In recognition of Black History Month 2023, we are celebrating and sharing the stories of Black leaders and colleagues from across The SR Group and our networks. We are delighted to have been able to interview Pejehafo Doeseb, Recruitment Consultant at Frazer Jones.
Tell us about your heritage?
I was born in Swakopmund, Namibia, to a Namibian father and a South African mother. I was an infant when my family moved to South Africa, so I never had the opportunity to meet my extended family in Namibia. My father tells me that his grandfather was a German soldier stationed in Namibia during World War I, however, he didn’t know him very well due to the racial segregation applied by the South African apartheid government at the time. I consider myself South African, however, it is interesting to know that I do carry some German and Namibian heritage in my family.
How does having a multicultural background impact you?
I was born into a racially segregated and horrific time in Southern Africa. The experiences that my parents and fellow ethnic Africans had to endure in the mid-80s would make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. I am fortunate enough not to remember the apartheid regime as a child, but the atrocities echo through my family, especially on my mother’s side, whose family mostly lived in Zululand, South Africa.
My father studied and qualified in law, allowing opportunities for my family that many Black South Africans never had at the time. In the early 90’s when the apartheid regime collapsed, several schools trialled the integration of Black students into predominantly white schools and I was the first Black child in the region I grew up to go to an all-white school. My family was also the first Black family to move into an all-white town, where Black people were known to only come into town to clean houses, work gardens and then leave, back to their townships after sunset. In my early childhood, I remember growing up with very few Black friends in a country predominantly populated by Black people. This soon changed however as more and more Black people could afford to send their children to white schools, which eventually become multicultural schools. I think back as an adult on how this has impacted the way I visualise the world, and how I was ignorant to the everyday racism around me, not necessarily to me and my family, but to those who looked like me but did not have the privilege of acceptance into what was a white community.
Growing up in a place where I was “different” had an interesting impact on me in that it made me want to always succeed through merit and my own skills and abilities as an equal to everyone around me and I have carried that through my adult life
What would you like to see from allies to support Black History Month?
It is important for allies to support Black History Month by educating themselves on the history and contributions of black people, and actively working to combat racism and discrimination. This can include participating in events and discussions, amplifying Black voices and perspectives, and supporting Black-owned businesses and organizations. Additionally, allies can also make a commitment to ongoing education and action beyond Black History Month, to address and dismantle systemic racism in all areas of society
What do you think of the progress society has made so far?
I think, it’s been widely acknowledged that significant progress has been made towards ending discrimination and promoting equality in many societies over the past several decades. Civil rights laws and policies have been implemented to address discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors. However, despite these efforts, discrimination and inequality still exist in many areas of society and many marginalized communities continue to face significant challenges. Additionally, I think progress has been somewhat uneven, with different groups and regions experiencing varying levels of progress. It is important for society to continue to work towards ending discrimination and promoting equality for all individuals. I think the fact that The SR Group, amongst other companies, celebrate Black History Month is a testament to the progress in society, more widely
What does Black History Month mean to you? Are there any figures that you most admire or resonate with, whether they are famous or not?
I think it is an opportunity to highlight the contributions and experiences of black people throughout history, as well as to raise awareness against the ongoing fight against racism and discrimination. The objective is to promote understanding and appreciation of the diversity of black culture and to work towards building a more inclusive and equitable society for all. I think Black History Month is important, however, I do not think that the sentiment should be limited to one month only.
Steve Biko – He was a South African anti-apartheid activist. He was a founder of the Black Consciousness Movement which would empower and mobilize much of the urban black population, he died in police custody, and his death was a turning point in South Africa’s history and helped focus international attention on the country’s racial policies.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu – Our Beloved Desmond Tutu was a South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his role in the resistance against apartheid. He also had a unique voice which made listening to him as a child quite amusing.
Nelson Mandela – Madiba, was one of the most prominent figures of South Africa. He was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, he is widely regarded as the father of the nation and an international symbol of freedom and reconciliation. He taught me and many South Africans the importance of forgiveness.