The Magpie Anthology

Cape Town Return

Rush-hour traffic in Cape Town can be hairy at the best of times. Collective taxis become bumper cars without the poles. Add a power cut, launching a “who dares wins” challenge at every set of lights, and arriving at work feels like an achievement. Especially to someone like me, who enters this race for just two weeks per year.

I always say that TSIBA, where I’m volunteering, is the place that makes me feel most alive. Not because of the two daily adrenalin runs co-piloted by my rented Datsun. But because the students, alumni and staff of this genuinely value-driven, non-profit business school blow my mind, every single day.


I keep a diary during my assignments, because each day is so full of people, situations and conversations I don’t want to forget. The minute I look up from placing my bag down by my desk I see Nkosinathi towering above me. This dynamic young student opens a big cardboard box of “guaranteed healthy snacks”, to sell me what I need to recover from the traffic trauma. For him this isn’t just a way of financing travel to class. It doubles as a handy vending machine research project. He’s also acquiring useful knowledge on nutrition and I love him for telling me convincingly that complementing dried mango pieces with caramel shortbread is a very good thing.

At the coffee machine I meet a member of the academic team I’d talked to last year about the soup kitchen work that absorbs much of her free time. We get on to the subject of listening skills and I ask her where she learnt hers, as they are top-notch. She casually mentions that working for many years as a counsellor at Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, the final leg of Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom, helped. I can believe that. On my way back to my desk I run into Zizipho, a recent graduate temping at TSIBA while building up her own catering business with the most phenomenal self-taught cooking and baking expertise. We talk about the Dragon’s Den-style competition she successfully took part in last week, and her plans to set up a kitchen in a container. My diary entries fill pages and fill me with inspiration and admiration.


But what’s the point of all this? Of a cool, financially accessible place to study and a curriculum with humans as the bottom line? In 2019, youth unemployment in South Africa, in the 15 to 24 year-old bracket, was running at around 55%. (No, that’s not a typo where I hit the key twice by mistake.) The employment rate of TSIBA bachelor degree graduates is 93%, and has been for years. Surely even the fiercest dragon would say “I’m in” to that?

At the end of each day, I head out to my rested car and Claude on security opens the gate for me with a massive smile. (I’ll only be in pole position for around 80 metres before I hit the clogged main road, but Bush Radio is always raring to go.) Another chap let me in and out last year. Then a member of the teaching staff noticed he was always reading accountancy books in the hut. He’s now on the degree course. Need I say more?


To learn how you can help to support TSIBA and to find out more about the charity – HERE

Words: Amanda Blair – to read more about Amanda’s book Limited Edition of One – HERE

3 thoughts on “Cape Town Return”

  1. Thank you for bringing alive your time in Cape Town – and love the stories and people you have brought to life here – 55 % wow. TSIBA sounds like an amazing place – they are lucky to have you there!

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