Entrepreneurs meet the mayor

March 2 marked the first Open Thursday for Knysna mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies (left) to meet with residents. Here she is with local NPO Yona Yethu Initiative's Nkosinathi Mabukane. Photos: Nwabisa Pondoyi

KNYSNA NEWS - Knysna municipality launched their “Open Thursday” recently at the municipality’s main building, in an attempt to make the mayor’s office more accessible.
This will be repeated every first Thursday of the month, between 17:00 and 19:30, following the example set by Western Cape minister of economic opportunities Alan Winde.
Each Open Thursday will be themed, and for the first occasion young entrepreneurs were encouraged to talk to the mayor.
One such attendee was Nkosinathi Mabukane of Yona Yethu Initiative who, before seeing the mayor, admitted he was sceptical. "I hope this whole Open Thursday is not a joke." After his one-on-one with the mayor, he said, “If what they are selling us is real – and by 'real' I mean, if they will take all our complaints and suggestions to heart – then young businesses in town will flourish, including our registered NPO.”
He said it has been five years and their NPO still doesn’t have its own premises and that they are always in need of sponsors for them to execute some of their programmes. He felt that Open Thursday might help make a difference.
The 2016 Green Chef – an initiative of tourism entity Knysna & Partners that encourages local chefs and cooks from a particular geographical area to cook with locally sourced or cultivated ingredients, producing traditional, time-honoured recipes – Roland Rhode, who just completed his culinary training, was also there and he commended the mayor. “She is very open, with so many interesting ideas that can support young entrepreneurs.”
Rhode said even though he eventually would like to start his own business, his focus for now is on obtaining the necessary experience in the field.
Sino Xhonti said that while other people might be seeing the mayor about their already existing businesses, she was there to share more of a vision than a business.
"After seeing the mayor and councillor Weideman I honestly think it will materialise. What I have in mind is creating a programme that will engage with schools, help the learners choose a career path, have professionals in their desired fields, have one-on-one sessions with them and assist them with application to universities and financial assistance."
Witnessing how idle the youth in Knysna is, Xhonti said she saw it as a gap for the municipality to intervene and inspire the youth, provide them with knowledge on which direction to take and remove the stigma from certain careers. "It is a real shame that other careers are still looked down upon and we are not all book-smart, so the programme will also empower learners who are amazing with their hands and guide them every step of the way."
Staff members from the youth desk and economic development assisted the young entrepreneurs with questions they had while they waited for their turn to see the mayor and chairperson of community services, councillor Cathy Weideman.
* The next Open Thursday is on April 6. To find out what the theme will be, please follow the municipality’s Facebook page.
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