Joburg Mayor comes out for CEO Sleepout
It was one of the coldest nights in Johannesburg but this did not deter Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau from leaving the comfort of his bed and the warmth of his blankets to spend the night on a freezing street for a good cause.
The Executive Mayor was one of 250 high-flying South African decision-makers who took part in the inaugural 702-Sun International CEO SleepOut initiative in Sandton on Thursday 18 June to highlight the plight of the homeless and raise funds for a charity organisation that works with destitute children throughout South Africa.
Fighting biting wintry winds amid plummeting temperatures, Mayor Tau picked a spot near a park bench on Gwen Lane in the Sandton CBD as his home for the night. “Yes, they’ve given me a blanket ... The MMC for Health and Social Development [Councillor Nonceba Molwele] is also here, along with a lot of others from the Social Development Cluster and from my office ...,” he said.
Looking rather dishevelled and shrugging the biting cold, some of Johannesburg’s flamboyant businesspeople and politicians found themselves hunched over fires as the chilly night wore on, chatting among themselves.
PJ Powers of the Jabulani fame brought a little bit of warmth and cheer when she treated them to an impromptu music concert until “lights out” at midnight.
The campaign, which started in Australia 10 years ago, raised at least R25 million for the Girls and Boys’ Town organisation on its debut in South Africa. Each participant forked out at least R100 000 in exchanged for the “privilege” to spend the night under the stars.
“When the City of Johannesburg was first approached to host this event, I immediately welcomed the initiative as an extremely worthwhile contribution by the private sector worthy of support and very important for South Africa,” said Clr Tau.
He called on private sector enterprises and business leaders to partner with the City “so we can continue finding solutions together”.
Such partnerships, he said, were crucial given the sobering reality that at least 6 000 destitute people live under trying conditions on the streets every night, while 140 000 families are faced with inadequate living conditions in informal settlements.
He said it was “quite impressive” to see 250 decision-makers gathered in one spot discussing ways to contribute to the fight against homelessness.
“One thing I can tell you for certain is that 250 leaders of business will all be talking about the homeless tonight,” he said.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura was among leaders who forewent the comfort and warmth of their homes to take part in the SleepOut.
“This initiative is all about giving hope to young people and lifting them out of hopelessness. Tonight is about realising that we can always help to make life better for the next person,” he said. Saying he spent many “sleepless nights” sometimes worrying about the future of the youth, the Premier said urbanisation and related challenges such as homelessness and unemployment remained burning issues for the Gauteng provincial government in general and Johannesburg in particular.
LeadSA goodwill ambassador Yusuf Abramjee said the CEO SleepOver was not a competition but an initiative for “an extremely good cause”.
Some of the organisations and companies whose CEOs took part include BMW South Africa, IQ Business, Ford South Africa, CNBC Africa, MBS Mpowered, Nedbank, Proudly South African, KFC, Europcar, Vodacom, Virgin Atlantic and Stuttafords Van Lines.