01 July 2022 | Story Dr Nitha Ramnath
UFS Thought Leader Change Makers

2022 UFS Thought-Leader Webinar Series


a webinar titled

Change makers and game changers: are our glasses half full, or half empty?

As a public higher-education institution in South Africa with a responsibility to contribute to public discourse, the University of the Free State (UFS) will be presenting the webinar in collaboration with News24 and the Free State Literature Festival.  The aim of the webinar series is to discuss issues facing South Africa by engaging experts at the university and in South Africa.

Some of the topics discussed by leading experts in 2021 included, among others, reimagining universities for student success; corruption in South Africa – the endemic pandemic; South African politics and the local government elections; is South Africa falling apart: where to from here; predications for 2022; and why vaccinate? This year’s webinar series commenced on 31 May 2022 with the topic Crime in South Africa – who is to blame? 

Second webinar presented on 27 July 2022

Many of us would like to forget the past two years altogether. We have lost loved ones and important national figures. Unemployment is at an all-time high, and confidence in the state and governance is at an all-time low.  Internationally, an endless war is creating devastation beyond measure. In the midst of what may seem like a hopeless situation, we always have much to be grateful for – after all, this is South Africa, and our young democracy still has so much to look forward to.

These are some of the aspects we look forward to discussing with our panel of inspiring and leading experts who bring hope, and who are the change that we want to see in South Africa and the world.

Date:    Wednesday, 27 July 2022
 Change makers and game changers: are our glasses half full, or half empty?
Alicia Pienaar, pienaaran1@ufs.ac.za by 25 July 2022


Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor, UFS


Dr Imtiaz Sooliman
Gift of the Givers Foundation

Itumeleng Pooe

Managing DirectorAfri-Centric Luxury Experiences

Steuart Pennington
South Africa – The Good News

Brent Lindeque
Good Things Guy

Bios of speakers:

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman

A qualified medical doctor, Dr Sooliman was born in Potchefstroom in South Africa's North-West province. Dr Sooliman commenced private practice in Pietermaritzburg in 1986 but chose to close his flourishing practice in mid-1994, choosing instead to focus his attention on the Gift of the Givers Foundation, which he founded in early August 1992. His establishment of the Gift of the Givers Foundation was the consequence of a message that Dr Sooliman, then aged 30, received from Sufi Sheikh Muhammed Saffer Effendi al Jerrahi, his spiritual leader in Istanbul, Turkey. Dr Sooliman was called on to serve all people of all races, of all religions, of all colours, of all classes, of all political affiliations, and of any geographical location ... a calling he honoured then and continues to honour today. This endeavour has seen the Gift of the Givers Foundation emerge as one of the most respected humanitarian organisations in the world and it is today the largest disaster response agency of African origin anywhere on the continent. Since 1992, Dr Sooliman has steered the organisation to many notable achievements and world firsts, including:

• Implementing 21 different categories of projects;
• Delivering well in excess of R4,5 billion rand of aid;
• Coming to the assistance of millions of people in no less than 45 countries across the globe, including South Africa;
• Designing and developing the world's first and only containerised mobile hospital of its kind in 1993, which was deployed in Bosnia and has been compared by CNN to any of the best hospitals in Europe;
• Designing the world's first containerised primary health-care unit in 1994;
• Innovating the world's first groundnut-soya high-energy and protein supplement known as Sibusiso Ready Food Supplement in 2004. The supplement has proved ideal for people suffering from conditions such as HIV/AIDS, TB, malnutrition, cancer, and other debilitating disorders;
• Heading the first organisation in the history of South Africa to receive R60 million from government for the design and successful roll-out of 204 000 food parcels;
• Alleviating problems associated with a ravaging drought in South Africa by drilling 400 boreholes in just 18 months, from 2018; and
• Rescuing 64-year-old Ena Zizi alive after being trapped under rubble for eight days without food or water, little oxygen, and a fractured hip in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake of 2010. This was a world first for an African organisation involved in earthquake search and rescue outside Africa.

Itumeleng Pooe

Itumeleng Pooe is a marketing professional who has spent most of her career providing marketing solutions to the travel industry and relevant subsectors. Having served on a number of strategic forums both in the tourism and wine industries, as well as on transformative business forums, Pooe is the owner and managing director of Afri-Centric Luxury Experiences, a company specialising in providing travel solutions and curating bespoke experiences for both incentive and leisure travellers. Pooe’s career in the travel industry spans more than 30 years, beginning with 10 years at South African Tourism, where she gained broad marketing experience, before holding the position of Marketing Manager for Asia and Oceania.  After a period working for the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the Thebe Tourism Group, Pooe joined the Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism Association – a multi-sector organisation made up of 300 members, including wineries, accommodation establishments, art galleries, professional businesses, and restaurants – as Chief Executive Officer.  As CEO of the association, Pooe used innovative marketing techniques and managed to grow Franschhoek’s profile into a Cape Winelands destination that is still a step above other towns and wine routes.

Pooe was employed as Executive Manager of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, now Wesgro – a tourism-destination marketing agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape – responsible for emerging markets (Africa, Asia, and the Middle East). While at Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Pooe was responsible for establishing agreements with global intermediaries, resulting in media coverage growing exponentially on global channels such as ESPN, Globo, BBC, and CCTV China. Tourism from emerging markets has grown steadily through dedicated collaboration and joint promotions with local and foreign airlines flying into South Africa, especially with the SAA.  Pooe also conceptualised and implemented Cape Town’s dedicated 2010 FIFA World CupTM tourism marketing campaign, ‘Beyond the 90 Minutes’, which was hailed as a tourism and media success. This campaign generated immeasurable media value for Cape Town and the Western Cape before, during, and after the soccer tournament. The campaign turned destination marketing on its head and generated a lot of PR and awareness for the benefit of the destination.

Steuart Pennington

Steuart Pennington started The Good News in 2002 when he became concerned about the extent to which South Africans understood the truth of their own country. He has given up a successful career in industrial relations and strategic consulting to write a book on the progress in South Africa since 1994.

The Good News is purposed to change the narrative of South Africa and Africa, with the belief that the good should be celebrated and the bad confronted; that news should be balanced, contextual, and truthful (as per the SA Press Code); and that citizens should understand the truth of South Africa’s progress – warts and all. It is the conviction of The Good News that if citizens understand both the good and the bad, they are much more able and willing to make a positive difference to the bad. Pennington has worked tirelessly over the past 10 years to bring positive change to South Africa. As the Chairman of Executive Office of South Africa – The Good News (Pty) Ltd and Africa – the Good News, his contribution to global and local perspectives has been significantly positive. His work has changed the South African narrative worldwide in many ways. Pennington says, “We don’t describe the future we see, we see the future we describe,” speaks volumes about his approach.

The Good News is of the view that much of the current print, radio, and broadcast media are trapped in a ‘good news is no news’ paradigm and that South Africa’s public broadcaster has no coherent news strategy. In this lies the danger of the ‘single story’ of Afro-pessimism that is so much part of the global narrative on South Africa and Africa, and the truth becomes distorted – bedevilled by conventional wisdom madness. 

In 2007, Pennington was awarded the Public Service Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the African Heritage Society in recognition of the extraordinary contribution that his company and publications have made to South Africa’s social fabric, and the perspective that important decision makers have in relation to South Africa’s future.  

In 2008, he was one of the 10 finalists for the Johnnie Walker ‘Striding Man’ Award for South Africa’s most inspirational entrepreneurs, in recognition of the work he has done in inspiring the nation to believe in its own future.

Over the years, Pennington has delivered about 450 public talks in South Africa and abroad. He also speaks on a weekly basis on SAfm to some 800 000 listeners, and he is a regular correspondent for Business Day and other major newspapers. He has researched and written articles on South Africa’s global competitiveness, some of which were used in the submission by Business Unity South Africa to the National Planning Commission.

Brent Lindeque

Good Things Guy was officially launched on 1 August 2015 in order to only promote good news, inspirational stories, and to promote only positive, upbeat media. Good Things Guy is a global, multi-platform media company that distils unique content across multiple media platforms.

Started by Brent Lindeque, a young South African, who – due to an undying belief in the power of positivity, and a fair amount of luck – has succeeded in achieving great things in a short time. His decision to turn a frivolous internet drinking game nomination into a random act of kindness has literally changed everything. Brent Lindeque pioneered the #ChangeOneThing movement, which went viral internationally using the simple premise that YOU have the power to change everything. His story is both inspiring, accessible, and relevant. Many have the power to inspire. Many have the ability to use social media for good. Few are able to combine the two while remaining true to themselves.

Good Things Guy aims to change what the world pays attention to and believes that there is good news all around us. With more than 1 million readers a month who are in agreement with the mission of the Good Things Guy, the best good news stories from South Africa and the world are hunted down and published with a view to change the national conversation and to give South Africans a balance on the news in South Africa.

Good Things Guy is dedicated to telling good stories and inspiring others. The award-winning platform is one of the leading good news sites in South Africa and has grown from one person with a simple idea to a full team that brings good news to South Africans every day.

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