It’s hard to believe that Seth Naicker, a quiet and slightly rebellious teen from the South of Johannesburg in Lenasia , is now an outgoing, outspoken, vibrant leader and passionate family man. “A lot of people who knew me as a child can’t believe it. I was shy, quiet and to myself, so people are pleasantly surprised to see how talkative I am, and witness all that I have the honor to do in the service of people, leadership and culture matters,” he says with a grin.
He was born in Chatsworth in KwaZulu-Natal, but his family moved to Johannesburg when his father sought employment in the big city.
“I grew up in Lenasia Extension 10 with my parents, siblings and our caregiver and domestic worker,” he says. “As was the case for many children who came from a home with a caregiver during that period, she practically raised us. She cooked, cleaned and made sure we were well. She was an important part of our lives, and then went onto retirement, but no longer part of our lives. I am grateful to Ouma Salome and for her care during my days of growing up.”
Extension 10 was established in the Group Areas Act during apartheid South Africa. Seth remembers travelling on foot to school, passing a large squatter camp which clearly showed the social divisions, and barriers that segregated their community.
When he was in his preteens, Seth’s parents moved to Hillbrow, the vibrant inner city of Johannesburg which presented better work opportunities and allowed them to be closer to work, and save money. They wanted to buy their family a home. Seth and his siblings were left in the care of their extended family members which they were grateful for but was not the comfort they had with their parents.
“My brother was a fairly busy kid and family members struggled with him, and would discipline him. There were times when I wished my parents were around,” he says.
Life in Lenasia
"Later our family was reunited when we moved to Lenasia South, and into our first family home. I was a generally well-behaved child, stuck to my school books and enjoyed playing soccer," he explains.
In high school, as a teenager finding his way, Seth became part of a group of friends who enjoyed playing soccer and dressing and mimicking the style of cool and trendy Latino gangsters, which sometimes landed them in trouble.
Music has always been an integral part of Seth’s life. His father, a lover of music, learnt to play the guitar in the streets of Chatsworth and with folk who knew how to "chuck the buck". His mom played the accordion and also enjoyed singing. Seth is also an inspired singer and guitarist his wife Merrishia plays the piano, his daughter plays the violin and his children love music.
After successfully completing matric Seth applied to study social work and industrial psychology at Wits University in Johannesburg but had a rude awakening when his parents told him that there were no savings or financial means for future studies.
“I was confused, while my dad had worked for most of my life and my mom worked at a bank, we were not at a place for me to transition into tertiary education. I took on odd jobs fixing air conditioners, then later working at a pharmacy, and later date capturing, customer services and sales,” he says.
He didn’t stop wanting to further his education, but with the realities of life had to face reality and commit to working and studying. After securing a full time job at Transtel and completing his first year, he was offered a bursary to study through the company. However, in the same year he was invited to join a volunteer youth programme at Youth for Christ. In 1997, Seth made a big decision to follow his heart and his Transtel days were over. With Youth for Christ theatre, dance, music and public speaking were used to spread good news and values-based living to young people locally and abroad. Seth worked as a volunteer until he was promoted to a full-time position in a project management and programme director role. By then he had met Merrishia and the seed for doing justice and reconciliation work to tackle race issues in South Africa had been planted. The two got married on Freedom Day, 27 April in 2001.
Seth’s work in youth ministry had gained him much respect and he traveled locally and internationally while leading project Ithemba. He was asked to speak and lecture. In 2002 he spoke at the Baptist Theological College in Randburg on youth work and youth ministry. His desire to further his own studies was reignited and an opportunity to study abroad presented itself. Seth was awarded a presidential scholarship in 2004 to study at Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the US.
Today Seth has completed a BA in biblical and theological studies, and reconciliation studies with a minor in political science. He also has a Master’s degree in organisational leadership with a focus on inclusion, diversity, justice and reconciliation, a research project that allowed him to do interdisciplinary research drawing from youthwork, theology and leadership.
On his return to South Africa in 2009, he and Merrishia revived indiAfrique, a social business founded to work with communities, faith-based organisations and corporates in the areas of conflict resolution, diversity, transformation, gender-based violence as well as healing and reconciliation.
Seth was contracted through indiAfrique to streetfootballworld, and served as a project coordinator on the Football for Hope youth festival in FIFA 2010. A year later in August 2010 he joined a youth skills development company called Young and Able, and Heartlines, in a collaborative effort to mobilise values based justice and reconciliation leadership.
Seth and Merrishia have served together at Youth for Christ, Christian Revival Centre Ministries, Bethel University, Sanctuary Covenant Church, Jeshua RCA, Via Christi URCSA, established an emerging faith/church plant #churchoutofthebox, while serving at Heartlines.
Seth has had a relationship with Heartlines for over 10 years, working as a consultant and associate on various projects.
Regarding what has kept Seth’s passion for Heartlines programmes going amidst his other career achievements and entrepreneurial pursuits, he says:
“We’ve done amazing work across SA and internationally, which has impacted many lives. Heartlines is on the beat to mobilise values-based change and transformation. By doing so we are able to present initiatives, ideas and national efforts to unite in a society and world that continues to be divided... The work we do is courageous, innovative and able to reach multitudes of people through online and offline engagement," he says.
"Values based transformation is necessary and has the potential to shift us toward positive impact, justice and an equitable future for all. We are addressing difficult matters in our country with fierce urgency, and it is our mission not only to help people live values-based lives but also to see our nation and its leaders do well.”