Driven to inspire confident, skilled, and service-minded youth

Khonzaphi has been an active and dedicated adult member for over 29 years, during which time he worked together with youth and adult volunteers alike to empower young people through the Mpumalanga Scout Region and beyond. He started serving as Chief Scout in February 2022. but was formally inaugurated on the 24th of September 2023. We sat down with our Chief Scout to find out where his drive for youth development and his passion for Scouting began.

“I joined Scouting back in 1994 in Mattafin in Mpumalanga”, he says as he thinks of the moment where it all began. “I started working for Halls in Mataffin where I was involved with youth development. I was also a member of their social club called “Movers Social Club” where we used to raise funds and organise community activities such as soccer, cycling, netball and the cultural dances. Brian Birchall, who was the company’s finance director, noticed my involvements and he recruited me to join Scouts. Shortly afterwards I did my Introduction to Adult Leadership Training and Warrant course and then we formed the 1st Mataffin Scout Group. The rest is history…

When I think back on those years I have so many fond memories. But one that stands out is when we took young underprivileged Scouts to a camp with no camping materials. The only form of tent we could use was a makeshift plastic cover. But we enjoyed the camp and learned new skills in the process.”

Prior to serving the Scout Movement as Chief Scout, Khonzaphi held numerous roles. He served as the Deputy Chief Scout and as the National Property Chair and has been a vital member of the Management Committee since 2015. Between 2000 and 2015, Khonzaphi served the Mpumalanga Region in various leadership positions ranging from Deputy Provincial Commissioner to Provincial Commissioner and Provincial Chairman. During this tenure he facilitated collaboration between uniformed and non-uniformed members, the general public and international donors. “I have always maintained the point that for me it has never been about the position I held. It has always been the desire to want to serve others. It is about the passion to make a difference in someone else’s life. Serving at National and Regional level is very different. Nationally you serve the bigger interest of the nation. Regionally you serve the interest of the Scout region which adds to the national bigger picture.

I believe that we need more young adults, parents, and senior members of our community to help us build a service-oriented country. I therefore encourage our youth to apply for roles when they are advertised. Naturally I am a shy person. But Scouting has helped me overcome my barriers. It has given me an opportunity to mix with different kinds of people. The exposure I got through Scouting heightened my confidence. Scouting gave birth to a new me. After 29 years I am still here because of the love that I have received from my Scouting family and impact I see in the lives of our members. It’s in the smile of a Cub when they have been able to achieve their badge. It’s in that Rover Scout who has embraced their motto and started following it. It’s in that Scouter who has grown in leaps and bounds after having served in the Scout Movement. In short, it is the development of young people and adult leaders that contributes to our vision of creating a better country and world.”

When asked how Scouting has pushed him outside of his comfort zone and helped him develop as a person, he smiles and says:” I have always had the fear of crowds. Training helped me overcome this. I can remember when we went for the first time to KZN to do our Adult Leader Training, I struggled to do my presentations. It was with the help of people like Aunty Dee and the Late Charlie that I went ahead and mastered the craft of presenting to large audiences. Scouting is about self-development. After all, when you make the promise you have a duty to self, a duty to country and a duty to God. Learning by doing gives you the confidence and the skills necessary to overcome challenges. I have learnt to be hands-on in most projects because the closer I am to the people on the ground, the more confident I feel about a project. What stands out for me is that dedication and passion can help members better their lives and employment opportunities.

We should also not forget the importance of our Scouting values. When we were young, we heard about the ten commandments in the bible. Those were the values our parents wanted to instill on us to live by. The Scouting values and Promise add on to these. What I like about the Scout values is that they force you to have an introspection of yourself. I am who I am today because I followed and lived the Scouting values. One of the Scout Laws that I so often use in my life is Law 8 which says that a Scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties. As a leader I will be challenged, and I will meet difficult circumstances. But the understanding brought by this Law keeps me going. And with a responsibility to lead such a dynamic organisation, giving up is not an option!

Scouting furthermore enables children to learn the values of servant service. This helps to build our humanity. It helps to emphasize that we are connected to nature and nature is connected to us. The survival of the earth depends on the decisions that we take now for the generations to come. Our outdoor code states that we must leave nature the way we found it. This alone is a big statement which if all countries abide by, would go a long way to address the climate change challenge we are faced with.”

When asked how he felt being inaugurated as Chief Scout of the South African Scout Movement, he replies “It is an overwhelming feeling. I must say that I am looking forward to leading this dynamic team of volunteers so together we can grow SCOUTS South Africa and give a million young people the opportunity to be part of the ever-evolving Scout Movement. The pledge we made must be the driving force to achieving the goal of a million Scouts. Our commitment to making a difference to the lives of the youth of our country shall continue. I commit myself to supporting all our Scouters at National and Regional level to help better the lives of our youth.”

We thank Khonzaphi for his dedication to Scouting as well as his wife Busisiwe and his children Khulani and Khensani for enabling him to serve the Scout Movement as Chief Scout.