Q&A with founder of Champion South Africa


Well-known radio host Ashraf Garda challenges South Africans to change their mindsets to become champions in everything they do. Read more about his initiative, Champion South Africa.

champion south africa ashraf garda
Ashraf Garda, co-founder of Champion South Africa, says he wants to multiply the number of champions in the country to help turn South Africa into a champion nation. (Images supplied)

Melissa Javan
South Africa will become a champion nation when the government, business and civil society synchronise their efforts towards the goal of becoming individual and collective champions. This is according to Ashraf Garda, who is the co-founder of Champion South Africa.

“Champion people build champion people and only champion people build champion nations,” he says.

The movement, launched in November 2015, is currently asking: What are you doing to build your country?

Several local leaders, such as Vusi Thembekayo, Khanyi Dhlomo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, were chosen to be part of Champion South Africa, so they too can spread the message and urge more people to become champions.

Brand South Africa sat down for a question and answer session with Garda about Champion South Africa.

Watch Ashraf Garda motivate an audience to help build Champion South Africa:

Melissa Javan: Tell us about the journey of Champion South Africa.
Ashraf Garda: The Champion South Africa concept started after I had many conversations with people on the talk show I host on Radio SA FM. [We would] talk about their aspirations and moving the country to another level.

I kept hearing “If you have an idea, just start with it.”

My son, Zaahid, is in marketing and owns a start-up called Student Photography. We talked about my idea and worked together to start Champion South Africa. We are the founders.

Zaahid Garda Champion South Africa
Zaahid Garda

MJ: What is the aim of Champion South Africa?
AG: Firstly, as Champion South Africa we want to change the mindset of South Africans. We currently have a mid-table mindset, but we want to change it to the “okay is not good enough” mindset.

Collectively and individually everyone should be champions in whatever they are doing. This is so that the country will have more champions. The country needs us to become a champion nation. That’s why you need the change in the mindset of the people.

Secondly, we have to change the mindset of the country. Champion is a noun; we want the world to think about a champion nation when people think about South Africa.

There’s no world cup of nations – there is no competition like that. If there ever was one, then the vision would be that the United Nations secretary-general would in the future announce South Africa as a champion nation.

To achieve this, we need to increase the number of champions we have in the country.

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters is congratulated as 2017 Miss South Africa in March this year:

MJ: What is the aim of Champion South Africa’s Twitter campaign #BuildChampionSouthAfrica?
AG: We decided we would have a campaign that would last a few weeks. With the #BuildChampionSouthAfrica campaign we ask: “What are you doing to build South Africa?”

It’s a tactical campaign that talks about the personal actions of each individual South African. We want everyone to have the licence to say “My mission is to build a champion South Africa.”

Well-known people such as social cohesion advocate Yusuf Abramjee talk about why they are building a champion South Africa:

MJ: In a recent radio interview you spoke about a 10-point plan, saying it speaks about the attitudes you should have as a nation. Can you elaborate?
AG: We are busy drawing up a 10-point plan, still busy drafting it. We welcome the public’s feedback. You can give suggestions about what you think are the things that are going to make a shift [in the country].

For example, what specific goals do you think we should have as a nation and secondly, as individuals?

Champion South Africa recognises people, such as actress Connie Ferguson, who receive international acknowledgement for their hard work:

MJ: You also said mentorship was linked to nation-building. Why is mentorship important for Champion South Africa?
AG: Mentorship is critically important. The one-on-one connection can impact on a person completely. There are many forms of mentorship. You can get mentorship through watching someone on television or YouTube.

If someone is an 18-year-old, that person needs a Champion South African to mentor him.

We’ve had requests from people who want to volunteer. If people are interested in being Champion South Africa volunteers, a form of mentorship can be done, such as talking at schools or to their community, spreading the message of being Champion South African. We school them on how to do it.

Last year, we asked more than 20 people to be Champions South Africans. All of them said yes. They are people such as Khanyi Dhlomo, Kass Naidoo, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Snowy Khoza and Yusuf Abramjee.

We’re going to have four tiers of Champion South Africa. We want to identify up to 40 people in each level.

The first tier is the Champion South Africans. The second tier is called Future Champions. They are people who have a potential to become Champion South Africans. Thirdly, you’ll get the student champion, and the fourth tier will be the community champion.

MJ: On Twitter you started the hashtag #TeamOfTheWeek in which you ask people to nominate people who had done great things. Tell us about #TeamOfTheWeek.
AG: We choose a person for #TeamOfTheWeek because it was someone who had done something remarkable within of period of seven days.

Just because you are in the #TeamOfTheWeek does not mean you are a Champion South African but it does mean your contribution will help to build a nation of champions. A Champion South African is someone who is formidable and is a globally known player.

What can South Africans do if they want to be part of Champion South Africa?
People such as Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada were Champion South Africans. We need to honour them by ultimately becoming champions like them. They passed on the baton to us.

Our grandchildren will reflect on us. If we are not producing new champions, then we are not making a significant shift in the country. Remember, champion people build champion people. Champion people build a champion nation.

Each one of us is on the field of play. You have to commit to be the best person for your country.

You need to up your game to be in one of those tiers of Champion South Africa. If you change your mindset [to be a champion in everything you do], then you are already part of the Champion South Africa movement.

The Champion South African list

On the first tier are the Champion South Africans:

1. Felicia Mabuza-Suttle – well-known television host, businesswoman and motivational speaker.
2. Snowy Khoza – CEO of Bigen Africa and the founding chair of Knowledge Management South Africa.
3. Dr Thandeka Mazibuko – healthcare practitioner and businesswoman who specialises in the treatment of cancer. She also heads up Women of Magnitude.
4. Janine Hills – CEO and founder of Vuma Reputation Management.
5. Thebe Ikalafeng – global African branding and reputation architect, adviser and author.
6. Douglas Kruger – professional speaker, business author and innovation strategist and the only speaker in Africa to have won the Southern African Championships for Public Speaking a record five times.
7. Wendy Luhabe – social entrepreneur, mentor and author.
8. Leanne Manas – host the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s News breakfast show, Morning Live.
9. Abey Mokgwatsane – CEO of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa.
10. Kass Naidoo – South Africa’s first female cricket commentator, sports anchor on Radio 2000 and founder of GSport for Girls.
11. Imtiaz Sooliman – founder, director and chairman of Gift of the Givers, the largest disaster relief organisation of African origin in Africa.
12. Themba Baloyi – founder and executive director of Discovery Insure, a short-term insurance company.
13. Michael Jordaan – former CEO of First National Bank who now heads a private investment company, Montegray Capital.
14. Farah Fortune – publicist and founder of African Star Communications.
15.Carolyn Steyn – founder of 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, executive producer of film Mandela’s Gun, Tongue in Cheek host on SABC3.
16. Yvonne Chaka Chaka – internationally recognised South African singer, songwriter and entrepreneur.
17. Gil Oved – an entrepreneur who is the co-founder and co-CEO of advertising agency The Creative Counsel.
18. Vusi Thembekayo – South African based global business speaker, author, investor and serial entrepreneur.
19. Jeremy Sampson – founder of the Interbrand Sampson Group.
20. Khanyi Dhlomo – founder and CEO of Ndalo Media and Ndalo Luxury Ventures, as well as a TV host.
21. Riaan Manser – pioneering explorer who was the first person to circumnavigate the coast of Africa by bicycle, a distance of 37,000km, through 34 countries over two years and two months.
22. Yusuf Abramjee – consultant, social cohesion advocate and Play Your Part ambassador.
23. Phuti Mahanyele – businesswoman, former CEO of Shanduka Group and executive chairperson of Sigma Capital.
24. Dr Ridwaan Mia – leading plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
25. Buyane Zwane – motivational and inspirational speaker, student and leadership development practitioner and business owner.
26. Conrad Koch / Chester Missing – South Africa’s top ventriloquist and a double International Emmy nominated comedian, best known for his puppet character, Chester Missing.

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