Mandisa
Mandisa
Mandisa

The drive to defy
New T-Roc

Powerful characters make history. Defiant ones rewrite it.
#DrivetoDefy celebrates resilience, self-belief and the people 
who embody those traits.

Powerful characters make history. Defiant ones rewrite it.
#DrivetoDefy celebrates resilience, self-belief and the people 
who embody those traits.

Who do you think you are?

Society will try to answer this question for you – if you allow it. Yet there are people among us whose ambition and resilience have led them to defy social expectations. They fight stereotypes and prejudice at work. They face depression and self doubt at home. But still they rise. What powers them? A relentless drive to defy. To launch the new category-defying T-Roc, Volkswagen is celebrating the spirit of defiance that lives within us all. Embodying this drive, are six unstoppable individuals who were born to break conventions. From South Africa’s first black female combat pilot to a trailblazing ballerina who rewrote history. Every aspect of #TheDriveToDefy focusses on people who dare to take up space. Featuring Kitty Phetla, Major Mandisa Mfeka and the incredible artists who’ve worked behind the scenes to bring these stories to life. Together, they are our Defiant Ones. Experience their journeys for yourself.

Major Mandisa Mfeka

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“The dogs chased us into a field. We were covered in mud and reeds that went above my head. I had to drag this man onto my shoulders. There was no other way to get a clear line of sight. Escape and evade. It was grueling but if exhaustion took over, that would be the end of us. 

Yes, it was a drill. But how would I survive a live threat if I gave up then? I bring the fight – even in training. That scene where I’m dragging the parachute took me straight back there. People will taunt you, say you’re too small to do this job,“Cheese girl”. I defied them and their perception of me. If I’d quit, it could’ve been used as an excuse to say all women are too weak and fragile for the airforce. 

Defiance became by strength. My parents were both teachers. We couldn’t afford the flashiest clothes but they always prioritised our education. I didn’t just inherit a love for maths and science from them, but my survival instinct too. On a mission, you need to engage everything you have to the fullest. 

Shutting out the noise and doubts can be the difference between life and death. 

Even as an athlete, I had to push harder to achieve the same level of physical endurance as my male counterparts. It’s so much more than an academic exercise. Flying takes heart, mind and body. When we went to airshows as a family, I’d run up to the fence at flyovers. Seeing those jets soar overhead left me breathless. 

Mandisa Survival Instincts
Mandisa in the skye

At the time, the fence didn’t seem insurmountable. It wasn’t a financial or social barrier. To that little girl, it was just like the trees or grownups who blocked my view temporarily. My head was already in the clouds and it felt incredible. I knew where I belonged. I knew my place was in the sky. It was only when I got older and saw the airforce from the other side, that I realised how much I had to overcome to get where I was destined to be. Black women still face a lot of resistance in roles that are more physically demanding. But if we push back twice as hard, together, no barrier will hold up.”

Kitty Phetla

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“It was so dark. The ringing in my ears drowned out the music. I knew at that moment, if I didn’t defy my fear, I’d never dance again. 

We had just buried my mom. It was the hardest week of my life. A few days later, I was set to perform as the principal dancer. I could’ve bowed out, but my mom had sacrificed too much for me to let insecurity steal the spotlight. 

I had an incredible instructor and supporter in Martin Schoenberg. He’s always kept me focussed on our craft and the stories we tell through ballet. 

It’s weird, I’ve never stepped off stage thinking, “Yes, I nailed that performance.” My head immediately starts to churn through what I could’ve done better. Mastery is impossible but that doesn’t mean you should stop striving for it. This whole experience feels intensely personal and surreal. 

Shooting at sunset on the rooftop that morning was incredible. I felt infinite, powerful, but tiny at the same time. Creative energy is so much bigger than us. When I go on stage, a force flows through me. No ego, no Kitty – just the dance. I can’t see the audience but I feel their presence. When I was on stage in Russia, there was no fear. I was alone in this snowy, alien place yet I felt calm. 

Kitty in the dying swan
Kitty in the township

I performed ‘The Dying Swan’ in a black tutu made just for me. That was Martin’s vision. Suddenly it was okay not to fit in. It was better than okay. 

As a mentor, he took a timid little girl and gave her the audacity to stand tall. That’s the sense of freedom I want to give my students. They should never believe that because they look a certain way, they can’t make their presence felt on a world stage. South Africa’s professional dance industry is small and wonderful. But it can also be brutal if you let other people get inside your head too much. Listen, respect, visualise, execute. 

Put passion aside and be honest about what you don’t know. Remember where you come from. That’s the strength I carry with me wherever I perform. I’m a proud Alex girl. My ancestors, my mom, brother and a higher power, I believe they’re all looking out for me. I want them to be proud of the person they see.”