In 1976, young South Africans came together to play a pivotal role in highlighting the injustices of apartheid; they risked their lives squaring up to a heartless regime and secured a place in history for their role in liberating the country. They left a lasting legacy. Now, the young people of this generation are looking for ways to make their mark on South Africa’s history.
Brand South Africa and the Sowetan, through the Play Your Part/Sowetan Dialogues, invited youngsters to The Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton on 18 June to discuss the issue. The event coincided closely with 16 June, the 38-year anniversary of the Soweto Student Uprising, in which school children protested the introduction of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in schools.
YFM DJ Moeti Tsiki, also known as Mo Flava, facilitated the dialogue and panellists included Simamkele Dlakavu, a One Young World Ambassador and producer on e.tv’s The Big Debate; Neliswa Fente, co-founder of SpringAGE, a youth-led innovation company; and Nzinga Qunta, an ANN7 TV presenter and entrepreneur.
Tsiki kicked off the dialogue asking, “[In 1976] Young people with no guidance from political parties managed to organise themselves and go against the apartheid government. After 20 years of freedom is the youth of today, who don’t share the same struggles, able to leave a lasting legacy with no common goal?”
The answers were enlightening.
Fente expressed the need for “intergenerational dialogue” for today’s youth to learn from their forebears; she said, “What we need is inter-generational dialogues that will see youngsters interacting with older people … with both learning about each other’s struggles and not the other believing they know better.”
Fente represented South Africa at the One Young World Conference in Zurich in 2011 and in 2013 she sat as an Advisory Board Member for One Young World. She is also a South African Spark Change Maker for 2013 and was named one of South Africa’s Top 20 Inspiring Young people of 2013 by Youth Village.
One Young World is a group of the world’s brightest young people solving the world’s problems.
She added that young people need deliberate spaces to collaborate to reach their goals.
Dlakavu introduced her thoughts with a statistic, saying that more than 80% of SA youth are not involved in civic organisations and lack organisational skills.
She added that “Structural and infrastructure issues hold youth back from fulfilling their potential, but many persevere and make it.”
She believes that a common goal brought the children together in 1976, but that today young people live in an “individualistic world” that advocates personal achievements, making it difficult to have common goals.
To address this, Dlakavu believes that youngsters need to have the “spirit of service” where they take time to do for others at no benefit to themselves.
“Before the elections we were in Marikana and I was touched when young people had organised themselves in groups and tutored each other because they had lost a lot of schooling time … instead of sitting at home complaining they decided to do it for themselves and educate one another,” she said.
She added that young people are not short of role models and concluded by saying, “We need to move beyond selfishness and towards being of service to others.”
START WITH YOUR PASSION
Qunta believes that for youngsters to leave a lasting legacy they should follow their passions and forget about the grand gestures.
She described working with volunteer organisation Cheese Kids for South Africa, where the founders also followed their passions; she said, “When Cheese Kids for South Africa was started we were at a garage with [founder] Shaka Sisulu and decided to go paint an orphanage for the day.”
Qunta believes that to make the country a better one, all who live in it need to contribute; “If you’re living in South Africa during this democracy and you’re not doing anything to extend yourself beyond your family and friends, then you are not doing anything to make this a better country.”
She also addressed youngsters’ sometimes unrealistic expectations, saying, “Another thing the youth of today need to do is forget about all the glamorous careers, because who will build roads and infrastructure if we are all DJs?”
“There is a bit of swag in being a farmer,” she said, to much laughter.
She concluded talking about her own passions and goals, saying she plays her role in improving South Africa by being in the media, distributing information, and added that in order to leave a lasting legacy, youngsters need to identify their passion to know where to play their roles.