Nelson Mandela: a figure of literary inspiration

By Ace Moloi

Not only has President Mandela lived a life of political interest, but of literary inspiration too, writes Ace Moloi.

The launching pad of writing careers
President Nelson Mandela has been a subject of literary interest throughout his life and beyond his lifetime. His life and career launched many writers politically and creatively, who have produced text in academic discourse, the film industry, narrative non-fiction and other creative works. It takes no effort to locate a book written in his honour in any bookshop, or to find writings on him digitally, and this alone speaks of his great influence on the literary community.

Conversations with himself
President Mandela himself appreciated writing as a tool for self-contemplation, honest evaluation and emotional health. Having spent 27 years of his active life in prison, which sometimes meant solitary confinement, President Mandela resorted to writing his thoughts, his feelings and his fears down.

In his self-reflections, published in Conversations with Myself, President Mandela makes public his innermost thoughts, pulled from his personal archive. The book classically demonstrates the relationship he developed with the pen. It teaches us – the young change agents – the importance of personal journalism, events write-ups, observations and every detail that the fast-paced society of today generally overlooks.

It is imperative that we take time to ourselves, in quietness, so as to be attuned to ourselves. In President Mandela young writers learn the value of facing themselves, and writing critically about themselves.

Love letters to Nomzamo
President Mandela and his then wife Nomzamo Madikizea-Mandela (hereafter properly referred to as “Mama”) kept the fire of their love burning through the writing of letters. Though censored and some parts torn out of meaning, it is these letters that whispered sweet little nothings of hope, companionship and assurance to Mandela the prisoner. In times of darkness and solitude, reading Mama’s words quelled the spirit of despair that
threatened to engulf him, whilst giving an account of his household happenings.

Through these letters, it was as if the two lovebirds were teaching us, young people of instant messaging, that the profoundest act of romance is a thoroughly considered, detailed love letter to objects of our love. It is as though they were beckoning us to revisit the might of the pen, the beauty of literature, and narrate our own stories of Romeo and Juliet, Rolihlahla and Nomzamo.

A man of files
Not only has President Mandela taken a long walk to freedom, he wrote about it too, so that none of us would have to travel kilometres of route to learn about our past, but just visit our nearest library to read about it in Long Walk to Freedom, a riveting memoirs that tells the story of humble beginnings, difficult moments, victory and more hills to climb. In it we find a familiarity of circumstance, which reminds us that our dreams are valid. Furthermore, we derive for ourselves lessons from President Mandela’s generation’s errors, refine their tactics and buoy up brevity as we write ourselves into existence.

But personally, a lesson I take from this book is more about the behind-thescenes of it than the actuality of its publication. In 1974 when President Mandela started secretly writing his manuscript, each page of it was reviewed by his friends and epistemic peers, Ahmed Kathrada and Walter Sissulu. This indicates – at least basically – the importance of peer-review in the writing community, correctly to say that quality assurance in literature is of paramount importance.

Moreover, the effort it took President Mandela to complete the original manuscript (500 pages) reveals just how much he valued literature and its role in human affairs. Though it was a punishable offence to write politically on Robben Island, and despite the daily back-breaking toils, he persisted in writing his story, I would imagine motivated by the proverbial expression: until the lion learns literacy, every hunting story will be to the glory of the literate hunter.

We have none of the prison hardships President Mandela was sentenced to. Instead, we have access to literature. There are more publishing options for different financial brackets. We have social media for expanded reach and networking with experienced wordsmiths. Really, what could possibly be our excuse?

Rewriting Mandela: a challenge for young writers
Much has been said about the legacy of President Mandela. He has immensely and selflessly contributed to the making of a new South Africa, and went on to become the nation’s moral compass post-presidentially. He left us not only with his politics, but his literature too. A man boasting a wealth of archives, it is up to us to go deeper: to ask the right questions, to think of him anew, to rewrite his flaws, yet simultaneously honour his rich impact on humanity.
It is through reading and writing that President Mandela became an agent of change. Therefore, we should run forward with pens as spears, and books as shields.

Ace Moloi is a Bloemfontein-based author of three books: Holding My Breath, In Her Fall Rose a Nation and Tholwana Tsa Tokoloho. His work has been featured by every media institution that takes itself seriously. For more information on his work, follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Towards a Cohesive Knowledgeable Nation

By Koketso Marishane

 

  1. A prominent African Sociologist (Prof. Kwesi Prah) once said, “if everyone is an African, then nobody is an African”. Oh well, the question then is, what’s so African in South Africa? The land? The food? Any other means of production?
For the sake of generating a dialogue around these important and critical issues in our beloved country, South Africa, we have timelessly raised numerous sensitive and controversial matters through open platforms. Our opinions have amongst others, been interrogating the visibly slow pace of land reform in the country.
Respectfully, we have recognised that land ownership has for decades been central to the anti-colonial struggle, and that land dispossession is directly and indirectly linked to the persistent challenges of our triple problems: unemployment, poverty and inequality. Moreover, our verdict has been that the exaggerated claims of the success of South Africa’s reconciliation assignment be withheld at bay till the land question has been resolved.
We’ve also raised various motions and made numerous contributions to the arguments on transforming the educational system in our country. Why is it that students in SA are taught about CV writing whilst others in developing and developed countries are trained on entrepreneurship?
In this respect, we’ve been advocating for an African based curriculum at a time when our policy makers were seemingly obsessed with the western-based models and accents at the exclusion of African experience thus rendering Africanism null and void.
We’re mindful of the continuous argument re-ignited by our former president and now perpetuated by our deputy president on the African Renaissance, however, we dismissed and continue to do so that the sycophantic verdict that these two are ‘the god-fathers of African Renaissance” whereas we know that African challenges are not purely inspired by Africanism.
In the same vein, it’s worth mentioning that the role of neo-colonial regimes and super powers in fomenting conflicts in Africa weren’t bred in anywhere but Africa. Alas, to have suggested that the new conceptualization of who is African by the former president, while seductive, is not consistent with the historical and scholarly description of identities. We also noted that identities are not formed by mere conference declarations.
We’ve suggested that one’s geographical location should not be collapsed nor confused with one’s cultural identity or orientation. After all, if anyone can be an African, who then isn’t?
Amazingly, it’s been astonishingly noteworthy to hear former president recently alluding to the historical conceptualization of the African in the ANC’s statement and his intention for further engagement. We wonder if former president included white South Africans in his statement in relation to the 1900 Pan-African Congress since being vague has become stylish like our charismatic churches?
Let it be known that we commend former president for instilling a sense of urgency with regard to the delivery of services, especially in rural areas. We also noted that the government and parliament’s commitment to effecting transformation by passing an avalanche of new legislation and establishing of institutions of democracy as stipulated in the Constitution. We have also commended unambiguously that the government’s and parliament’s efforts in affording good accounts in discharging their responsibilities.
Learning from the files made by various members of the ruling party, it’s pleasing to witness such concerns being noted. We also note with utter disappointment that although concerns have been noted, they have however been shelved aside for another president, another speaker and so forth. The President and his ruling party are understandably irritated by the frequency with which these concerns are raised.
However, they are better advised that these concerns and related misconceptions are unlikely to disappear until and unless they are addressed. Should we chant viva to raise the flag?
It is quite unfortunate, but perhaps inevitable, that the moment for executing a revolution rarely is one that is blessed with leisurely reflections. To this extent, the revolutionary, for all his zeal and purity of intent, will not uncommonly stumble in the course of his mission.
Learning from history, may we be reminded that many political systems the world over have very short moral memory in themselves. Thus, while endless authority has so often been granted to the father of the revolution in Africa and elsewhere, we’ve equally witnessed how the political system has so dramatically failed to uphold its avowed sacred duty of keeping a check on those it has entrusted with such power.
It is for this sole account that we fundamentally believe that one of the greatest challenges of political transition is the ability and willingness to affirm the human element in our leaders. Our observation is that there is no instrument for such affirmation better than an open and frank intellectual engagement.
Our periodical public submissions have been aimed at promoting a none-violence, none-harmful culture of democratic debate that offers material expression to freedoms of expression, thought and opinion. We deem this as constituting a civic responsibility, and in part responding to former president’s invitation for black intelligentsia to participate in the public discussions that move South Africa forward.
Otherwise to suggest that blacks as a singular class must ask themselves whether they’re implementing their mandate for themselves, for the country or the world begs of him the question of his moral and social conscious authority.
Our understanding of this mandate does not necessarily include chanting sycophantic praises to new regime; but neither does it exclude giving credit where credit is due. We deem this task as one of, among others, submitting probing questions for clarity of thought on a variety of matters and fostering an environment of critical thinking engagement on the basis of conviction.
In implementing our mandate, which at times takes the form of being critical of government’s policies, we have evidently exposed ourselves to some virulent, unscrupulous personal attacks. For instance, suggestions have advanced that our involvement is counter-revolutionary and typical of the pre-1994 revolutionary cum stooges who have suddenly “sprung from nowhere”.
The stated personal attacks ought to concern those who share the burden of thought in our society. It ought to concern also those among our leaders who truly dream of the masses of our people partaking in the rebirth of Africa. For one thing, no such rebirth will materialise without unleashing first the intellectual energy of the African majority.
Besides, the very nature of these personal attacks against us vividly go against the spirit of the call made by former president for black intellectuals to get into the arena of public discourse. On the face of it, it seems that the call for black intellectuals is one of ringing a false alarm.
How so, we may check, can South Africa engender a culture of true intellectual battle if there are signs that those whom history has blessed with political power have already delineated what subjects shall not be on the agenda?
The burden of intellectual and academic life is rarely seen in full measure, and express themselves in complex ways.  For example, we have had aspersions cast on our educational competence for merely raising questions about political developments within the national governing party.
To some extend, questions such as “what kind of knowledge are we imparting on to our successors”. “Will we be content with the kind of content material we’re teaching our fellows”?  Without belabouring the point, such insinuations tend to suggests that there is perhaps only one body of knowledge- truthful knowledge, that is- that awaits our begging from some venerable entity.
Our African ancestors’ angels dreamers and travellers traversing tide are fuming. Heaven knows that great minds in history like Martin Luther King, Bantu Steve Biko, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara among others, for example – knew intuitively that human advancement is only possible when the mind is freed from the shackles of geo-political, scientific, religious and socio-economic dogma. The question thus is, have Africans learnt anything from the teachings of these great pioneers so we can emulate them?
Koketso Marishane was on PowerFM this morning to talk about this. Click here to listen to the conversation.

ACTIVATE! Men celebrate women

By Gladys Nomvuyo Sebeko

In 1956 20 000 women took to the streets to fight an oppressive government. They did not focus on colour or status. The unity they shared made the oppressor listen and make changes. 64 years later we see women in high positions and some even in Parliament. The government is even trying to help women get into business and sustain their businesses.

With all these improvements, some might ask why do women still have to prove themselves before they can be recognised. Some women even work twice as hard to make sure that men treat them as equals. The question in mind will be what the march of 1956 did for women and what can we learn from it? ACTIVATE! men in the network share their opinions on why the day is significant to them.

Nhlanhla Ndlovu 2016 Gauteng Activator

Activator Nhlanhla Ndlovu

1956 was very significant; it did indeed serve its purpose and more.  Women rights were something that started in the early 1900s.  So halfway through the century, for women of different creeds, cultures and religions to come together as one was a powerful step.

This changed the thinking that women were meant for the kitchen and that they didn’t have real influence within the political landscape.  This march was peaceful and marvelously orderly. It showed up at a time of great violence, yet they did conduct themselves as such and violence didn’t erupt.  The impact was heartfelt by the ruling party at the time.

The significance herein is also due to the fact that this is was also about a decade after Robert Sobukwe’s national stance against pass laws from when the Sharpeville massacre happened.  A successful non-violent march is a significant one in our history, and it was a 20 000 women.

What needs to change today is that young women need to learn from that generation of women.  Today, women have access to just about anything and information; couple this with the tact and wisdom of the 1956 generation, their impact could be more.

Nkosana Mtshingane 2017 North West Activator

Activator Nkosana Mtshingane

I know a few people that have suffered in the hands of the apartheid regime and have not been compensated or had their names mentioned or them being recognized.  Some women even supported their husbands in exile while earning close to nothing but no one talk about that.

Women need to be acknowledged in all fields of professions and political movements.  The mentality that women are housed objects and ornaments have to end. Men need to know that women are as important as men and they also played a part in the struggle too.

Ratlou Mabula 2017 Limpopo Activator

Activator Ratlou Mabula

The march was more focused on protesting against the introduction of “dom passes” for particularly black women, even today when 09 August approaches one thing that dominates the mind seems to be the fight against carrying “dom passes.”  Women fighting “dom passes” and their demands dwelling mostly on the pass instead of right to equality and an outcry to the end of oppression.

What we learnt from the day was that 14 000 petitions were carried for presentations by representatives from each race group in South Africa.

What we currently see is women trying to isolate themselves racially to discuss transformation among themselves during their empowerment programmes.

Thus shows great lack of unity among them, resulting in a particular group feeling more entitled for empowerment and it halts progress to their slogan “Wathint’ Abafazi wathint ’ imbokodo” as there imbokodo won’t be solid”

After 64 years we see another side of the struggle for woman, the fight against violence. We have seen reports of women being killed by their partners and the law just giving the man a slap on the wrist. We also see people in high positions wining abuse cases against women and the law choosing to look the other way.

The question in mind should be what are we as Activators doing to make sure that the world treats women better? How are we helping fight the war of women abuse? Activators “it is in our hands” we cannot call ourselves leaders if we don’t lead by example.

When the power of our vote counts

Democracy in South Africa flourishes and reinforces our important role as activists to safeguard the future of South Africa

The year was 1994 on a sunny day on the 27th of April when the future of South Africa would be determined and indeed the sun would not have chosen a better day to set on that glorious day, South Africa would no longer be the same. Fast forward to the year 2017 we are reaping the rewards of the freedom that so many people sacrificed their lives and many other  people died for, their sacrifices made it possible for the millions of South Africans to appreciate the meaning of democracy in their lives.

The upcoming vote of no confidence to take place on the 8 August of 2017 to either keep or remove the sitting democratically elected President of South Africa Jacob Zuma will once again test the power of the vote. Ever since the watershed  27 April 1994 national elections and every successive 5 year term of the election period, our country has grown steadily and positively to embrace the importance of valuing the the hard won democratic right to vote. For some time it can be assumed that there has been a certain level of discontent by voters that there was no real value in voting, this displeasure as observed in previous times was visible in the passive nature of all sectors of society.

In recent times it has appeared that the civil society has found it’s voice and this has been illustrated in how communities of varying interests from the youth, business people, women and other sectors have come together keep politicians accountable. This genuine appeal to politicians by the civil society movements has led to many politicians in and outside their political parties to voice out their protestations for their counterparts to respect the voice of the public who voted them into government. Movements like the #FeesMustFall, #SaveSA, #CountryDuty which all were started by patriotic South Africans have in recent past illustrated to us what it means to hold elected politicians accountable. As activators we must indeed find inspiration in these movements that we are indeed on the right path in our journey to drive change in a positive way within our communities.

The upcoming vote of no confidence in the South African parliament will once again restore the dignity and prestige of the meaning of the vote in South Africa that when South Africans wake up every morning when elections are held to elect the government of their choice, they do not do so because it fashionable and have enough time to play instead the millions of South Africans who face the rainy, cold and at times sunny weather participate in the elections because they want to realise a stable and prosperous country. The notion that power lies with the people and through their vote they affirm their willingness to exercise this power responsibly, this fervent gesture must not be taken for granted by politicians. The period of elections in South Africa is another way to reflect back as a country on where we are and where we want to go. The parliamentarians who will be voting in the vote of no confidence in the President must have this reflection in their mind.

If anything is to be taken out of the recent activities by the social and civic movement, is that politicians will no longer take the trust the people place on them for granted. The sudden new found voice of the civil society which appears to be  organised and resourced with human and financial resources whose sole aim is to safeguard the democratic gains and build a better future have accepted that South Africa will never fall when they are still alive. The motion of no confidence has been debated before and previous motions did not have this huge public interest as the upcoming one is having.

Whichever way this motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma will go, one lesson that must be taken from this coming one is that South Africans in their majority have a sense of ownership and sense of influence in how the politicians they voted in power will vote. Democracy indeed flourishes when the power of our vote counts.

Themba Vryman is an Activator and writes in his personal capacity.

 

 

 

Sanitary Towels, a Right or a Responsibility?

In a country where some people barely have enough water to live from while others have more than enough to waste; the government really needs to be held accountable for not delivering for the rights of its people. However, with a constitution that has so many rights to cater for, what is it that the government should prioritise? I mean, is it more important to build shelter for the young boy who is being taught under a tree or to make sure that he has food to eat while he continues to obtain an education? Moral dilemma isn’t it!

While the government of South Africa should be able to cater for the needs of every last citizen with its wealth and tax income, we all know that the reality is that the ‘government’ is most likely to do the bare minimum for the neediest beneficiary. This is usually for either damage control or to obtain support during an election. With that said, I am sure that we now agree on the fact that the government system of South Africa is in no place to protect, let alone promote, the rights of its people, especially the youth.

Now that we have that established, this is my point: whose responsibility is it really to ensure that young people in rural areas have sanitary towels? Straight answer: the youth themselves! Let me elaborate, if the government cannot provide you with employment so that you can easily afford to cover the rest of your basic rights such as life, acquirement of basic needs, education, etc, what is to say that making sanitary products a human right will force the government to actually provide them for the young ladies who need them across the country? And if they do, will it not be another escape plan to say we couldn’t build schools as the budget was utilised to ensure that all the young women of our country are supplied with sanitary products to ensure that we promote their human rights? What are the chances that the government will provide sanitary products that are even worth using?

Instead of adding to the plate the government is already not able to handle, why don’t we start taking responsibility for each other’s needs? Yes, we must hold the government accountable for issues of national interest that involve policies that we cannot change. Issues such as quality education in the rural areas, infrastructural advancements and developments, and improving the strength of our economy; amongst other governmental issues. These are the areas that we have little to no control over. We can create our own business with the resources we have within our own communities and employ each other to end youth unemployment; each graduate can become a trustee with their former university and donate as little as R100.00 a month to ensure that the university has money to sponsor students who cannot afford a university education. These issues, like that of providing sanitary towels, are issues that we can handle ourselves so that we have a leg to stand on when we tell the government to govern the country. It is for us to manage our resources and make of them the communities that we would like to see. The government is meant to do just that, govern!

So here’s my proposal, why don’t we approach companies like Always, Lit-Lets and Lifestyle and say to them: “For every set of sanitary product bought, donate R1.00 towards free sanitary towels that will be delivered at schools across the country”. Assuming that 10 of the 49 million South African citizens are to each buy a set of sanitary products as least ten times a year that is R100 million donated towards providing free sanitary items for schools. While this vision may seem too broad, if there be such a thing as an idea too broad, it is surely attainable! If not for the sake of social responsibility, then the brands mentioned above would definitely want to do this for publicity. Either way, it is a win-win situation and the government does not even have to know about it!

Another idea that is closer to home is that other young people, both girls and guys can run sanitary product drives in their respective communities. Imagine a South Africa where the people actually did things for themselves, you can see it right? Now wake up and make it a reality! It doesn’t start far, just one social media campaign with the hashtags #NationalSanitaryProductsDrive #YourRightMyResponsibility can awaken a lot of young South Africans to dedicate three hours of a day in their respective communities to collect as many sanitary products as possible. Be it at a drop off centre or through going from door-to-door. If each suburban community collects at least 500 sanitary towels each, at least one million sanitary towels will not be impossible to expect from each province!

So yes, having sanitary products is important. It is so important that having it written in black and white makes it sound so trivial! It seems like just another thing that we want to get for free; it takes away the context of the child who lives in a rural village with no one but her grandmother and younger brother; and has to walk to a school where other children are dropped up by their parents in expensive cars. Bad as the education may be, that is her only ticket out of poverty yet now she cannot access it because she cannot go to school for a week in each month because she does not have a means of controlling and containing her menstruation. This goes way beyond it being a part of nature and it being embarrassing, it is yet another reminder that she does not have. It reinforces the misconceived notion that she will not amount to anything, it supports the little voice that says ‘you can’t even afford simple pads, how will you ever be a doctor?! Quit while you’re still ahead.’ Allowing this girl that reassurance that she is worthy of being protected and invested in by her peers is a far better message than saying to her that it’s not like you chose to have your periods, someone owes you!  This will show her that it is important to take responsibility for your own development and the welfare of those around you until such a day that South Africa elects a government that can effectively run it.

Now that you’ve read this, play your part!

#YourRightMyResponsibility

Photo credit: LiveStrong.com

I am Woman, Hear me sing!

So Women’s Month is here and our thoughts are turned toward ourselves as the “tender gender.” I can already see the hackles rising on some of our suffragette inclined sisters, but I beg you to hear me out and judge after you have heard all I have to say.

I grew up having to be strong. It was, as life led me to believe, a matter of survival. Losing the central male figure in your life at the tender age of three years, leaves a deep wound and a strong survival instinct rooted in independence and self-sufficiency. I became so centred on preserving my own life, I had no time to save anyone else’s. Including my baby’s.

He came into my life when I felt least equipped or prepared. He came when he was least wanted by his father. He came and changed my life irrevocably, simply because he was real. He didn’t live to see the light of day. He didn’t live to see my face, or for me to see his. But he touched my life more than any human being on this planet.

I allowed him to be aborted. Doing that killed more than just “a fetus” inside me. With him died a part of me, and the life I had painstakingly built around childish hopes and dreams. I wanted happiness without any responsibility, bliss without sacrifice. But I ended up sacrificing the one human being who had ever been fully dependent on me.

It cost the life of my child to shake me out of my downward spiral, and it almost cost my own life. They say God moves in mysterious ways, and I can certainly testify to that.

Years later I found a place called Hope Pregnancy Crisis Centre. A haven for women like myself who are pressured either by a husband, a boyfriend, their family or their own fears to end the life growing in their womb. Just as I was, they are pressed into becoming a tomb where futures die, instead of a womb where the future thrives.

Hope. I wondered how things might have been different if I had known about a place such as this in my time of angst. Hope. I learned with heartache that my baby had already had a heartbeat, something the pre-abortion “counselling” at the abortion clinic had failed to reveal. Hope. I burned to spare any and every woman I could from the painful loss I had experienced.

Strong woman, your strength is in being a life-giver. You are not, and were never, meant to be man’s equal. You are meant to be his complement. Just as he is meant to be yours. The power of the womb is being attacked by every conceivable force in the name of “choice” and “equality”.

The question facing us now is: are we going to fall for the deception that we are “equal” to men? Are we happy to be able to “do anything men can do”? Or does our ambition reach higher than that, to do what no man has ever done?

I was privileged to be able to volunteer at Hope Pregnancy Crisis Centre recently. There I met two amazing women who chose to do what no man has done. They chose to give life. They chose to give God a chance to provide a future. They chose dependency. They chose to take responsibility.

The beauty I saw there is unrivalled. There remains something magical in the wonder of a newborn child that is incomparable. It proclaims the power that we women have, not only to produce life, but to nurture and cultivate it. To protect it with the ferocity of a she-bear. To lay down our life for the furtherance of a legacy and a new generation of hope.

It speaks of selflessness that would make Joan of Arc seem egocentric. It illustrates a power and capacity to have a hand in changing the future in a way that no man can. It is the flower power unique to the tender gender that does not mean we are incapable.

It is a dependency that has the power to call forth the hero in a man. To make him more than he even thought possible, and not by nagging and whining. No. By simply being his complement, we can raise him up to a level of manhood that even he never dreamed possible.

Ladies, the power to change the future is in our hands. But we must fight the good fight with the weapons we were born with and not be the egg beater trying to cut the bread. Let’s make meringues, sisters! Let’s be the sweetness of this life today. Let’s be women who don’t need to do “what men do” in order to prove our worth.

Our worth lies in who we are, not who we can equal. Let’s embrace that! Let’s be the life-givers we were created to be. It is not too late. Not for me, not for you. Your life-giving womanhood may be deeply hidden, but it is not lost! Choose to uncover, recover and rediscover the power you were born with.

I am woman. Hear me SING!

A male is born, but a man is built

The founder of Inyathuko Community Project, Snqobile Mkwanazi, convened the mens` seminar under the theme “a man without a vision is a man with no direction’’ at Inanda (ohlange). The objective of the seminar was to groom the participants to strive for change in society. The community members came out in numbers to engage on the topic which speaks directly to how men should portray their characters and play positive roles in the community.

Snqobile addressed participants about character. “Character is determined by the behaviour, love will build the character and it is impossible to disseminate something you do not have therefore change has to start within men.” He said they need to convey positive actions which will influence younger generations. He went on to say that principles will serve as navigation toward what is good for the community, if males are in a standard to be called men they need to earn it. Men implements thoughts, they speak their minds, and serving the community is a norm to men said Snqobile.

Pastor Sipho Shezi from Ohlange, addressed the essence of a man and outlined that a male is born but a man is built, the man is the image of God. He said for a man to have vision, he needs to live under the supervision of God. He said in this century we have more males than men, large numbers of males are in jail because their thinking capacity contributed to actions that lead them to be imprisoned. He added for males to become men they need to know their values and virtues and set principles.

Care Works spokesperson Goodday Majola, who is a community mobiliser told men to use condoms or use birth control. He then encouraged men to go for circumcision, and he said using condom if you are circumcised will contribute to 100% safety. He said it is irresponsible to have sex without condom.

The key note speaker, Malusi Mahlaba shared his journey of growing up without a father. He said he had faced many overwhelming challenges with no one to mentor him. Mahlaba is a true example of from adversity comes success and against all odds, his situation drove him to become the founder of the Lindelani Youth Forum. He emphasised that the participants should play a man’s role in their families. He presented statistics that found 63% of youth that commit suicide are from fatherless homes and 71% of all high school dropouts grew up without a father. He said education is the key and men should play their part in making change. The stakeholders who contributed to the successful event were Development Youth Art and Empowerment Business, Africa Unite and Democracy Development Programme. All participants were given symbolic yellow ribbons. It’s hoped the ribbons will remind participants that they are no longer males but they are men. The ribbons should inspire them to drive change in society.

Sinazo Peter a Future Shaper

Flim-maker, activist and community development worker

“I had a difficult upbringing owing to my family background and circumstances that forced me to be an adult at a young age. I had to sacrifce my youth to respond to the needs of my family. Having lost my parents at a young age, I had to look after myself.”

“Through hard work and determination, I completed highschool and went on to study filmmaking at Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking. In March 2017, I represented young women in community development in Zimbabwe, USA and Italy, where I shared my experiences as a young leader and activist in South Africa.”

“My community development initiative Best Dads Movement, sets out to address the challenge of absent fathers and irresponsible men in society. We groom young boys to be better men. We’ve created a platform for these young men to have dialogues with each other and share their challenges to help each other grow.”

“One day I would like to have a childrens home where kids are exposed to experiential learning after school, according to their interests. I want to transform lives and contribute to raising responsible individuals in South Africa and the world.”

Red Africa – #RIPPhilela #RIP_Philela

Sincerest condolences to the family, friends and comrades of the late Philela Gilwa. May his efforts and dedicated works outlive him!

Red Africa

Blood red

Dry and red
Barren and bare
Africa is as red as Mars
Dry as the lips of her hungry
I guess she must also be hungry
What other reason can she possibly have to eat her own children?
Children that she bled to bare
Children that she dared to raise against all odds?

Blood red

The same belly that carried them alive
Has become the grave that houses their dead bodies

Blood red!

Bones like thorns poking and piercing the heart of anyone who dares to come close enough to make a difference
Death sentences are no longer left to the judicial system
But are rather the last prayers of young people who dare to take a stand against injustice

Blood and bones

Mother Africa
Turned into a hot Mars that preys over her young
A place of interest
Where outsiders live more comfortably that the natives

Blood

Blood dripping off of the claws of the monsters that have worn Africa like a glove

Ironically not to protect but to exploit her

Blood

Screaming for justice… For mercy… For a chance.
Chris Hani has now become a noun
A name dressed in “gang violence” and suicide
Accidents that “unexpectedly”, yet conveniently, murders young Africans
Men and women who dare to speak the truths that have been marked taboo

Yet their blood cries

Their blood marks Africa
Azania
The land of their ancestors
Azania
Their blood echoes
Azania
Their blood screams
Azania
Blood red
Azania
Hope for the redemption of Africa
Azania
Hope to repossess Africa from the claws if the animals that use her as a pawn
The claws that snatch her young through her own fingers
The claws that Chris Hani her sons and daughters

Blood everywhere
My blood boils with rage
It’s enough!

Azania!

Hear the cries of your children

Cradle them

Protect them

Comfort them

Tell them that everything will be okay

Become the home they long for…

CPR them back to life

Protect your bloodline

Red Africa!

How long will the Blood of Africans stain your streets oh Africa!

K.D Mashile

Another article about RAPE!

Research shows that at least one in every six American women has been a victim of a sexual offence, or an attempt thereof, in her lifetime. In South Africa, on the other hand, it is said that about 40% of all South African women have been victims of rape. Shocking? And these statistics are only based on the cases that were reported. A survey showed that about 91% of all rape cases go unreported. In spite of the extensive research done and published, the various organisations established and all other efforts to fight the demon that is rape, we still have an approximated 2000 girls between the ages of 15 and 22 being infected with HIV/AIDS on a daily basis, most of whom are infected through rape. The question people ask is, “If she was really raped, why did she not report it?”

As simple as it may seem to report a rape case, it becomes difficult because society still dresses up rape as a reaction instead of a disorder. The issue is not that she did not report the case; it is rather that she was raped. Therefore, the process of reporting the case should not be punitive to the victim by prolonging the traumatic situation she has been forced into. To solve the rape problem, the perpetrator must be addressed, not the victim. Hence, asking the “if” question is in itself a problem, as it suggests that she could possibly be lying – which, to be fair, is not impossible. However, rape is a real issue that needs urgent attention.

Women and children are being raped in their homes, schools and workplaces. Yet the first thing we are conditioned to ask is, “what was she wearing” or “why was she alone with him in the first place?” Why do we continue to teach women, the victims, how not to get raped instead of teaching men how not to rape? Is this not the insanity of repeating the same process and expecting different results that Eistein spoke of?

Take the currently trending Xola and Kamvelihle case for instance, what do we as young leaders do when one of our own suffers the same injustice that we claim to be fighting against? Is it enough to share her pictures with the hashtag #MenAreTrash or leave a “We Believe You” comment on her status? This cannot be all that is done. Before we know it, everyone will forget and move on with their lives until another case comes up and a new hashtag is created. This passive activism is not taking us anywhere. We must educate our young men from as early as preschool on how to treat women. The same way little girls are taught to cover up, little boys must be taught to respect women. Pop culture will not raise the next generation of men not to rape, we must. Organizations such as Love Life, ACTIVATE!, Lead SA, Citizen ZA, etc. can only do so much! So make your “I believe you” count by going to speak at the local high school about gender based violence, run campaigns in your community, run a talk-shop with the young men in your neighbourhood, do something!

We must actively be about the things we talk about. One does not have to be a feminist to realise that gender based violence has got to stop. The stranger that little girls were warned about is suddenly not as scary as the man that claims to love her. This shows that there is a great need for young people to be taught how to relate to each other when issues of community development are concerned. It becomes futile to raise up men who seem to be leaders in the workplace, in politics and in the community but fail to be decent human beings at home. If for no other reason, it is futile because it means that they will breed a generation of men who will have the same struggles that we see today.

There has been a lot written on the topic of rape, so much so that we have begun to become apathetic. However, this is ironic because rape happens even in the most intellectual of spaces. Instead of telling you what you already know, I am rather going to call you to action. Be the difference in the spaces you find yourself in. Bring up the conversation in your classrooms, at work, in the bus that you take every day, in your friendship circles… educate the men around you and compel them to educate others. The only way that we are to fight rape culture is to stand up as a collective and say enough is enough.

My “I believe you” to the rape victims around me led me to write this article so that your “I believe you” can become an action that will aid you never to have to “believe” anyone again. Change begins when you and I take a stand and stop being passive activists!

Photo credit: Wonderslist

South African Government Brain Damage?

A sachet of sugar introduced me to an old proverb that reads, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” I immediately thought of the #NationalShutDown and #ZumaMustFall marches. I thought to myself, isn’t this another elephant fight at the expense of all the people at the grassroots level? Say Jacob Zuma falls, what happens then? Can the firing of a single man really guarantee the betterment of the lives of South African people?

Another thought reminded me of the state of our country. Assuming that South Africa in its entirety is a body, with the government as the head and the poorest of the poor at the very bottom; South Africa would be sitting with a very bad head injury at the moment. Our government is meant to make decisions that will benefit the rest of the body and if the brain’s decisions are harmful to the body, it is seen as a mental disorder. To avoid assuming that the country is retarded, I would rather assume that the country is temporarily in a comma of sorts. This meaning that we need some change to occur to avoid permanent brain damage.

As young people in South Africa, we are not only the largest population group, but we are the ones most affected by the government, or lack thereof, of our country. The businesses we build; the education we get – whether or not we can afford it; and the investments we make are affected both directly and indirectly by the decisions that are made in Parliament daily. This means that we have to play an active role in awakening our country from its current comma and minimise any further damage. The question that arises is how we are to do so?

In 1976, young people got tired of the plague of Bantu Education and consequently stood up to inform the government that it had to be remedied. This class of young people wanted to see change, in spite of the tolerance of the mediocre education system that they were socialised to be content with. And because of their willingness to undergo the much needed surgery, in spite of the risks, the country was then cured from that plague. This cure, however, brought with it the side effects which included fatality and trauma; all this so that the youth that are parented by the class of ’76 could have better opportunities to develop themselves and better South Africa.

However, the fall of Bantu Education was only the removal of one of South Africa’s brain tumours which resulted from the cancerous system of Apartheid. While Democracy cured this cancer, the youth of 1994 and beyond are still affected by the colossal economic failure that is still evident in the ever growing youth unemployment rates. With the country being declared economic junk status, the hope of the 55% youth unemployment rate dropping is seemingly non-existent. In today’s world, where young people are most likely to religiously study the tweets of a certain personality than read historical texts that will educate them on how to remedy the state of our nation, there is a serious need for the re-commitment of young people to the development of South Africa.

When asked for her observations of the struggle of today’s youth, former anti-apartheid activist Zubeida Jaffer said something along the lines of, “What made us successful is that we had a common goal and we believed in the cause. The problem with today’s youth is that there are too many focuses. There is no common goal.” We cannot expect to succeed while we’re busy cutting at the symptoms of our country’s mental state instead collectively focussing our energy on removing the cancer cells that have our country in its current comma state. This will require of us to decide on what the issue is. And if it is that we say that the government is leading the country into poverty, with youth unemployment being at the top of the side effects list. We must then agree on the most pressing tumour we would like to remove first as we cannot have too many surgeries happening at once. Are we going to focus on the Free Education Movement, on making Zuma fall or on land redistribution?

If we successfully attain Free Education, how will that affect the economy? Will it create job creators or will it mean more unemployed graduates? Similarly, will land redistribution guarantee job creation or will it be a repeat of the serial retrenchment fever that followed the closing of industrial factories after the 1994 elections? And how will the surgical reshuffling of the presidency ensure that the country wakes up from this comma? Will the power that corrupted him not corrupt the next president likewise? The questions are endless, yet we seem too quick to follow trends instead of asking the correct questions then lead from an informed position.

We are all in agreement; something must change today if we don’t want a has-been history written about South Africa forty years from now. South Africa needs urgent surgery. My question to the young leaders out there is, “How must this surgery look and what results will it yield”? 

Photo credit: Elderconsult.com

 

Activators share their thoughts about Mandela Day

In 2008 during Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday, he said, “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.” The United Nations officially declared 18 July as International Mandela day in 2009.

Mandela day was founded so that people recognise the power they have in changing the world, starting with the people around them. The Mandela Foundation further explained that Mandela Day exists to recognise individual power to make an imprint and help change the world.

With all that being said we wanted to know what Mandela day meant to Activators, this is what they had to say:

Bongi Ndlovu 2013 Activator

SA needs all South Africans to come on board, not just one day but everyday to build the future 

“I think Mandela Day is an insult to us Activators as we work on building our communities 365 days a year. We don’t wait for one specific day of the year to do something. In fact, I would like to suggest that Activators take a day of rest on the day while SA joins the crucial need to work together to build SA for the better.”

Nonhlanhla Dube 2016 Activator

“Most of the people who talk about 67 minutes for Mandela Day are not avid volunteers. I get that sometimes it’s all people can afford to do but sometimes the stuff they do out here for Mandela day end up looking like a joke. As  an avid volunteer and activist, I think people should have something they stand for not just on Mandela Day but everyday. Don’t make noise about it only on July 18. Giving time and resources to those who need it shouldn’t be done one day in a year. I’m all for making it a Mandela day every day.”

Sphiwe Mgadi Activator 2016

“67 minutes for Mandela Day would sound better if land was expropriated with compensation, workers’ salaries are increased, service delivery improves and support of artists from all sectors take place. That is what I would expect South Africa to focus on on Mandela day.”

Phephisile Nkanyezi Activator 2016

“The day brings hope to many, it brings people together and if there’s something that South Africans stand united upon, it’s the spirit of the Mandela Day. Tatu Nelson Mandela is the back bone and pillar of our democracy, liberations, he is the very reason we have freedom. Our state of reality is a direct result of very big and sometimes hard decisions he had to make.

As an Activator this is a good reminder that a man gave his life for my liberation and it is my responsibility to take off from where he left. Mandela Day is a reminder that I have something to give to my generation and even if it may look impossible, if I put my mind to it, it’s possible.”

Activators who are part of the youth making local government work joined in on the Mandela Day conversation, coming up with what they think the solution could be. Activators opted for a different initiative on the day. They proposed a silent campaign that will make the Mandela Day volunteer promise continue by ensuring goodwill continues beyond Mandela Day.

The Youth Making Local Government Work team said, “We want to make sure there is real change in people’s lives not just for a day but for a lifetime. It is obvious that South Africans are keen to change our country for the better. Like Tata said, it is now in our hands to bring change. We urge Activators who want to help us make sure that Mandela day leaves an impact on people’s lives to join us in our campaign, they can do this by asking for more details at the A! help desk.”

Activator Motsatsi Mmola is going to Norway in August!!

As a disciplined ACTIVATE! Network and rural Limpopo ambassador, I will make sure that I create long lasting strategic partnerships that can bring about real change into the lives of the poorest. I will make them realise that our people are capable of excelling when given the right information and support.’’

These are the words of hard working Limpopo-based Activator, Motsatsi Mmola, who is selected to represent South Africa in Oslo (Norway) in August. Her European training trip aims are to empower African community developers.

Motsatsi co-founded Bophelong Youth Project in 2015. The Zebediela NGO, Lepelle-Nkumpi Municipal based organisation improves the community by providing assistance to children with homework assignments, educational programmes, health programmes, therapeutic programmes for children and developmental skills especially for orphans and vulnerable children.

Over and above fulfilling its mandate, Bophelong Youth Project has also been involved in key social development care service initiatives like, basic health care to the community, Direct Observation Therapy (DOTS) to chronic patients in the community, food parcels and clothes to needy families and community health work courses.

Later this year, all selected trainees will participate in the global youth leadership exchange programme. Trainees will be allocated to help differently startup community development projects across Africa. Motsatsi has been assigned into a Kenyan NGO that is need of someone who has her leadership skills.

Motsatsi says she intends to use all the European and Kenyan information and contacts to empower Limpopo rural areas.

‘’Opportunities like this come only once in your life. So, I am going there with a specific, measurable, realistic and timeless unconventional plan that will see all those around me benefiting for many decades to come,” says Motsatsi.

The Public Management graduate attributes her passion for community development and astute leadership to ACTIVATE! Leadership, her mentor Patience Raseona and close friend Junior Kenya.

‘’Although many people might see this achievement as result of my ongoing hard work, resilience and determination, for me the real heroes and heroines of my success are my mentors Patience and Junior and of course the Activate Network. They all helped support me, even during the days where I wanted to give up,’’ says Motsatsi

The soft spoken young leader who has encountered countless challenges still refuses to allow what she calls ‘’the lethal, luring luxury and self-centered material world treasurers’’ to deter her from making life changing contributions in people’s lives through her community developement.

“The love for my people, community and country couldn’t allow me to sleep well at night while knowing that there are dozens of young promising souls that will die poor because the system deliberately deprives them access to academic information that could change their lives forever. That and many other social injustices are the reasons I decided to do what I am doing,’’ she says.

‘’For many years, the capitalist system thrived on unpatriotic and gullible rural educated youth who found comfort in opting for easy money making careers. That is one of the reasons today you see all these big cities or successful empires continue accumulating wealth while rural labour scrambles for scraps. Rural born youth give themselves over to be exploited rather than building home towns and their own facilities,’’ Motsatsi explains

Supporting youth and their initiatives is the only viable solution

Independent community development expert Motlalepula Mmesi believes continued support by all key global economic and social stakeholders will benefit from thought provoking youth led initiatives like that of Motsatsi’s. Eliminating most social ills (like crime and unemployment) and shift in focus toward fostering entrepreneurship among youths could be one of the most effective means to mitigate both unemployment and social affliction in disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

‘’Inclusive community development should, in theory, produce long lasting self-sustaining minded people and communities. Unfortunately that is not happening in the current South African social set up because our outdated system still restricts innovative youth ideas and initiatives. We, as the country can only move forward if government authorities, economic captains and civil society formations fully support young leaders like Motsatsi.’’

Social change drivers all over South Africa congratulated Motsatsi Mmola and wished her well in the forthcoming European training and African continent exchange programme.

Youth employment: Uncertainties, gaps and A! potential

Youth Social Justice Warriors:

The Challenge

I mostly find myself in social justice spaces, NGOs, progressive campaigns and conferences. My profile is built around that and it’s what drives me. Considering all that is happening and the power that I have to drive change, I find being on different platforms exhausting. I have a formal educational background in Communications and Public Relations and it’s working for me. On the other hand, I have acquired a skill in advocacy for reproductive justice and development. It is an impacting work space that highlights my capabilities. However, I have fears concerning stability in the long run.  I worry about buying property and working towards long-term investment. Working in a space that expects me not to seek financial reward for my efforts, how likely am I to still have a job in the next few years? How do I invest more in myself?  What kind of seeds do I plant and who do I trust as a committed strategic partner? Through that uncertainty, we still need ensure that we impact lives, influence policy and still be able to eat. We live under the pressure of having to work hard and not seek reward for the fear of being accused of not being passionate enough. This is the nonsense that denies us the right to acquire wealth. We are limited and unfortunately not privileged to inherit wealth. Instead, we have to seek to restore our wealth as folk of colour. But what happens when we don’t even have a door to knock on?   

Finding long-term partners within ACTIVATE! 

When I started at ACTIVATE!  in 2015, the first people I met were Lance Louskitier and Ramontsheng Rapolaki . We became good friends and colleagues.  Ramontsheng and I once attended an event organised by fellow Activator, Soulitude to commemorate the late Steve Biko.  At that event, we witnessed a lot of black talent in music and spoken word. We realised that these talented young people are in the performance arts industry but are unknown. That triggered our anger towards biased media and together with Lance, we decided to establish an online media platform, ‘Afro-Stories’ to showcase marginalised talent.  Afro Stories is still in the development stages and will launch by the end of 2017.  Lance and I work in sexual and reproductive justice, but in different intersecting spaces. He is in academia, and I am in Advocacy and communications. We work well together and have facilitated workshops in this regard. We both form part of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition, but recently earned our own stripes as the youth champions for HIV prevention programmes working with marginalised folk.  We are currently implementing a grant that was awarded to us by the International AIDS Society after applying and motivating the importance of our work in our communities. The grant covers our professional costs and we’ve managed to secure stipends for our volunteers. Furthermore, we are looking at how we can expand this project and make it sustainable and profitable.   

The answer lies in the Network 

So, what exactly is my point? Well, I’m just sharing how three members of the Network worked together in coming up with ideas that do not distract our work but contributes towards putting food on our tables.   We all lead very busy lives but we found time to secure a seed grant. Think about the possibilities that can come from this Network if members sat together, found ways to bridge skills and came up with profitable ideas. This Network could have its own economy. 

We are not free while freedom is still locked up

In 1976 in Soweto,hundreds of school children confronted white police who opened fire on them, it was kids’ initiative and courage to act and try to bring about change. They sacrificed their lives for the state to be liberated, and many were brutally killed.

Siyabonga Memela, 2017 Activator said Freedom is a state of being able to create options and choose from those options. “Justice has not been made as well as reconciliation,” said Siya. For reconciliation to happen whites have to give back the ambitions that were stolen from black people “mostly the Azania (Land)” he added.

Siya said the freedom that the youth of 1976 were fighting for is still a vision as it is alive in words, “To me freedom is limited, for the individuals to experience freedom they need to have power – economically, culturally, politically.” Apartheid is not dead, politicians are using technics to colour-blind the black mind, they drum peoples mind to believe that they are free, while they are landless and living in slums with shortage of service delivery. He also emphasises that the SA system is promoting capitalism, most of the people who are in power see the citizens as a economic and profit motive, which is similar to the apartheid regime, “The main question I have is, we are freed from what?” People are not free while freedom is still locked up, apartheid continues by other means. Siya outlined that the education system is a stimulation of apartheid, and it brainwashes people and instils the idea of being employed and prevents the innovations that black people have.

With a bittersweet voice he mentioned that people are dying from poverty while the powered political leaders’ live luxurious lives, “It is painful to sleep with an empty stomach not knowing whether you will find something to eat or not when the sun rises.” He concluded by saying that apartheid is not dead but it was upgraded to being a psychological fight, black people have to tighten their belt and see beyond what is being presented to them, and develop their mental and physical state.

 

 

Fight for job creation not free education!

The young people of South Africa have been fighting education systems for the better part of the past four decades. With the struggle against Bantu Education in 1976, to #FeesMustFall in 2015 and the recent demands for free education, there seems to be no rest for the typical South African student. At the end of the 2016 academic year, the government responded with a commitment to have a commission set up to investigate the feasibility of free tertiary education in South Africa. Students submitted suggestions of how this could possibly be achieved. Possible solutions ranged from suggestions of annual decreases in tuition fees until such a time that higher education is free of charge, to suggestions of a redirection of funds budgeted for other state functions. Students are adamant that free education is not only feasible, it is probable.

However, with the recent elephant fights in our government, it is inevitable that some grass has been trampled on. With the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, openly speaking out of the party saying that he is not begging for a position at the expense of serving South Africa, there may be hope that the plea of the students will be heard. Yet, with the country’s current economic state, do students still want free education if it means that they may not be able to use it anywhere outside the boarders of South Africa? Moreover, with 51.54 percent of young people being unemployed, is free education more pressing that job creation? It is important to note that obtaining a degree no longer guarantees one’s employability. Instead, companies are looking for experience and practical knowledge of the work over theoretical knowledge.

Instead of free education, why don’t young people opt for government funded apprenticeships and internships to be included in the university curriculum for each course to ensure that graduates have both knowledge and experience in the work they will be required to do? Moreover, this will aid graduates to venture into private practice and become job creators should they not be able to find work. A university student once said, “Should our careers not work out, let’s start a business. I know someone in Accounting, I know someone in PR, I know someone in IT…” these are the kinds of mind-sets that university discourages us from having.

Although education is said to be the key to success, it is only as important as the doors it opens for each individual. So, instead of educating ourselves on the latest format of a CV, we should look into educating each other on the latest format of a business proposal. With each right comes a responsibility, and it remains the graduate’s responsibility to ensure that someone else graduates after him or her. The educated young people of South Africa have the responsibility to ensure that they create opportunities that will either pass down the key or leave the doors open for others to also succeed. Choose to become a job-creator and not a job-seeker. Vuk’uzenzele! 

Owning our struggle 23 years later

41 years ago the young people took to the dusty streets of Soweto to demand an end to the unjust Bantu Education system and the oppression of a Black child in the country of his own birth. There the oppressors opened fire and many lost their lives while all they were fighting for was a just system and the creation of the South Africa of their aspirations.

41 years later the new battle has begun with the same spirit of stone and fire, this new war will be defeated when the young people of our country use the same energy and spirit to fight our present day struggles and battles, the struggle of inequality, poverty and underdevelopment, and the struggle of a commercialised educational system that has been commercialised at the expense of the masses of our people. At times like these the thought provoking question when education is commercialised that we ask ourselves is that: is education still the most powerful weapon regarded as human right that can be used to change the world, or is it the 21st century commodity which has led to the formation of multi-nationals in the fields of education to amass large amounts of profits while those who can’t afford end up suffering from financial exclusion.

The annual June 16 commemorations should enable us young people to redefine our generational obligation as Frantz Fanon urged us, and the best way to fulfil it is to become true to the cause and to remain focused until we have defeated the struggle. South Africa and the African continent needs young lions who will roar fearlessly and who will be shaken by whatever life throws at them.

South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and one of the best solutions to this trajectory is to create a stable labour market that will create stable jobs and one that will absorb job seekers, this requires a strong consistent Private Public Partnership between government, corporate South Africa and civil society to invest in the labour market South Africa, the same way government invests in education is the same way government must invest in job creation, the same way corporate SA maximises profits and sales is the very same way it must invest in creating quality permanent jobs, the very same civil society organizations that maximise their impact in developing communities through the grants and donations that you acquire should also include job creation as one of their community development endeavours.

The second challenge that we face as young people is that of low entrepreneurship levels in South Africa, this being despite the fact that South Africa has as a youthful population, yet it has the lowest entrepreneurship levels in the world according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, yet many young entrepreneurs are faced with the challenges of access to funding, access to markets, access to networks and building of stronger customer relationships. Above all we need a strong and vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem that will strengthen and enhance the growth of entrepreneurs, funding is not a problem but all that entrepreneurs need is access to markets and exposure that will enable them to tap into markets and get clientele and to eventually to get profits.

Above all we need to own and champion our struggle, the struggle against commercialised and colonised education, this struggle will not be achieved by burning roads and facilities but by massing knowledge and organising ourselves to fight the challenges that we are facing as young people.

Kwame Toure, one of the founders of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party once said: “Organisation is stronger than Mobilisation, because organisation builds consciousness while mobilisation builds numbers.” As we strengthen our fights against the challenges of inequality, poverty, unemployment and inequality and also poor entrepreneurship participation, and above all fighting against the colonised and commodified educational system, and strive to create an educational system that addresses the gap and disconnect between schooling, varsity or college graduation and entering the job market. To do that that requires that we become organised and conscious, that’s the best way to defeat the struggle.

Through consciousness and organisation is the best way to also create strong vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem that will build and strengthen the entrepreneurship development amongst youth led businesses and to eventually create jobs and fight inequality.

As we celebrate Youth Month, we must be mindful that the future and greatness of South Africa and the African continent is meaningless unless its linked up to the total empowerment and development of young people. All that will be achieved only if we own our struggle and champion it and stay true to it.

Photo credit: Babak Fakhamzadeh

Has the injustice that occurred on the morning of 16 June 1976 been corrected?

In 1976, the South African apartheid government introduced the compulsory use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools for learners in grade 7 –  formerly known as standard 5 for those of us born before democracy – and upwards. This was greatly opposed by learners, teachers and principals. Teachers weren’t well equipped to teach in the language, which was for most, a third or foreign language.

According to various sites like Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy, that’s when Soweto based learners called a meeting and agreed that on the 16th of June 1976 they would gather in a mass demonstration against Afrikaans. As planned, on the 16th thousands of them set off to Orlando West Secondary School. The plan was to move to Orlando stadium, but someone was clearly on the government’s payroll because before they could even leave, the police arrived and formed a wall against the students telling them to disperse. Without cooperation from the learners’ side, the police fired the first shot straight into the crowd. All hell broke loose and the students fought back by throwing stones at the police and burning down property.

(Sounds similar to the #FeesMustFall marches that had happened all over South African universities since 2015. They start out peaceful until the police interfere using brutality, causing the main point of the demonstration to be overlooked, turning it into a media spectacle. But that’s a topic for another day.)

The number of people who died is estimated at 200, according to SA History Online. The number of wounded people was estimated to be over 1000.

Afrikaans, which is respectfully a home language for a significant number of South Africans today, was the language of the oppressor during apartheid. The language was forced upon many non-Afrikaans speaking citizens through various circumstances. For example, if you were a domestic worker in an Afrikaans household you had to learn how to communicate in Afrikaans.

In most of our schools today there remains no other language to choose to learn besides English and Afrikaans. English is mainly taught as a home language, to most students that speak a native official South African language at home, and Afrikaans as a first additional language, which most of them never actually use anywhere. This is usually the case in multi-racial “Model C” schools that say they want to cater for most the learners in the school, which in most cases aren’t even Afrikaans speaking.

My question is if they want to cater for the majority of learners, then why Afrikaans – the very language our Youth Day heroes were fighting against – and not any other official language?

According to census data from 2011,isiZulu is the most widely spoken language in the country with 11,6 million speakers. It is followed by isiXhosa with 8,15 million speakers, then Afrikaans with 6,85 million speakers. Wouldn’t Zulu then be the language that learners should be learning as a second language for those that have another language as a home language? (with the exception of those that have Afrikaans as a home language –  English would be their second language)

I remember having a talk with one of the learners I tutor over weekends. She goes to a multi-racial “Model C” school where the majority of learners are black. They, like many other similar schools, only have the option of learning English and Afrikaans. She struggles with Afrikaans and says that although the issue of teaching other official languages has been brought up several times during parent meetings and SGB meetings, they are always given the excuse that there isn’t enough staff to cater for the demand. Her father, like many other black parents in the school, is concerned that his daughter is not learning her own home language, but is instead learning a language that won’t be useful to her in our current post-apartheid era or even career wise.

The school’s claim that there aren’t enough teachers available to teach native languages can be disputed by research done by The South African Civil Society Information Service that shows that newly qualified black teachers struggle to find jobs as opposed to their white counter-parts that are frequently hired. “Model C” schools like the one my learner goes to has mainly white teachers, which explains the “inadequate staff to fulfill the demand” excuse. It can therefore be argued that there are teachers available for the demand, but they just don’t hire them.

Surprisingly, they have one learner at the school who is being taught French instead of Afrikaans because she never learnt Afrikaans in primary school. French? It isn’t even an official South African language. And yes, the learner is of South African origin, just not black. And no, I’m not playing the race card (although they could be). I mean, they can cater for one individual’s special language request and not for a larger group that has made several pleas to the school asking to be taught their home languages?

It would be blatantly ignorant to say that all schools do this. There are a lot of schools, mainly black government schools, that give their learners a variety of native languages to choose from.  However, black parents that want quality education for their children through private schooling (Model C schools) also deserve to have their children learning their home languages. There are government schools, like the one I went to –  Glen Cowie Secondary school in the rural district of Ga-Sekhukhune in Limpopo – that are able to cater three different home languages (without including English) with only around 300 learners in the whole school.

These parents aren’t forced to take their kids to these schools and these schools are at liberty to teach any language they see fit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. My biggest concern is why Afrikaans is almost always the first option a school chooses to offer as a second language. This even happens in schools where there isn’t even one Afrikaans speaking learner.

I think we are still living under oppression unconsciously. The cause the learners of 1976 fought for wasn’t fully corrected. Schools don’t have to teach in Afrikaans, but learners still have to learn Afrikaans. 

Activators share solutions to unemployment

“Economists described the shocking unemployment rate as hopeless, helpless and a failed state. But patriotic youth should view this economic tragedy as a challenge to step-up and move the country forward’’ – Entrepreneur Activator David Lekgwathi

According to the recent employment report, the South African unemployment rate increased to 27.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from 26.5 percent in the previous period. The number of unemployed persons rose by 433 thousand to 6.2 million, the highest since at least 2001. Employment went up by 144 thousand to 16.2 million. Job gains occurred in the formal non-agricultural sector (181 thousand) and in private households (21 thousand) but losses were recorded in the informal sector (-14 thousand) and in agriculture (-44 thousand). The labour force increased by 577 thousand to 22.42 million and those detached from it fell by 421 thousand to 14.63 million.

Dozens of concerned South African youth including Activators shared their views on the best ways the country can avert further precarious economic spiral and job losses.

Maximise rich human capital reserves

Cape Town based entrepreneur and social change driver, Thembinkosi Matika accepts that the recent economic downgrade is one of the major setbacks this country has ever dealt with. The optimistic Activator is convinced that all is not lost. According to Matika, there are countless innovative, efficient and effective strategies that young people can use to address the national unemployment crises.

“Every family, community, region and country’s wealth is always in its immediate inhabitants. Powerful companies and countries are where they are now economically because they perfected investment in people. Therefore my primary suggestion is that South Africa should immediately set up independent platforms that will enable skill transfers, business collaboration and economic peer empowerment. As young people we have countless skills, resources, networks, talents and power. These things alone can help us as youth in creating employment, transforming the national economic agenda. Life has over and over again, taught us that human kind has the potential and power to rise above crises. We too as the country will, can and should overcome this one.

Collaboration is the only solution

Northern Cape based social change driver and entrepreneur, German Jacobs who often creates jobs for financially smart and economical savvy graduates believes that access to markets for the majority of emerging entrepreneurs is one major job creation barrier. According to Jacobs, collaboration among key stakeholders like government, civil society organisations and business sector.

“Government should adopt a policy which indicates that government departments should make more use of local entrepreneurs in their prospective areas than using outside provinces. On the other hand, society must start to support their immediate job creators by buying or rendering each others services. This will help job creators to generate and increase their capital reserves and ultimately create more jobs.” 

Political instability an immediate threat that must be addressed

Kwazulu Natal based social change driver and creative arts convenor, Silindile Lokishi Martin believe that the country’s unemployment crises can be attributed to the current national visionless and self-centred political leadership that needs to be changed.

“South Africa is very rich only for the economic elite who by the way we can’t completely blame for the current unemployment. The real culprits for all this mess are the corrupt sell out political puppets. Their normalised nepotism is crippling everything. The first solution is to get rid of them and fix our education. Our education must now stop creating job seekers but competent entrepreneurs and skilled self-sustaining minded graduates. Our desired employment solutions will only be realised when we have addressed these key social challenges.”

Unsolved economic facts to consider

Renowned youth business coach Amanda Mackenzie, believes that ethical leadership, sustained employment and responsible capitalism in an inclusive economy is the only solution for South African unemployment challenges.

“Youth unemployment should not be viewed as an isolated economical challenge but rather as one of many things that this country’s old age socio-economic system has failed and will continue to do so if we don’t do anything about it. By the way, I also don’t believe the formal sector is going to provide the levels of employment we need to effectively address unemployment in this country. The young unemployed people need to be at the forefront of micro-jobbing systems. That system must offer relevant real, job market experience opportunities for our youth to earn an income while studying. This is very much possible. In fact, this purely depends on business sector willingness and commitment,’’ said Mackenzie

While addressing global business and economic world business executives and diplomats at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, President Jacob  Zuma admitted that the country is struggling to deal with the growing unemployment rate of young people. President Zuma pleaded with world economic powers to support and invest in South Africa for job creation initiatives.

Photo credit: Peacechild.org

The Youth of 2017 and beyond must emulate the youth of 1976

This year South Africa will be celebrating the 41st anniversary of the activist struggle of young people as led by the youth of 1976. The youth of 1976 had defined themselves as pioneers, change drivers and solution providers who would not allow even death itself to stand in their way. These gallant young martyrs stood up for the youth of 2017 to rise, it is sad that some perished as a result of their selfless pursuit to achieve a better future for the youth of 1976.

Today varying youth constituencies in the country continue to benefit greatly from the commitment undertaken by the youth of 1976. As activators we need to undertake an absolute process of unconditional soul searching and reflect on where we are, how we got here and why we continue to be. This reflection must speak directly to the grand dreams the warrior girls and boys of 1976 had wished for us, we must do so bearing in mind that the baton we carry in our hands of ensuring a successful future for the many generations of young people who will come after us is guaranteed.

ACTIVATE! as a programme solely dedicated to the upliftment and empowerment of young people has enabled and created a platform for young people across the country to drive change in their communities. Chief amongst the defined character of this social change which must directly benefit the community is encapsulated in the strategy and direction these organisation has pledged allegiance to, in taking the activate work forward.

Activators as agents for change must be everywhere, they must have the capacity to influence, provoke, connect and inspire their peers as those who led the 1976 uprisings did to their own peers. Everyday Activators seek to do the most for their own communities and at times this commitment by Activators goes unnoticed. Activators at most continue despite the many challenges and obstacles they come across. Activators as influencers in their communities must forever remain unflinching in their determination to do what is good for their communities, Activators must forever provoke interests from the members of their communities to tag them along in their journey to effect necessary changes in their communities. 

The hour of the change driver can no longer be postponed, that moment has arrived NOW.  Activators as young people are at the forefront of great opportunities to be frontline agents for change, these very crucial opportunities brought upon through the sacrifices made by the youth of 1976 cannot be taken for granted. Through our actions as Activators and agents for change we must be able to influence the national discourse on what the state of the nation in South Africa should take shape, this influence we must be able to easily impart to our communities through our commissions and ommisions. An ideal citizen that can find favour with the community that can easily be identified as a change driver shall easily connect her/his community for a greater good and purpose.

We take great pride as agents for change that an official ACTIVATE! facebook page has more than 5000 people whilst the unofficial facebook page has almost the same number of Activators who have been part of the formal ACTIVATE! programme. This statistics must confirm one reality that for every Activator there are almost two people outside the network interested in the work we do. This serves as confirmation enough that as Activators we have a greater responsibility to ensure we connect more with the outside world.

The connection Activators must expand to the outside world must go beyond the reach of our own communities, today the name of Hector Peterson is known nationally. Hector Peterson went beyond the call of his community demands to answer the national call of driving change across the country. Today as the youth of 2017 like the those who came before us in 1976 must take forward our work of driving change inspired by the adopted themes in the network of INFLUENCE -CONNECT – PROVOKE-INSPIRE.

The hour of the change driver is NOW, we must not postpone it. As we celebrate the youth month may we find inspiration from the youth of 1976, to achieve the grand dream of the youth of 1976 to uplift and empower our communities and preserve the future of the generation of young people who will come after us.

Themba Vryman is an activate change driver, a social activist and writes in his personal capacity.