Chartered accountant uses the power of soccer to uplift Johannesburg youth

Raymond Ledwaba, a 33-year-old chartered accountant from Soweto, strives to give young people the platform and skills to uplift themselves. That’s exactly what Ledwaba and professional soccer coach Phehello Monamodi are doing with Diski Nine9, a not-for-profit organisation (NPO) they both founded  in 2015. Diski Nine9 is a community project based in Soweto that aims to develop soccer in rural and township areas in SA. It aims to become the biggest national youth empowerment programme that leverages the power of soccer to empower the country’s young people.

One of the NPO’s biggest success stories to date is Fezile Hlophe – a young boy who overcame throat cancer to become SA’s youngest referee at age 15.  “We flew to Wales with him to go and see it,” Ledwaba says. “Fezile was one of our first referees when we started Diski Nine9. For me, seeing this young boy come from a township environment, struggle through his illness, beat his illness, become a referee, work with us, become a professional referee, have his story told globally and he’s still in our system, he still works with us – it means we are on the right track and as Diski Nine9 we are making a difference. I hope one day he can be a Fifa World Cup referee. I hope he will go all the way internationally.”

The young achiever from Soweto who holds a BCom Accounting degree from the University of Johannesburg and an MBA from the University of Cape Town, was one of 100 global students to participate in the 2015 MBA World Summit in Barcelona, Spain; a Mandela Washington Fellow (2015); and head of the 2018 MBA World Summit Organising Committee.

In 2017, he won the Saica catalyst award in the Top 35-under-35 CA(SA) competition. But Ledwaba wants to make an impact in a different way. “I’ve figured out what I want to do with my life and it is youth work.” He wants to create an environment for and give skills to young people to help themselves. “We need to respond to the massive inequality that we see in our country. A lot of people are living in conditions that are unthinkable. We need to create programmes that acknowledge social injustices and inequality and make sure we equip people with the skills to provide for themselves.”

What started as a once-off soccer tournament in Soweto three years ago today empowers hundreds of children between the ages of 10 and 18 through after-school, holiday and hospitality programmes.

The after-school programme offers sport and academic support to two primary schools in Soweto. “We give workshops focusing on reading, spelling bees and debate. We’ve recently signed a three-year partnership with the Gauteng Department of Basic Education to run a similar programme in 50 schools.”

The action-packed holiday programme helps more than 600 children stay active during school vacations. A partnership with the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus has given them access to classrooms and state-of-the art sport facilities. Before the games, professionals host workshops in which they give career guidance or speak about critical issues like gender-based violence. Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo is a Diski Nine9 ambassador and runs leadership workshops for captains.

The hospitality programme employs 125 young people and raises funds for the NPO. “We place young people from our programme at stadiums during big events. It started with soccer, and now most big events that happen at FNB Stadium will have 50 to 60 kids working at any given time. We train them on customer service, problem solving and conflict management.”

Watch the video | Diski’s programmes

In 2015, he joined his brother Jeffrey Ledwaba’s tech company, ITTHYNK Smart Solutions, as CEO. Through the ITTHYNK Tech Academy, the company trains unemployed information and communication technology graduates on software development and helps them find work.

Working with young people is what I’ll do for the rest of my life,” says the award-winner. 

This article was paid for by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.

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Written by Chiamaka Ekeh

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