After a draining Thursday morning that kicked-off with a meeting that didn’t happen, followed by my rather frequent lamentations on the unresponsiveness of some communicators, it was with a great deal of indifference that I approached the rest of the day.
I often bemoan the lack of responsiveness of some communicators and how this attitude does nothing to build the image of Brand Eastern Cape. This is a frustration shared by many in the media fraternity.
So, when I picked up the phone and got ready to interview Eastern Cape-born SAfm marketing manager Siphelele Sixaso, I was not quite sure if my fortunes would improve.
Turns out, he was the kick I needed to approach the day with renewed faith in the province. From the moment we began our conversation, I was startled by the passion with which he shared his vision and aspirations for the province. Having grown up in Mount Coke and the brains behind the rebranding of CKI into tru fm, this is a man who embodies the essence of the province. His enthusiasm when he speaks about the opportunities the province presents is palatable if not infectious. Equally, one can feel his disappointment when he talks about the Eastern Cape’s failure to integrate the youth into the formal economy. Listening to him reinvigorated my resolve in the quest to reshape unfavourable perceptions about the province.
Getnews.co.za spoke to Siphelele
Getnews: Can you tell us more about Siphelele Sixaso? Your early years, and your career to date?
Siphelele: I am a son of the Eastern Cape having grown up in Mount Coke close to King William’s Town in my early years. I went to Bisho Primary School and completed my school going days at Muir College in Uitenhage.
After high school I read for a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication and an Honours in Media Management. I also specialised in Strategic Brand Management from the AAA School of Advertising in Johannesburg.
After graduation I worked at the Telesure Group, SABC and as an advertising and media consultant.
Before joining SAfm, I was tasked with turning around Radio CKI into a youth brand targeting the youth of the Eastern Cape. I am proud to say that within two years in the market, trufm has revolutionised the youth of the province.
Getnews: What, in your opinion, is the Eastern Cape’s best kept secret?
Siphelele: The Eastern Cape’s breathtaking coastline has to take the honors! Let alone the rich heritage the province possesses. As a province, we are not marketing the rural element enough. Our rural setting, the scenery, provides the tranquility visitors are looking for, away from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg.
Our challenge is that we are trying to create a funky Eastern Cape, make it a Johannesburg. We need to capitalise on our strengths. Tourism and agriculture should be money-spinners for the province. The heritage aspect has not been fully-exploited in the province. For example, not much seems to be happening in creating hype around Alice, Lovedale or Steve Biko’s grave.
Getnews: If there is one thing you could do to improve the province, what would it be?
Siphelele: The thinking ability to understand our natural beauty and exploit its economic potential. We can really start to create our own attractions and introduce innovation in our approaches. We can’t expect people to solve our problems.
Getnews: If you could name the province’s great failing, what would that be and why?
Siphelele: It’s difficult to single out one. Corruption seems to be taken lightly, but it has serious consequences. In the Eastern Cape you must know someone to get anything done. We also compete against each other which is to the detriment of the province.
One of my greatest frustrations is that we are not investing much in the youth and the sustainability of youth projects. There are over three million youth in the province with fresh thinking and ideas who are not being involved. There is a great need to involve young people economically and allow them to become decision-makers. Their economic integration is very slow.
Getnews: If you could name one person across the socio-economic-political landscape who is the Eastern Cape best friend? Why?
Siphelele: It’s difficult to single out one person because a lot of people are trying their best to help the Eastern Cape under challenging circumstances.
If I had to single out a person, it has to be the founder of the Billion Group Sisa Ngebulana. After he created his wealth, he didn’t retreat into his own cocoon. He has actively invested in the province. The Hemmingways Regional Mall in East London stands as testament of his efforts to empower the province. He has many other projects in the province that have created employment and wealth creation opportunities for many people.
Getnews: Where do you holiday in the province?
Siphelele: I go to the rural areas. I have travelled the Eastern Cape widely and Mazzeppa Bay in the Wild Coast has to rate as one of the most beautiful places in South Africa.
Getnews: Lastly, what would you say are the top three reasons to live in the province?
1. The possibilities it holds.
2. The abundant opportunities it presents.
3. The opportunity to make a difference