30 Oct CSA INTERVIEWS THATO MMEREKI
Stylish, driven and working towards a better future. Meet Thato Mmereki, a man of substance and our next CSA Interview star.
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Hi Thato, how did you find yourself in a career as a social entrepreneur and media influencer?
Growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa and having been raised in a country that is burgeoning with the debilitating baggage of colonial apartheid , I understood very early in my life that I cannot and shall not yield to the many misfortunes that my people have accepted as fate.
My life as a social entrepreneur was formed and made resolute by my early childhood development: being a Round Square member and living out the ideals — having an global outlook on life, participating in democratic processes, having awareness for the environment, enjoying the adventurous outdoors, practicing servant leadership and seeing the value in service to others. These ideals have taught me to trust my own sources for the micro-level experiences of daily life — in all their fragmented, richly textured, contradictory and symbolic forms. It is these experiences that have helped form crucial ideas to solve societal problems and draft policy as a young social entrepreneur.
Men’s fashion is obviously a big art of your brand – who are some of you style icons?
Locally, I look up to local peers who dress well and make an effort to look good. I was named in the top 10 GQ Best Dressed Man of 2017 in South Africa and I cherish a particular old-school gentlemanly style that echoes authority, stature and elegance. My look is always eye-stopping, clever, and completely individual.
For inspiration, I look to Maps Maponyane, Hu Bing, Eddie Redmayne, Seth Shezi, Ryan Gosling, Mark Ronson, Brian Lehang, and Matt Smith.
Who are the leaders, entrepreneurs and social innovators outside of fashion who are making a difference in South Africa?
There are many inspirational figures that inspire and spur one to be and do better. Worth mentioning is a fellow social entrepreneur Lesego Serolong, who is doing impactful work with young people in the Agri sphere.
What do you most enjoy when you’re not working? Where can we expect to find you when you have some down time?
In my spare time, I read biographies and autobiographies, play tennis and run. I also enjoy dining out with friends and socialising at local Joburg hotspots. As a published columnist I also write news and current affairs for local and SADC newspapers.
There is so much keeping you busy, but what is the most entertainment and/ or challenging part of your job?
I always say being able to work and contribute meaningfully in any context is a blessing. The challenges are experienced when working in green fields and there is no infrastructure or support systems. The other challenge is striking a balance among all the roles that one has to play in daily life.
One Young World, an organisation you’re very close to, does a lot of important work. How did you first start working with them and what work are you mot proud of?
One Young World is a global organisation that brings together young people from all walks of life to inspire each other with the impactful work that they do and create a conducive environment within which they can flourish as social change agents. I became a One Young World ambassador and alumnus when I was chosen by the City of Johannesburg as its ambassador and sent to represent the city and country at a One Young World Conference.
Tell us more about your work with The Commissionaire Group?
The Commissionaire Group South Africa is a registered company that I founded as a social entrepreneur to serve the security needs of low-income households that make up the township economy.
The vision is to secure the township economy and create employment by providing an affordable, high performance, and world-class product in the form of an AG50 as well as excellent customer service for clients and in-depth training for employees.
The AG50 Wireless Security Alert System works well within a township economy to secure homes and businesses by directly involving the community in the security concerns of its members. Once triggered, the system sends three (3) text messages and five (5) missed call notifications to up to 8 people including you, your family and your direct neighbours to alert them of an intrusion or robbery thereby prompting a faster response to act against the crime or to subdue the perpetrator.
We believe in creating and establishing the best affordable products that make use of technology and the internet to help solve the world’s problems. Making technology, training, credit, marketing and distribution channels more easily accessible to other small businesses, and by forging linkages between universities, research institutes and small enterprises. The creation of micro-enterprise banks and credit unions specifically designed to cater to the needs of the self-employed and small firms can be especially effective.
Looking back on your career what achievements are you most proud of?
All milestones are important because they require tenacity, effort, skill, experience and willpower.
My most notable milestones include but are not limited to: being awarded The President’s Award by the Duke of Edinburgh and the late statesman Nelson Mandela, being a speaker at the Model United Nations General Assembly, producing news and current affairs for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) prime time English radio service, working as strategy and media liaison for Gauteng Premier and being youth spokesman for the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
What advice would you give to young people trying to emulate your success?
Success is a relative concept. Young people must have agency and act willfully to improve the communities they were born in. They must give serious consideration to personal and academic development, work hard in an upwardly-mobile trajectory, help others along the way, be aware and active politically and economically and players on the international system.
What are some of the big projects you have lined up for the rest of 2018 and beyond?
In 2019, I am executing plans to host a show on both television and radio, upscale my business ventures, author a book and lead a youth-focused directorate in the Presidency.
Follow Thato on Instagram and Twitter: @thatommereki