He had only one dream – to study to become a famous actor and reap the rewards that come with the glamorous title. But his dream kept being deferred and he thought his break would never come.
Olefile Masangane (44) had an “awakening” (a word coined by the famous Oprah Winfrey as a moment of enlightenment to achieve self-actualisation) when he had to repeat Grade 11 after failing.
At the age of 18, Olefile realised that if he wanted to reach his full potential as an academic, he would have to literally pull up his socks.
“I changed my attitude and started wearing my school uniform properly. I polished my school shoes and stopped skipping class. I also decided to do my homework at home after school, not the following day before class began,” he says.
After completing his matric it was in 1995 that he travelled to Johannesburg from his home town Lehurutshe in the North West, to take an aptitude test to study towards a BA in Dramatic Arts at the University of Cape Town. He succeeded and showed his acceptance letter to his mother.
“I couldn’t believe it that there was a letter addressed to me from UCT and I was so proud when I showed it to my mom. But she said to me ‘son, how will you get to Cape Town? We don’t have money.’ That’s the first time my dream was deferred,” he explains.
“My mom Josephine was single mother and a domestic worker who was industrious. She broke the law to make sure that her children had something to eat by operating a back yard shebeen selling sorghum beer. We were seven children, and there were my cousins as well.
My mom had very little knowledge of acting and in the 80s and 90s the dominant jobs were policemen, teachers and doctors. My brother tried to get me to go to a teacher’s college which was walking distance from home, I had grown up there, gone to school there and the thought of teaching there didn’t appeal to me,” he adds.
In the same year, Olefile had been volunteering at Youth For Christ (YFC), an organisation committed to upskilling young people, and a presentation was done using dance, music and acting. He says it had a great impact on him and in 1997 he joined YFC as a staff member.
He signed up at an academy in Newtown to study drama but as time went on, he realised that it was a fly-by-night school and quit.
“My dream was deferred for a second time. I decided to join the Salvation Army in their youth wing. There I met Buhle Dlamini. Buhle then joined YFC in 1999 where he met Quinton Pretorius, Seth Naicker and Zamabongo Mojalefa who I currently work with at Heartlines,” he adds.
“I trained them in drama and dances which where instrumental in spreading the SA Story.”
In 1999 the team was invited to perform in Germany to raise funds for YFC as well as share their stories and the South African story of reconciliation.
Olefile went on to become a youth mentor as well as a praise and worship leader and performed at various events locally and internationally.
“Youth mentorship wasn’t something I was doing deliberately, it was happening unawares. A friend shared a saying with me that influence is not a choice, but that we influence others whether we are aware of it or not.”
He went on to join the Heartlines team in 2008 and was later selected to work as a mentor and facilitator to motivate youth, but says with humility that it was young people whom he learnt from the most.
“A young person whose life stood out to me was that of Tshepo Sitole who is now a facilitator at Heartlines. When I met him he had tenacity and a drive to never give up on his dreams. He approached me and asked me to mentor him and it has been a privilege to walk this journey with him,” he says.
“He has great facilitation skills which are more advanced than mine and he’s an amazing youth speaker. I am part of a generation of leaders that needs to step aside when the new generation emerges. We should not be holding on to positions and I’ve decided that my job is temporary.”
Olefile successfully completed his BA in Communication Science and graduated from the University of South Africa in 2019.
“My dream to study was finally materialised when I started working at Heartlines. For many years finances had been a barrier but things began looking up and I could save towards my studies.”
Olefile’s story is inspiration not only to his friends and colleagues but also to his wife and two children. Having grown up without a father, it was important for him to be an exemplary role model to his son Kgatoentle (11) and his daughter Kaboentle (4)
“The reward of being a dad is that you get called out and kept on your toes. Fatherhood has been a different experience. I did not know what fathers do but it’s good, because I have not been confined by roles about what a man or a woman is supposed to do when raising children,” he says.
“I know guys who are rigid on role definitions. I changed nappies, I wash the dishes, do laundry, and dress my daughter. “
Obtaining a degree while working and raising a family was not an easy challenge, but Olefile says he’s got more miles in him to pursue an Honours’ and Masters’ Degrees within the next two years.
“My message to young people is simple. I’ve come this far and I can go further. So can you.”