason I went to the WIMUN in the first place was because I saw that South Africa has a non-permanent seat in the Security Council and we’re calling for a permanent seat. This to me, meant that we’re taking on more responsibility [ ] as a country, in the international community. I, therefore, felt that I needed to equip myself, others (by sending a delegate) and ultimately the country so that when South Africa takes on these new roles, we have the necessary capable people in roles of influence.
Mine is not to uplift my immediate community – mine is to uplift the country. For me, this is about South Africa and its role in the international community. So, I want to capacitate myself and others to help our country.
Favourite Food: Burger & chips
Favourite Sport: Football
Inspiration: Ban Ki-Moon, Barack Hussien Obama & Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Star Sign: Cancer
Quote: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Eleanor Roosevelt