Agency, commitment, and impact

This podcast discusses the value of human rights and why it is important for organisations and members of society as agents for social change to promote and protect our human rights through active citizenry and contributing to social empowerment initiatives.

Last modified

4 Apr 2023

Read time

12:52 Minutes

At a glance

  • Book iBhoni is an NPO and will be hosting their annual Tour De Libraries on 15 April 2023, in Soweto, delivering books to various libraries, giving children access to books and education.
  • The initiative is based on and anchored by the values of social empowerment and active citizenry which are aligned to the values of our Pro Bono & Human Rights practice and the firm.
  • The initiative uses the themes of Human Rights month (March) and Freedom Month (April) as a backdrop to contextualise and guide its activities and efforts. 
Agency, commitment, and impact

Agency, commitment, and impact


Agency, commitment, and impact


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Boipelo Mathodlana: Welcome to the CDH conversations podcast, human rights edition! I am one of your podcast resident hosts, Boipelo, and in today's conversation, we will be talking about the value of human rights, and why it's important for organisations to remain dedicated to fiercely promoting, protecting and enforcing them in our spaces and society at large. I'm joined by a senior associate from our Pro Bono & Human Rights department, Gift Xaba, and the founder of NPO, Book iBhoni, Mpumelelo Mtintso. 

So during the month of April, we celebrate Freedom Day, which commemorates South Africa's first non-racial democratic elections. And it obviously comes on the back of another important month, March, where we are called to remember the sacrifices that were made to achieve our democracy. And I think these holidays remind us to reflect on our human rights and also to transform our present state as we continue to build towards a better future. 

So, gentlemen, please, let's kickstart this conversation. Mpumi, I'm gonna ask you to start by introducing what Book iBhoni is about and the role that it serves in our community. And then, Gift, I'll hand over to you to share the relationship between Book iBhoni and CDH.

An introduction to Book iBhoni

Mpumelelo Mtintso: Thank you. Thank you so much, Boipelo. My name is Mpumelelo Mtintso. I come from a company called Book iBhoni and the word iBhoni is basically township slang for 'bicycle', so the company was called Book iBicycle. But then later on I changed it to Book iBhoni. And we're based in Vilakazi Street in Soweto, one of the most visited streets that we have in Johannesburg. 

And we do tours in and around the historical township of Soweto. But we specialize in bicycle tours. And we offer discounted bicycle tours to anyone who donates a book when they book their tour with us. And then we collect all those books and donate them to community libraries in and around Soweto. For us, this is just a way of giving back, but also giving kids from our community access to books and education. And that's how we play a part in our society. 

And so with our company, we also have a division where we have youth cycling programs, because the sport of cycling is still quite an expensive sports for people of our community. So we try to give them access to cycling, and things like that, but mainly focusing on children. And that's what Book iBhoni does.

Boipelo Mathodlana: Okay, thank you. Thank you for that introduction, Mpumi. Gift, I'm going to hand over to you to very briefly tell us the relationship between CDH and Book iBhoni.

Gift Xaba: Thanks, Boipelo. Our relationship really emanates from our duties within the firm as a Human Rights practice and a Pro Bono practice. So one of our key areas we pillar in the work that we do is focused around the right to access to basic education. So a sizable amount of our work is focused around that angle. And this goes beyond the legal stuff that we do. It also involves the CSR initiatives that we are obligated to do. So beyond just the legalities, we try and find ways to engage in and collaborate with organisations on the ground that have a proven track record in social empowerment activities, and a footprint that goes beyond the speeches in the news headlines. 

So when we were introduced to Book iBhoni and we reviewed their work, it occurred to us that they are an organisation that fits perfectly with what we believe in and the principles that we espouse. So we initially engaged them on a Mandela Month initiative. And then we both had a very deliberate approach on how we want our relationship to go forward. I mean, the work of Book iBhoni is very crucial. 

You know, when we started doing impactful work around the right to access to education and literature, in our work, we found that there is no national policy for school libraries, which compels schools and governing bodies to have a library in their schools.
It is thus not surprising that only 21% of state schools had libraries by 2017. And only 77% of those had stocked libraries and 79% of those schools had no libraries at all. This is a significant problem.

If we really want to make an impact, and impact the future of younger ones into a more prosperous path, we've got an obligation to collaborate with these organisations that are making real and measurable and necessary impact on the ground. So in a nutshell, our relationship with Book iBhoni is founded on those principles and values. 

Boipelo Mathodlana: Thanks a lot gentlemen. I think, I'm obviously listening to the both of you and am quite inspired by the work that you do and I'm very proud obviously, as a CDHer, to hear about the work that our Pro Bono & Human Rights Department is doing on the ground, to ensure that we can be the change that we want to see in our country.

Going back to you, Mpumi, maybe you can tell us a bit around how you identify the community libraries that you will work with? And if you can tell us about any projects or initiatives that you're going to be rolling out in the course of Freedom Month?

Identifying community libraries in need of support

Mpumelelo Mtintso: Because we live in the community of Soweto, we see these community libraries that are around us. So in many cases these community libraries are run by a grandmother or a retired teacher, or someone with that sort of a background. They convert part of their home, or they open it to children of the community to come in to do homework, or if they have projects that require old magazines, or pictures from old magazines, newspapers and stuff like that. That's what they'll try to provide. 

So because we live in the community, we see those grandmothers and aunts and uncles doing that kind of work, then we get ourselves involved. So, obviously, with the books that we collect from our tours, when we offer discounted price for tours, we then take those books to those community libraries. So that's how we identify community libraries. 

But also with social media, we sometimes ask if anyone knows of a community library that might need books and maybe sometimes stationery. And then we identify those libraries according to what people say.

And in the month of April, we will be having an initiative called Tour de Libraries. So Tour de Libraries is basically us getting together as a community, donating books, and then cycling from Vilakazi Street, where we are based, as Book iBhoni, to whichever community library that we are going to be donating books to. 

So this year, it's going to be on the 15th of April, where we're going to be cycling to a number of community libraries in and around Soweto. So Tour de Libraries basically just balances sightseeing from a bicycle, the touring of the township, but also with an impactful initiative of donating a book. 

So we always ask people can they please donate a book that they would donate to their own children, and not old, outdated books and stuff like that, because those really, they just fill up the libraries and no one uses them. So we need  books that are relevant to children. 

So we'll be doing Tour de Libraries, which is a bicycle ride to community libraries to donate books on the 15th of April and on the 16th will be cycling from Soweto with books in our bags to Vanderbijlpark, which is in the Vaal. There is a school there that reached out to us and asked us to collect books for them for their primary school. And so that's what we'll be doing. So that's the initiative. It's a two day initiative. There's a shorter route on the 15th, which is for Soweto, because 'charity begins at home'. And that's where we are from, and that's where the company is based. So we start at home in Soweto, cycling around, donating books, making an impact in our own community. And then the following day,  we reach out to other places outside of Soweto. So that's what we'll be doing.

Boipelo Mathodlana: How exciting. So would I be correct in saying that the one on the 15th is inclusive of even cycling novices? And then the longer ride to Vanderbijlpark is obviously then open to cycling enthusiasts?

Mpumelelo Mtintso: Yes, definitely. So that's why we've set it up like that. Because there are a lot of people that have books collecting dust at home, but are not really cyclists. But they wouldn't mind sweating a bit to make an impact in the education space. So that's why we have a very short one. We usually call it 'a social ride with an impact', because it attracts all sorts of people. And then, obviously, the one on the 16th is for cycling enthusiasts who don't mind cycling 100 kilometres to go donate books!

How to get involved

Boipelo Mathodlana: Gift, maybe you can then tell us how CDHers, and our wide network of clients, friends, partners, anyone that's interested, can get involved?

Gift Xaba: Yeah, so we will be putting up a communique in the form of a poster that will have all of this information available to those that are keen and interested. And we're going to be sharing it with everyone within the firm and our clients and anyone else within our immediate sphere of influence. But people can reach out to me via email for further inquiries, and I would encourage people to really make the utmost attempt to be part of this. And if they are not able to necessarily be part of Tour de Libraries there are many other initiatives that we're going to be collaborating on with Book iBhoni going forward. I think people must just keep their interest and keep their ear on the ground. 

And one thing I want to say, Boipelo, so these initiatives, the good thing about them is that you are able to trace impact. You are able to have real and empirical evidence to see what kind of difference you are making in a community. 

If I could make an example of one of the organisations that we collaborated with, that does similar work with Book iBhoni:

We started a library in one of the schools in Soweto that did not have a library at all around 2018. And we made it a world class facility. And, immediately, a year after, the matric results of that school significantly improved. It was something that the whole community was very proud of.

And the school was able to produce learners that attained results that enabled them to go to universities, such as UCT, and the University of the Western Cape. So being part of these initiatives, it's rewarding in that sense, because you can see what kind of impact you are able to make in the lives of young people in these under-resourced communities.

Boipelo Mathodlana: And I think to me, Gift, I think it also then speaks to the values of our firm, and you know, just genuinely the kind of values that we want our people to espouse to as community leaders, as agents for social change, and partnering with organisations, such as Book iBhoni, also then gives us an opportunity for people to have personal fulfillment in other ways outside of the office by making that kind of impact.

So I really just want to thank both the Pro Bono & Human Rights department, as well as Book iBhon for putting together these kinds of initiatives and making them available to not just us a CDHers, but to the communities at large and to the people that are impacted through the work that we do. So really just a resounding thank you on behalf of the firm! 

I will be closing off this discussion today with one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela. And I think it just fits in so nicely with the theme of today's conversation. And the quote is:

Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.

And I encourage you all as CDHers and beyond, friends and affiliates, clients, etc, be the change that you want to see. Let's follow through on the themes for the month, get involved and have a wonderful day! Thank you very much. 

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