The radio DJ who overcame catastrophe to take a stand for children

Athenkosi Fani has a lot to say. You expect that from a radio DJ. But he’s interested in far more than chart-toppers and conversation-starters. Fani is using his platform to urge South Africans to pay attention to the challenges facing our children. The charismatic chatterbox’s plea is directed at adults. He has personal experience of the damage irresponsible parents can do.

Abused by his father, Fani began a struggle with alcohol at the age of ten. He might never have escaped the debilitating stranglehold of addiction had it not been for the intervention of social workers. Extracted from his toxic home situation, he lived in a children’s centre in East London that was later shut down. Social welfare picked out his next home, this time in Port Elizabeth. Though the move required him to leave his biological family behind entirely, a 15-year-old Fani held onto the hope in his mother’s farewell words: “My child, you have been given a new chance at life.”

Determined to make his mother proud, Fani committed himself to overcoming alcoholism and turning his life around. He decided that he would no longer be a victim. That his life was worth something. And that he had a purpose. Fani found the strength to put his life back together, and began to chase excellence for himself. He has become a Mr Teen Mzansi Africa Ambassador and Vice-Chairman of the National Association of Child Care Workers. He also serves on multiple youth councils. From these platforms he aims to deliver a message of hope to young people. Alcoholism is just one major issue facing South Africa’s youth. To understand children, we need to listen.