Sannah Mokone Profile

Sannah Mokone (South Africa-at-Large & Jesus 2011) has worked as both a Research Assistant and Junior Lecturer at the University of the Free State. Her interests lie in social enterprise, education and rural development. She has had her poetry published in the Poetry Institute of Africa (2010). Sannah holds a BA from the University of the Free State.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favourite poet?

Sannah Mokone: I don’t have a favourite poet.  When I write poetry I just write - it’s a very seasonal thing. I don’t write every day, I write when I have the inspiration to write. It’s an urge really, an urge to write, so I write when that happens to me. But I don’t have a favourite poet.

Rhodes Project: What makes you excited to get up in the morning?

Sannah Mokone: The thought of a new day, just knowing that I’m starting off with a clean slate and it’s an opportunity for things to happen.  I look forward to the beginning of the day, when I tell myself it’s a new day with new things to look forward to. That’s what makes me excited to get up in the morning, the thought of newness.

Rhodes Project: Could you tell me about a favourite Oxford memory?

Sannah Mokone: The way I met my college neighbour. I had just settled into my room and I decided to go and check Oxford out. I lived in Jesus College and, as I passed through reception, I met this tiny lady and she was struggling with her bag. I didn’t know her but I asked if I could help, and we got into the reception and she found out where her room was, so I helped her up to her room. As we got there we found out we were actually neighbours, her room was across from mine. We became quite close, we had great times together, we were great neighbours.

Rhodes Project: Can you tell me what you’re working on at the moment?

Sannah Mokone: I was working for a women’s empowerment firm but then I got ill and decided to leave work in August last year. I’m getting better and able to work, but I’m still resting. I was working for the IMBIZO Project, which was a project to empower rural communities to be self-reliant. The project actually worked with some of South Africa’s biggest financial institutions to design financial products suitable for the rural market. These products would enable communities to either start their own businesses or sustain their businesses.

Rhodes Project: What, to your mind, is the most pressing concern currently facing South Africa?

Sannah Mokone: For me it’s one of the most pressing issues in rural communities all around the world, but I will speak in South Africa’s context - it’s that rural communities tend to lean too much on government, too much on handouts rather than being self-reliant. So for me, the kind of work I want to dedicate my life to is the empowerment of rural communities, particularly women, in South Africa, that is, to empower black women to be self-reliant. The big picture is to work with NGOs, to work with government, to work with business, to empower and inspire rural communities to be self-reliant. I want to work to provide the kind of help that will not sustain their dependence but will get them settled into a place where they provide for themselves.

Rhodes Project: Do you have any specific plans for the next few years?

Sannah Mokone: I have aspirations to be a businesswoman, a social entrepreneur to be exact, as soon as possible. I have visions of starting an empowerment firm through education. It’s still in the pipeline, I haven’t designed the model yet, but I’d really like to work in education. I want to work to empower students, to empower learners who are about to go to university, to inspire them to know what they want to get out of life, to know what it is that they aspire to be and to know that they can do it no matter what obstacle is facing them. With regard to empowerment of rural communities, I would like to work with firms and get work experience so that I can learn more.

Rhodes Project: You were a junior lecturer for a time. Did you learn anything from your students?

Sannah Mokone: I learnt quite a lot from my students - one of the most important lessons I learnt, a life lesson, is that we are all people and we all have aspirations and all need inspiration. What I took from my students is that one has to dream big and have the motivation and the self-belief to achieve one’s dreams. You could see from how some students were approaching their work that they did not have a particularly good upbringing. But they were so persistent and dedicated to becoming a success that they looked beyond their upbringing and were determined to achieve.

Rhodes Project: Which leaders do you admire?

Sannah Mokone: For me, what I call Age Old leaders. Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, leaders like that. People who have made a difference in society, like Mother Theresa. Selfless leaders who set examples and weren’t afraid to sacrifice their lives for the greater good. I also look up to my mum, she is a good leader. She is not very well known but she is very straightforward, she has a lot of faith and a lot of hope, she is empathetic, she is strong and she has great leadership capacity. I think that when you look at your Nelson Mandelas, your Mahatma Gandhis, people who fasted, people who spent time in prison, they set their eyes on their goals and told themselves no matter what happens to me I’m going to reach that goal.

Rhodes Project: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?

Sannah Mokone: I’d definitely go to the Seychelles. I’ve only ever been to the beach once in my life so just being at the beach, basking in the sun and enjoying the beauty of nature would be wonderful. I love natural surroundings.  That’s why I loved Oxford so much - it was evergreen, beautiful. That’s what I want - to be surrounded by nature. You know I’m afraid of water; I have a fear of swimming. It’s a fear I will overcome in my life and I look forward to doing that when the time comes, but I bet that if push comes to shove I will be in that ocean, I will allow myself to bask in it, to breathe in the environment of the Seychelles because it is so beautiful from the pictures that I’ve seen.

Rhodes Project: How do you relax?

Sannah Mokone: I’m relaxing a lot right now so there’s a lot that I do to relax! Sitting in the quiet and allowing my mind to flow and think through different things. I also like unwinding by reading. I read a lot of spiritual or motivational books.

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