It is early morning in Johannesburg, South Africa and long queues of traffic are already snaking along the neatly marked tarmac roads with a sense of urgency so tense one can almost touch it. In the city of gold, quick movement is second nature and the constant rate of infrastructural development syncs perfectly with the lifestyle of the people here.
An ‘arrival city’ is what this cosmopolitan setting stands for, with millions of people from diverse cultural backgrounds lured into the city by both negative and positive circumstances. It is within the confines of this city that the richest square mile in Africa, Sandton is located.
There stands a building which forces you to look up. Discovery headquarters, an eye catching bluish tinted glass which reflects not only the sky but the dreams of a 27-year-old journalist-cum-entrepreneur who sees herself owning a similar building until she is 40.
Ancillar Mangena is a well-established journalist with several business ventures one of them being a PR company called Rallinca. Dressed in blue denims and a floral white shirt, the slim, average sized, Zimbabwean born naturalized South African struggles in her heels as she click clacks into her office space set on a busy road in Sandton.
Just like any other journalist, Ancillar started small. After completing her honours degree in Journalism in 2014, she started to write for a community newspaper. One year later, Forbes Africa magazine founding editor Chris Bishop approached her. She has been working for Forbes Magazine ever since, winning multiple journalism awards all over the continent.
From the off-set one can tell that Ancillar is very ambitious, this is clear even when she introduces herself. She gets to the point about where she’s been and where she sees herself in the future emphasizing that hard work is a key element of success and that she believes fate determines one’s destiny.
At the moment I just want to help make the world a better place. »
Mangena speaks extensively about the prominent client base she has worked with, moving her arms in the air as she recounts how she got into the Public Relation industry. “I saw myself doing a lot of PR for friends,” she says, adding that this inspired her to start her own business and offer her services at a lower cost since most PR firms were expensive.
Mangena however became uncomfortable with the idea of having someone else tell her story. When her employees were asked to be interviewed in a separate setting, the air is met with hesitation contrasting the confidence presented prior. Her employees only express their gratitude and appreciation for the work and opportunities that she presented not only for them but the rest of the African continent.
Arriving at Discovery one is greeted with luscious green plants outside the building, people in formal workwear walk in and out of the revolving doors. When you enter the building your eyes are allowed to dart between energy saving lights, multiple floors, Morse plants, indoor waterfalls and a lot more people. The building is a new development which was completed at the beginning of 2018.
Discovery’s new headquarters represents a vision for Ancillar which goes beyond the physical structure. She dreams of the vast job opportunities she could create for the unemployed youth in the country. The building also signifies urban development for her.
Mandisa Zwane, an employee and friend of Mangena praises her for how far she’s come. “I get so inspired by what she does, she’s the hardest working person I know and she doesn’t sleep because of her work ethic, she is now also building us as her team to think the way she thinks and always believe in ourselves,” Zwane says.
Ancillar gets into an Uber to take a short trip up the road from her office to Discovery. Ancillar’s face lights up with excitement as she describes what the building stands for and of its significance. “I will also own a building like the one we are going to, that’s the reason we are going there,” she expresses herself with a glimmer of untainted hope enveloping her face.
Urban development to me means not only innovation and green buildings. It's also about creating opportunity and building a better society where people can migrate to.»
Her sister Amanda Simakani who works at Discovery headquarters has the same faith, that this is her sister’s destiny. “Even if you look at what she has achieved thus far it kind of tells you already that you can only look forward and I think this country and city has got a lot of opportunities and there’s a lot that people can use to succeed,” she says whilst beaming with pride as she describes the great achievement that her sister can attain.
Ancillar adds that she believes in 14 years’ time she will employ 3000 employees in a building that resembles her vision of urban development. This means by 2032 she would have had to employ 2995 more employees than she currently has. The way Ancillar looks up at all the lights in the building is the same way her employees look up at her.
Her pace at the university is slower as she reminisces on the route to becoming who she is today. “I met the love of my life here,” she says, adding that she would occasionally visit the men’s only residence where he stayed on campus while she lived in an apartment not far from the university.
It becomes evident that Ancillar has a rebellious side to her as she explains that she didn’t really attend all her classes that often and barely used some of the spaces like the benches not far from the student enrollment center. As she settles down on a bench under a tree shedding yellow flowers thanks to the strong wind, Ancillar as if in sync with the tree also begins to shed some of the sacrifices made to get her through university.
“I had my fair share of struggles to get to where I am today,” she says adjusting her posture. “I come from a split family, my parents got divorced, one day it was mommy and daddy and the next daddy was no more.” This, Ancillar says was very painful for her and adds that she still hasn't received an explanation for the split.
She adds that the split made her tougher through her mothers’ love is what shaped who Ancillar is today. “Watching a single parent hold a household together was impressive”. “My mom is a nurse, and back in Zimbabwe before moving to Cape Town, where she’s still based, times were tough.” Ancillar explains that instead of carpooling to work her mom and colleagues would ‘walk pool’, walking to work to save costs.
Her mom later relocated from Zimbabwe to Cape Town before Ancillar began her tertiary career which also brought its own challenges.
A visit to the University of Johannesburg where she spent three years in pursuit of degree in Media tells a different story of energy and hedonism in almost a similar way it recounts the practical beginning of her journey.
This period of Ancillar’s life is a chapter of nostalgia. Her clothing choice has switched 180 degrees with her switching her formal attire for a casual t-shirt, blue jeans and converse sneakers. Revisiting the place where it all began, Ancillar exudes an aura one can attach to a young, cool urbanite ready to live their young life to the fullest regardless of consequence.
Ancillar adds that it wasn’t easy and she did everything in her power to help her mom bring together the amount needed. “I did everything, waitressed, promoted products, charged friends to help them fill application forms for university, cut my hair, it was never easy,” she says with a voice filled with emotion. “You do what you have to do and for me that also meant living below your means, even now, personally I’m broke because everything I make goes into funding my businesses.”
I met the love of my life here. »
I had my fair share of struggles to get to where I am today. »
Her personality has softened, one can feel some of the difficulty in becoming successful and you can feel the pain when she speaks about the instability in her life that came with her parents parting. Her personality which was guarded by her current state of success comes through in human form as she backtracks where she came from.
Where I want to go and what I want to do is help people,” she says changing into an activist Ancillar. “I want to see policy changes for refugees.” Her white shirt is reminding one that she is also a United Nations ambassador. “I believe refugees have a right to move within the country they seek refuge in", she says.
Even though in South Africa there is no such thing as refugee camps, becoming successful as a migrant like Ancillar still is more the exception than the rule.