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The inspiring story of Deswan Basson

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Picture: Supplied – January 1, 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of South Africa and the People’s Republic of China. On the day, the Chinese Consul General in Durban Fei Mingxing has made a special tour to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, to pay tribute to the great leader whose vision for the making of history has brought tangible benefits to both countries and the two peoples. Nelson Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962 outside Howick, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. He spent the next 27 years of his life in prison. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site commemorates this moment in history with a visitor centre and a world renowned sculpture.

By Wallace Mgoqi

“Victory awaits him who has everything in order – luck people call it. Defeat is certain for he who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.” Roald Amudndsen, The South Pole.

In the much-publicised 25th Anniversary of China-South Africa bilateral relations – this year’s China Open Day showcased the results of green belt and road co-operation between the two countries, whose theme was: “Building a Bridge to the future”.

Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) – From left, Paul He Xiangpeng, Senior Secretary of SACETA; Sheng Bin, Manager of Administrator Office (Longyuan Renewables South Africa); Dr David Monyae, Director of the University of Johannesburg Centre for China-Africa Studies; Mr Liu Lei, Operation and Maintenance Manager (Longyuan Renewables South Africa); and Mr Bill Dongze Wei, General Manager of People’s Daily Online SA and Secretary General SACETA

For me the juicy part is the inspiring story of a young man, called Deswan Basson. Born to unemployed parents in an impoverished township in the Northern Cape, now an employee of China Energy’s South African subsidiary Longyuan SA, whose perseverance against incredible odds saw him rise to great heights already.

Basson dreamed of being an engineer as a student. After finishing school, he found work at Longyuan ‘s solar farm in De Aar during its construction phase.

In his own words he relates: “The salary I earned gave me an opportunity to complete my N2 in engineering at Technikon … I was then accepted into Longyuan’s bursary programme, which made it possible for me, with the added assistance of in-service training at Longyuan to study full-time and graduate.”

Today, Basson’s success story – from humble beginnings in a ruinous swathe of deprivation and hopelessness in the Northern Cape to a skilled engineer at Longyuan’s De Aar Wind Power Project is what China’s ambassador to South Africa called “an exemplar of shared prosperity and co-operation, grounded in pragmatic relations between the two countries and their peoples”.

“The model of co-operation between the two countries shows not only our effective co-operation, in the transition to a low carbon and green economy, it also demonstrates China’s commitment to sustainable communities.”

One lesson, to take away from Basson’s story is the importance of preparation in life, in the sense of making the best of your time, regardless of surrounding circumstances. Our school Principal at high school used to say, quite often and emphatically: “Respect time, and time will honour you.”

It is something that has been the guiding light in my life. When my mind wandered aimlessly, I brought myself back by asking myself if I was making the best use of my time, in relation to my goal, at every stage of my life. Here are other quotes on preparedness in life: “Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today. H Jackson Brown Jr

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” Ralph Martso

“We cannot stop natural disasters, but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.” Petra Nemcova

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“Today’s students can put dope in their veins or hope in their brains. If they can conceive it and believe it, they can achieve it. They must know it is not their aptitude but their attitude that will determine their altitude.” Jesse Jackson

“When the doors of opportunity swing open, we must make sure that we are not too drunk or too indifferent to walk through.” Jesse Jackson

If we were to ask Deswan Basson what it took to him to reach this point of his success, he would confirm having the following character qualities:

Be reliable, responsible, loyal, have self-control, sensitivity to others, be trustworthy, truthful, and punctual. He would confirm that success in the race of life has also the following requirements:

• The right mental attitude

• Self- control

• Endurance or perseverance

• Having your eyes fixed on your God-given destiny.

• Be in a state to take your opportunity whenever it comes your way to find you in a state of readiness.

In the case of Basson, when opportunity came, it found him ready to get onto the train and enjoy the ride like the song by Gladys Knight: Midnight train to Georgia, “going back to a simpler place in time”. We all love our comfort zones and are always longing to go back to it, but success in life requires that we leave our comfort zone, like Basson and put our head down in preparation for a better tomorrow. This applies to both young and old, but especially to the young, who still have a future ahead of them.

His choice of career and the field of his vocation, renewable energy, is one that has a bright future, as the whole world is engaged in energy transition from energy from fossil fuels to green energy in renewables. Those who are prepared, when the doors of opportunity open up before them, all they do is to march through with confidence and a spring in their step, feeling happy and confident.

In an interview in New York to a South African broadcaster, Secretary-General of the United Nations made the point that the world has: A Choice between Climate Action or Catastrophe “if does nothing it faces catastrophe”. Hence governments and private sector role players are investing as much of their resources in not only mitigating global warming, but also climate action like reducing the carbon footprint and accelerate renewable sources of energy to avert the cataclysmic consequences, we see associated with global warming. For example, in the melting of the glaciers in the poles, even sceptics can no longer be denialists.

The inspiring story of Deswan Basson needs to be told throughout Africa, from the southernmost tip of Africa, in the Cape Aghullas, to the northernmost point of Africa, in Alexandria, Egypt, beyond the Numib desert, where the mighty Nile River pours its waters into the Mediterranean Sea, from the easternmost point in East Africa to the westernmost point in West Africa.

Every African child needs to know it is not our surroundings that define our identity, in fact there is in every one of us a seed, planted by our Maker, that propels us to grow, until we reach our full God-given human potential and stature. See the joy displayed by children from depressing environment on a joyous occasion, it surpasses those of children born with a silver-spoon in their mouths. It is inborn, and relentlessly and inexorably pushes forward.

We have to allow it to have full play in us, throughout the course of our life, until we reach the end of the line, then the words of Paul Lawrence Dunbar can be pronounced on us:

“Back to the breast of thy mother, Child of the earth!

E’en her caress cannot smother

What thou hast done …

Unto a nation whose sky was as night,

Camest thou, holily, bearing thy light:

Back to the breast of thy mother –

To rest.

Long has thou striven;

Dared where the hills by the lightening of

Heaven were riven;

Dred where the hills by the lightening of

Heaven were riven;

Go now , pure shriven.

Dared where the hills by the

Lightening of heaven were riven;

Go now , pure shriven.

Who shall come after thee , out of the clay

Learned one and leader to show us the way?

Who shall rise up when the world

Gives the test?

Think no more of this – Rest!

Until that moment comes, we must continue to push forward ever, backward never!

Dr Wallace Mgoqi is chairperson of Ayo Technology Solutions

This article is exclusive to The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.