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What does friendship mean to you?

While you ponder on that thought, Oprah Winfrey’s response to that question when she was talking about her best friend, Gayle King is, ‘’She is the mother I never had, she is the sister that everyone needs, I don’t know a better person.’’ They have been best friends for 45 years!

Can you imagine what it must take to maintain a friendship for four and a half decades?

When speaking to Thobile Mkhwanazi of Sisterhood Connect, she reiterated some very key aspects of friendships, “Friendships are relationships. They too need to be reciprocated. They need to be nurtured. If you ignore them and don’t generously and consciously serve love they will end. Friendships are energy. And that is how I have built and continue to build my sisterhood network within Sisterhood Connect.”

Today is International Day of Friendship, as declared by the United Nations. In this relationship feature, we caught up with six amazing ladies who shared what friendship is and means to them. They also shared some fun facts (some are embarrassing) about each other.

Rorisang Thandekiso and Hlengiwe Ntombela

Rorisang Thandekiso and Hlengiwe Ntombela met through a mutual friend. Rorisang ‘Rori’ as Hlengiwe ‘Hle’ cordially calls her, is a TV and radio broadcaster and was a fan of Hle’s music before they became friends. Hle is a gospel musician who was a member of the iconic gospel ensemble, Joyous Celebration and has also succeeded as a solo musician and TV presenter. Their friendship started with a DM on Instagram and as they say, the rest is history. They were more than happy to share the journey of their friendship.

Q. Tell us briefly, how your friendship started?

Rori: I don’t remember how our friendship actually started, maybe she does, but our mutual friend is Khaya Mthethwa. I remember after she released a song, I DM’ed her on Instagram asking when she’s releasing another song. From there onwards we started being in each other’s lives more and more. Even when I went through some health issues, she was by my side until today. We’ve been so close now for about a year and a half.

Hle: I’m actually not too sure where it started. I just know we admired each other from far as we were in the same circles. I invited her to my recording, and the day after, we prayed as she prepared to undergo an operation on that Monday. We were happy to have moved an extra step closer. But it’s been a year of us being in each other’s faces.

Q. What do you value most about each other?

Hle: I love how we both wholeheartedly live for God and fear Him. How we use every opportunity to seek him more. I love that we are boring, and we love it!

Rori: Her ability to create an atmosphere for me to be myself. I think it’s rare to find people who let you come as yourself, she has a beautiful way of doing that. We have a common goal of God, and living a Christ-full life, and I think what makes me value her so much is just her undying support. She is a constant. There are moments where I go to her and say, ‘’I’m so pissed at you! Why didn’t you come into my life ten years ago? I don’t understand why we only met now’’ (Jokingly).

Q. As with most friendships, there are challenges that we go through. What are some of the challenges that you went through together, and how did you solve them?

Rori: I think we’re in our honeymoon stage. We’ve disagreed, like on biblical principles.  We are just fortunate that in terms of what we believe in, life is pretty much the same. I don’t think there are challenges that have led to a fight. I think our biggest challenge has been being honest to one another.

Hle: Well, we have gone through losing people – to death and socially. It wouldn’t have been that easy if we didn’t have each other to express our feelings.

Q. Share with us some embarrassing Fun-facts about each other.

Hle: I’d love to embarrass her, but I have to see her every day. She really is convinced she can dance and does every dance challenge. But we have the same deficiency -left feet (laughs)

Rori: We both can’t dance. Hlengiwe is a lot more girly than I am. I am the hippy in the friendship, she loves to cook. I am the jukebox, I am the plugs.  And we’re foodies. We love Nigerian food; we would literally drive around downtown to find Nigerian food. I will admit that I put her on. We have ‘nap dates’ where we hang out together to sleep (laughs). And we also love digging up scriptures that are difficult for the next person to explain. 

Rethabile Seema and Aurelia Nxumalo

Rethabile Seema and Aurelia Nxumalo are Advocates by profession in the legal fraternity. They met at a book club and developed their friendship over a few meetings and interactions as they noticed that they had a lot in common. This then led to their partnership in forming @learned_friend_ a platform where they unpack top stories which may have legal implications.

Q. What do you value most about each other?

Rethabile: Her unconditional love.

Aurelia: I value Rethabile’s honesty and bluntness. I value her approach to life and the finesse in whichever role she is in whether it be in business or personal life. I value her mind and work ethic.

Q. As with most friendships, there are challenges that we go through. What are some of the challenges that you went through together and how did you resolve them?

Aurelia: I believe any relationship requires effort even when you believe the other person is a mirror of you. We have more similarities than differences, that has made it easier for us to work together and maintain a strong friendship in what most would define as having happened in a short period but it’s the quality of the friendship that matters more than the quantity. Challenges we’ve had is that in our own way, we have strong personalities but love it as it makes for good debates and learning from each other and also revealing other layers of ourselves.

Rethabile: Honestly speaking, our friendship has never had material challenges to date. I believe the reason for this is due to the fact that we are both honest and direct females who believe in providing a safe space for tough uncomfortable conversations to happen. It’s in these moments that relationships grow both roots and flowers. 

Q. You are also colleagues/founders of Learned Friend, how do you differentiate between business and friendship?

Rethabile: Our business mandate is clear and concise, with no grey area. We are both very professional and passionate individuals who understand their assignment very clearly. So essentially what I’m saying is that, we never blur the lines between business and friendship. By way of example, we have a Learned Friend chat group on WhatsApp and a separate Meraki Legal chat group. No personal matters are spoken of in those designated chats. What is beautiful and most enduring though, is that we bring ourselves, heart, personality and all (i.e. the fundamentals of friendship) into our business ventures.

Aurelia: We make sure we have friendship dates which we tell ourselves that we cannot discuss work. In both of us being multifaceted, we give each other the space to be ourselves and encourage personal and professional development. We are able to support each other in our side hustles and passions outside of our business.

Q. Share with us some Fun-facts (preferably embarrassing) about each other. 

Aurelia: She has the heartiest laugh in the universe. She laughs from the depth of her stomach, and you feel it! And her complete adoration for grannies and grandpa’s might even surpass that of her boys.

Rethabile: Aurelia LOVES singing and dancing, and well, whilst being the cutest human being ever, both singing and dancing aren’t exactly cute for her. Her singing and dancing moments do make for the best of memories though.

Yolanda and Mathapelo

Yolanda and Mathapelo are founders of the business @whycook_sa which has served food to many prominent people in Africa. Their friendship started through a mutual friend’s birthday party, and they hit it off from the time they spoke. Only a month after they met, they got in business, and eventually became friends. This reminds us of the quote by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, ‘’Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful.”

Q. Tell us briefly, how did your friendship begin?

Mathapelo: We met at a mutual friend’s birthday party, and we discussed business and started working together from then in 2015.

Yolanda: Yes, we met at a birthday party of a mutual friend. I told her my story, and a month later we met up again and felt that there’s a synergy between us and decided to start up a business together.

Q. What impact has working together had on your friendship?

Yolanda: We spend a lot of time together, so we make sure that we acknowledge the fact that we are girls before we are business partners. I think that if you have that girl code on check, you’ll be there for each other friendship-wise. So, we also try not to spend a lot of time together because we are literally always together. If we are hanging out socially, we try not to speak about work.

Mathapelo: It’s been good we have learnt to set boundaries as we work and on our friendship.

Q. How do you differentiate between business and friendship? 

Mathapelo: There are no favourites in business, we are all about the bottom line getting the company to function at its best. 

Yolanda: When it is time for business, we discuss business. We know when it is time for us to be serious and be in the mood of discussing what will benefit the both of us. 

Q. As with most friendships, there are challenges that we go through. What are some of the recent challenges that you went through together and how did you resolve them?

Yolanda: It definitely has to be Covid 19. There are so many aspects we had to take care of in our business. We faced a lot. We assured each other that we have each other’s backs, and we’re still very invested in this business.

Mathapelo: Covid has been the greatest challenge I think by far, that we have been through. We honestly try to support each other where we can.

Thobile notes that when it comes to friendship, we have to note the season you are in, “your soul, heart, spirit and mind will need various forms and versions of love and support from friendships. Everybody comes for a reason for a season, this is absolutely true. And it’s important to surrender and let go of what no longer works or what no longer serves you.”

We also need to acknowledge the letting go. “Ending off friendships does not need to be malicious and ill. It is best to end friendships as amicably as possible. Which ofcourse isn’t always the case. Very sad and so unnecessary,” says Thobile, “you have to be willing to share yourself, be real and also remember to be forgiving again and again. The same way you have to forgive others for various reasons.”

Spare a minute on this day to celebrate friendships you have formed. Take to heart this quote from Mohammad Ali – ‘’Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain, it’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.’’

Happy International Day of Friendship!