Located at the southernmost tip of the African continent, Pretoria is a city with great political and historical symbolism where the Hellenism of Diaspora is still actively present. Pretoria is both the seat of the region’s 100-year-old historical Greek community and the seat of the SAE Africa-Near/Middle East Region headed by Regional Coordinator Charis Gouvelis.
Gouvelis is in his 40s and being in this relatively young age it was inevitable to set the young as a priority supporting them with all his powers with the belief that they should become even more actively involved in the structures of the Greeks living abroad.
In statements he made to ANA-MPA, the Greek public-run news agency, he maintained that an emphasis should be given to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Greeks and the young people of the 25-40 age-group, who are not involved in the activities of the Greek community being occupied with building their careers and making their own families.
Gouvelis focuses the SAE Africa-Near/Middle East Region action on specific points such as administration, improved communication with Greek communities abroad, the Networks of Businessmen, Youth, Scientists etc., education and culture, supporting members of the Greek community that face problems, drawing up special projects such as the digitalization of the Archives of Hellenism and the greater involvement of the Greeks in local societies abroad. Gouvelis himself is a bright example, considering that following a decision by the South African President in 2004 he became a member of the South African Committee for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities aimed at strengthening the democratic structure of this African state.
The SAE Africa-Near/Middle East Regional Coordinator puts a special emphasis on the language issue pointing out that greater attention should be given to teaching Greek to students as early as in kindergarten and to the establishment of more language certificate-issuing examination centers.
Gouvelis also expressed concern as regards the protection of the archives of local Greek communities that used to be blooming and are now on the decline.
He appeared optimistic about the future and ready to assume his share of responsibility stressing that the “new (SAE) law makes the regions stronger assigning to them new duties and responsibilities.” He set as a goal to “raise SAE’s level even higher and improve our goals even more.”
Charis Gouvelis’ identity
Charis (Charalambos) Gouvelis was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In 1989, he graduated from Wits University with a degree on African Politics and International Relations and in 2000 he received a master’s.
While a university student he served as chairman of the National Association of Hellenic Youth Organizations of South Africa (NAHYSOSA).
In 1991, he was elected to the Germiston City Council and in 1995 was reelected as ANC Party Representative Councilor.
He served as City Councilor for roughly 10 years, four years as Executive Committee Member and five as the Chairman of the Legal and Constitutional Committee. He also served as ANC Germiston branch treasurer for three consecutive terms.
He worked as Public Sector Division adviser for Price Waterhouse, served as “Operation against Crime” programme director and was a senior Institutional Analyst for the South Africa Development Bank. Since 2001, he is the owner and director of a plastics production company.
In the period 1998-2002, Gouvelis was the chairman of the Federation of Greek Communities and Organizations of South Africa.
He served as SAE Asia-Africa Coordinating Council member for two terms.
He is among the founding members of the HIP alliance.
In 2004, South African President Mbeki appointed him member of the Committee for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. The Committee is a constitutionally established body guaranteeing Democracy in South Africa.
In December 2006, he was elected Africa-Near/Middle East Regional Coordinator for SAE.