My 2018

By: Nomvuyo Gladys Sebeko

My 2018

My tears have formed a river that can’t be compared

To any river that is known to be the biggest

Or the Ocean which is praised to be the widest

My 2018

Heart has be torn into so many pieces

That it can feed the whole nation and still have left-

Overs for the neighbouring countries

My 2018

My self-esteem is lower than the temperature in Australia

Anyone can feel it from miles away and sometimes

It is used as a tool to bring me down

My 2018’

My body has been a home to hungry wolf man

It has carried them from top to bottom,

Made them happy and feel warm

My 2018

My strength has been stolen and replaced

With weakness and fear, the power in my bones

Has been replaced with doubt

My 2018

With all that said, please promise me that;

You will not add on what 2017 has done

But put sugar on my wound and give me Love, Peace and Happiness…

Now that #FeesHaveFallen, what now?


Over 250 youth from across South Africa gathered at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria to participate in the inaugural Green Youth Indaba on the 31 July 2014.

The theme this year was ‘Advancing Youth Interest in Green Economy and Sustainable Development’ and was hosted by TOSACA Media Group alongside other green partners such as the Water Research Commission (WRC), South African Weather Service (SAWS) and the Department of Energy and Department of Environmental Affairs.

Speakers included from the private, public and NGO sector included:

  • Green Economy Specialist at The Innovation Hub, Dr. Charity Mbileni
  • Founder of Generation Earth and UNEP Youth Ambassador , Ella Bella
  • DBSA Green Fund Manager, Michelle Lytte
  • Head of Green Economy at the Gauteng Economic Development, Noxolo Mthembu

Speaking at the opening of the Indaba, CEO of TOSACA Media Group and Activator Calvin Makhubela said, “This initiative seeks to create a platform for young people to be exposed to the green economic opportunities in South Africa and engage with both government and private sector to enable an environment for youth to participate in the economy.

The Indaba focused on four topics; renewable energy, climate change, waste management and water conservation and as part of the event, delegates participated in breakaway sessions to discuss and debate issues around climate change, how it affects youth and what youth can do in their homes and communities.

Green youth entrepreneurs were then given an opportunity to pitch their practical innovative green ideas to a panel of investors such as Wits Business School, The Innovation Hub, Nissan SA, and Industrial Development Corporation.

The ideas were practical solutions that can be implemented in our homes, communities and provinces.

For example, Tumelo Mashile and Mandla Mdluli of EnGenius Green Solutions pitched an idea of a mobile treatment plant that would purify water in rural municipalities using technology powered by solar panels.

The aim of the Green Youth Indaba is to sensitize and empower young minds about the opportunities within the green economy, explore economic opportunities for young people within the environmental sector, engage youth to play a pro-active role in addressing issues related to sustainable development as well as address the stigmas about taking up careers in the environment or green field.  

For more information about the Green Youth Indaba, visit

5 mins with Fernando

What’s your passion? Realising my potential by bringing about change in my community, especially working with young people.

What change are you keen to drive? After my background with drugs and gangsterism, which led me to jail for seven years, I am trying to reinvent my community, revitalise it. I want to work with young people, give them skills and guide them away from choosing gangsterism and substance abuse.

How are you driving change?

  • ‘Serve Is’ campaign, which is an awareness and youth volunteer movement
  • A golfing project, using a vacant piece of land close to our community for young people to learn and play golf
  • Finding solutions to the wetland / waste problems in my community
  • An E-block community resource centre.

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change? ACTIVATE! connected me with a lot of like-minded people leading to work opportunities and working together. A highlight was learning how to run community dialogues and getting different people to participate.

What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country over the next five years? Being informed, educated, knowing our rights and holding government accountable in a non-violent way. We are so privileged to have an opportunity to become skilled and educated; our parents didn’t.

How do you motivate yourself? I set myself reasonable goals and timeframes and work on my personal issues.

Final comment? One of the hardest things is not getting too attached to and depressed by social issues. My vision for South Africa is too see young people standing up and becoming role models in our country. Be yourself, be real and pursue your dreams.

Activator Recognised for Driving Change

With South Africa’s education system constantly making headlines for the wrong reasons, Activator Kefilwe Bopape is in the spotlight for making a positive difference in the lives of pupils from her hometown of Hammanskraal, KwaZulu Natal.

No longer able to accept the bleak circumstances in her area, Kefilwe decided that something needed to be done if her community was going to change its situation and uplift itself. She started the organisation, ‘Life After Matric’, to provide high school students with the knowledge and motivation to make better career choices and aim for success in life.

‘I saw a community facing the challenge of unemployment, teenage pregnancy and crime as a result of dropping out of school [and] then identified the need to do my part in helping to educate the youth,” she says in a Youtube video about her organisation.

‘Life After Matric’ currently has five members who provide tutoring, information about and transport to open days at tertiary institutions, assistance with bursary applications and motivational talks and life skills to high school learners.

In July this year, Kefilwe’s contribution to society was officially recognised when she was chosen as the ICC Buying Group’s Young Community Shaper for 2014, an honour which came with a grand prize of R60 000 in funding to help grow her organisation further.

“With the money from the competition, we are looking into assisting schools to get computer labs and spreading the funds between the portfolios we have – which includes marketing and advertising – and also organising career days, trips to open days and various other events.” 

Kefilwe says the idea for her organisation was born while tutoring primary school children in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, during her studies at the University of Cape Town in 2010 as part of the SHAWCO programme – a student-run NGO based at UCT that aims to improve the quality of life for individuals in developing communities.

“It burned in me to start something similar in my own community so I changed my tertiary studies to the University of Pretoria and invited fellow students to help with career talks and motivation in our home area,” she says. “I believed I had found my purpose.”

Kefilwe has been living that purpose ever since by providing hope, knowledge and inspiration to high school students in her area.

“We are a team of five people including myself, three of whom are studying, one person is working and the other is on a gap year. We tutor on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays and currently work with one school in Kanana, Hammanskraal.

“Kefilwe has been doing a good job as we see an improvement in the marks of our students,” said Mr Sithole, principal of Legwelereng, secondary school. “She has been able to raise the standards and we are very happy.”

This year, Bopape and the rest of her young change driver team registered as a non-profit organisation and continue to do work within the community to the best of their abilities.

“We aim to offer certificates to our learners for best achiever as an incentive and also to motivate them to work hard and are looking into having manuals that will assist our volunteer tutors and keep them prepared. All these are plans we have and still need to be executed as this is our first funding,” she explains.

Kefilwe acknowledges that there is still a lot of hard work ahead but is confident that they will go ahead even it if means helping only one student at a time. 


‘What is leadership?’ This is the question a group of youngsters from some of Cape Town’s townships sought to answer as they spent a Saturday morning discussing leadership and the qualities that came with it.

The dialogue was being hosted by Activator Mkhuseli Madiba at the JL Zwane Centre in Gugulethu where about 25 mostly high school-aged youth leaders gathered.  

Explaining the reason for the dialogue, Madiba, who is also an executive member of the Township Youth Movement based at JL Zwane Centre, said that South Africa’s future success will depend on a new crop of leaders. These leaders will need to be cultivated though.

“In the past, South Africa came through different transformations of leadership. There’s so much happening, so many young people doing things,” he said. “This space is for us to converse about what we can do to take South Africa forward. It’s our time now.”

Madiba, along with his members of the Township Youth Movement, are also using the JL Zwane Centre as a hub for youngsters in the township seeking an alternative from mischief, usually after school, and are building up a small library with a few internet terminals.

The organisation is also planning to host a Youth Imbizo where young people will be invited to discuss their challenges and the role that leadership can be used to bridge these obstacles.

“There’s a great gap,” he said. “There’s been a break but there’s been no plan set in place for us to take over. Leadership can’t be given to us, we must take it!”

After introductions, Theophilus Booi, facilitator for the dialogue and fellow Activator whose Mfuleni-based Community Youth Parliament had some members in attendance, divided the youth into five groups. Each group then spent 15 minutes discussing what characterises leadership.

“Leaders get things done”, “…are motivators” and “…are magnets”. These were some of the conclusions that came out of the groups.

Most of the participants had a grasp on the essence of leadership and could recount anecdotes from their communities on the importance of figures who had provided leadership, but as they sat, discussions swiftly moved to not just leadership, but also the challenges facing the communities in which they live.

Asked how his organisation identified the members of the Mfuleni Youth Parliament, Booi said they had sought out youngsters who were already active in their communities.

“Not only leaders, but young people who are eager to create change and advocate for service delivery [in their communities],” said Booi.

Members were also recruited through schools in the area, and Booi said through this effort they had built up relationships with local principals in the Mfuleni area.

Booi is a first year Activator and said that his outreach to schools in the area also served the purpose of recruiting future Activators.

“The ACTIVATE!! platform is a broader platform and gives young people the opportunity to network with other people from around South Africa. That’s why we’re trying to get them involved, they need the type of information that ACTIVATE!! can give them,” he said.

Madiba added that the Township Youth Movement would be holding monthly sessions with Cape Town youth to discuss a variety of issues which specifically affect them.

“We want to bring youth together from different parts of Cape Town to express their needs and their wants and what should be done. We’ll be working with them if they have ideas and connect them with people who have resources and can assist in bringing our visions to life,” he said.

Originally from Limpopo, but having lived in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, Madiba studied at Tsiba Education and said that it was during a trip to Canada in 2011 as part of an exchange programme that his eyes were opened.

“Travelling to Canada and living in a different community opened my mind. I was intrigued by so many people there who were disadvantaged. Who was their voice?” he said.

While Canada is relatively well-off for its citizens, Madiba said the conditions there were bad for the poorest members of its society.

His experience in Canada prompted him to get involved in international and youth development.

Madiba acknowledged that most youth development is championed by politicians for their own ends.

“There are many doing something [in their communities] but we are all separated. The Youth Imbizo is a space for connecting us and working together to make a much more powerful impact,” he said.

Through collaboration and activism, Madiba said the young people of South Africa can bring about change, and not only through politics.

“My passion is in Gugulethu. I have adopted this community and work is mostly in the townships which were created to oppress people. We do have opportunities, how we make them work is what I’m trying to find out.”

Championing the African Youth Charter

“Understanding the Economic and Political Landscape of Africa” was the theme for the recent African Youth Charter Summit (AYCS) hosted by Zayrah in Magaliesberg, South Africa. Zayrah is a youth led development agency focusing on socio-economic development in fragile states. Young Africans gathered to reflect on the status quo of the Charter in their countries, share experiences and chart a way forward for youth’s meaningful contribution towards full realisation of the Charter.

The African Youth Charter is a political and legally-binging framework which provides a strategic direction for youth empowerment and development activities at continental, regional and national levels the continent. The Charter was adopted in Gambia on 2 July 2006. The Charter is in line with the African Union Commission (AUC)’s efforts to provide an avenue for effective youth participation in development process and is part of the efforts to implement the AUC’s Strategic Plan (2004-2007),The Charter aims to touch on pertinent issues that affect youth in the continent.

The discussions were framed around the reality many of the young people in the room were experiencing. One of these realities is the existence of national youth policies to guide countries. This is covered under Article 12 of the Charter, which calls on AU member states to develop cross sectoral policies and programmes, which take into consideration the inter-relatedness of the needs of youth. South Africa has signed and ratified the Charter and has a national youth policy in place. However, it’s efficacy and how far-reaching it is when it comes to transforming the lives of South African youth is another issue. Botswana, as a case in point, was one of the first African countries to introduce a youth policy in 1996 yet, their government has yet to sign or ratify the Youth Charter. While on the other hand, a country like Tanzania has ratified the charter, it has placed reservations on certain articles.

As part of its effort to fulfil Article 14 which provides for Poverty Eradication and Socio-economic Integration of Youth, youth from Zimbabwe presented an overview of the land reform of 2000. A bold decision taken by their government to fulfil a promise made to its people in 1980. The Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment is a government ministry, responsible for youth issues and economic empowerment in Zimbabwe. Through the indigenisation process many young people are able to access land which is slowly translating to some economic activity. Further to this, in pursuit of a new trajectory of accelerated economic growth and wealth creation, Government has formulated a new plan known as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset): October 2013-December 2018.

As much as the AYCS Summit looked at creating awareness around the Charter as a whole, quite some debate was dedicated to Article 26 in line with Zayrah’s objective of ‘obtaining strong commitment from and young people to popularise the Charter’ and alignment of delegates’ their organizational policies. This Article details the responsibilities youth have towards themselves, their communities and the continent. It provides for participation in policy making, governance and voting.

While the Charter is a legally-binding framework. Its enforcement still remains a challenge. Getting the required signatures at the domestic level requires quite a lot of time and effort and this has a direct implication on the realisation of the Charter’s legal obligations at the international level.

The African Union is composed of fifty two republics and two kingdoms. Only, 36 member states have ratified and deposited the Charter, these countries include South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe,Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and others while three have not signed – Botswana, Eritrea and Somalia. Once a state ratifies a treaty, the ratification remains effective unless it is withdrawn or revoked. Those who have ratified are in a position to actually work towards implementing the charter, while the remainder have merely signed or abstained, a decision which affects millions of young people in these countries.

For AU, failure of any Member State to comply with any obligation under any instrument of the AU attracts sanctions that can be economic or political. They include, but not limited to:

  • Sanctions for failure to pay contributions;
  • Sanctions for engaging in unconstitutional change of government;
  • Sanctions for failure to comply with policies.

Therefore, the issues of ratification and implementation are absolutely critical in ensuring any real or tangible changes for youth. There are a number of ways this can be done, i.e., creating youth ministries as in the case of Zimbabwe, establishing structures such as the South African National Youth Commission, national governments must mobilise their people around the visions of the Charter. Regional and continental bodes can contribute by creating an African youth programme of action which can provide practical guidelines for policy makers and youth in the continent.

Spreading warmth in Standerton

Activator, Anele Cele, co-founder of Inhlos’enhle Community Building (ICB), an organisation focused on broad-based challenges in the Standerton community, continues to put up a brave fight against Mpumalanga’s icy Highveld chill with her campaign to distribute used clothing among the residents of the Sakhile Informal Settlement.

Project Siyagcoka donated four bags of clothes to nine families at the beginning of June, says Anele, adding that continues to grow from strength to strength as more people become aware of the campaign and make the effort to drop their unused and unwanted items off at ICB’s Tholimpilo Home base.

First launched in 2008 after witnessing a small boy’s vain attempts at keeping his bare feet warm in mid-winter, Anele explains that this cause is close to her heart as she, too, was raised by a single mom who relied only on a social grant and income from occasional informal work passed on by their neighbours.

“I know how hard it is to have needs, that many consider basic, that are simply not met because the household only has one income to depend on. Social grants barely cover important items like groceries, toiletries and if one is very luck, a school uniform. There is never money left over for clothes.”

Through Project Siyagcoka,  people have an opportunity to participate in addressing the needs of those less fortunate in the community by donating, rather than just getting rid of, clothes they no longer want or need, she says.

Project Siyagcoka distributes clothes twice a year. Anyone wishing to donate any recyclable items can do so by contacting Anele on 082 599 1174 or email:

Dress Jozi 2014

More than 500 young people, including Johannesburg-based Activator, Mzwandile Msimang, joined forces to spread much needed warmth to the inner city’s homeless as they took to the streets to hand out bags of clothing to the many shack dwellers and people living on the streets around Newtown just as the first serious cold front hit the Highveld last month.

“This year’s Dress Jozi was an unprecedented success with many more young people joining in and much more support received in the form of clothing donations as well as marketing and logistical support from both the city council, government and private organisations,” says Neo Kuaho, founder of YDIdi and Dress Jozi.

The annual event this year received welcome additional support from YFM, The City of Johannesburg, City Year SA, Harambee, PrinceMed, SAPS – Joburg Central Department, JDA, Bredwinna, My Hands & Heart, Shoprite Foundation, Lead-SA, Employed Youth Challenge and Black Stars, he said.

 “As much as the initiative benefits the city’s indigent with clothing and food parcels, it is remarkable to witness the impact the experience has on the young participants who gather to walk and donate. Without fail they leave with a profound change in perspective and a renewed sense of ambition and more often than not, go on to  become better citizens in their own communities after realising just how fortunate they are.”

According the Kuaho, the event often has even more impactful positive consequences than the clothing and sustenance that is handed out. ”

 “In June 2012 for example, we came across Noluthando, who at the time was living under the Newtown Bridge and wanted desperately to write her matric exams. However, she didn’t have an identity document which meant she was unable to register to write her matric exams. Our team immediately set to work to trace her both her educational records and birth certificate and she was able to get the necessary documentation and successful sit for her Grade 12 examination.””

 When first mooted in 2012, Kuaho says YDIdi was looking for an initiative that was bold enough to capture young people’s imagination.  We were considering volunteering our time and resources at various shelters but then realised that we needed a unique event that could really address the needs of this group of destitute people which is often bypassed by the official support systems from the Department of Social Development.

“We have received so much interest from young people around the country that our next step will definitely be to take the project nationally in the near future.”

5 mins with Florence

What’s your passion? My first love is media. I want to be involved in development media. I want to have a production house and be a talk show host for inspirational content that is based on development and upliftment.

What change are you keen to drive? I want to influence perception to make our country work, killing poverty of the mind, of knowledge, of everything. I want to see a society where people are rich in mind and spirit, empowering themselves, where they lose the sense of having things donefor them.

How are you driving change? I currently work for Tshikululu Social Investments, approving grants. It’s part of my plan to become a brand of influence and perception. I’m also doing motivational talks and I’m helping set up an Activator seed fund.

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change? I found myself and discovered how powerful I am. I also found my people, my family, the network, who share similar sentiments. That’s priceless. Also, resources andknowledge.

What do you think is the priority insetting the agenda for our countryover the next five years? Education. We need to educate ourselves as much as possible as young people, so we can make decisions for ourselves and stand for things that we believe in. Without education, we can’t question.

How do you motivateyourself? I read a lot. AndI do one of the weirdest thingsevery morning, I talk to myself.

Final comment? We keep saying Mandela freed us. It’s our time as young people, it falls upon us to be the generation we want, nobody owes us nothing.

Ubuntu is not convenient

A friend of mine recently posted ‘convenience doesn’t work in humanitarianism’. I took this to mean that being selective by what we can learn from Mandela’s life won’t bring us any closer to solving the challenges South Africa faces.

An act of humanitarianism or goodwill to humanity should be something that we walk, talk and promote in our everyday contact at home, work in the street and community that we live in. Hunger knows no date or month. Then why do we acknowledge the hungry man and woman, the downtrodden when it is Mandela’s birthday month?

It is fine to cook soup and bread for me, but don’t do it to ease your conscious for not creating an environment where we can coexist in the employment market and communal gatherings. Don’t clean my yard for the cameras to capture the untrue images of my surrounding. Don’t clothe me with white shirts and black trousers that were ironed to portray a formal image in an informal settlement.

When I reflect on what Mandela day means to me, I can’t help but think that it should a day of feedback to ourselves, looking back into what we have been doing throughout the past six months since the year has started as a way of refining our actions and revisiting those resolutions that we made when it started.

Selective application of the principle of ubuntu to appease the media is not going to do the nation any favour or for that matter create a great nation.  

Mandela day should be a celebration of Nelson’s life, as a human being who lived and died for humanity and peace.

MJ Lekalakala joined the ACTIVATE! network in 2014 and he is from Dr JS Moroka Municipality.

5 mins with Roxanne

What’s your passion? Children. They don’t often have a choice in the situations they find themselves. And they will carry future generations. A lot of people focus on education of children, but they forget the part were the child is a person, and that’s where my passion is.

What change are you keen to drive? Our social system, it’s not adequate enough, with a focuson children’s homes. We say we’re putting children in places of care but are we really? Often they areovercrowded, not well monitored and children’semotional needs are unmet.

How are you driving change? ‘Hidden Halos’ started in 2011 as a non-profit focused on uplifting children:

  • Children in children’s homes may feel ‘forgotten’.We run birthday parties celebrating each child with abirthday, while doing something educational around life skills
  • ‘My little toy empire’ is about early childhood development, helping impoverished children play with toys in a way that stimulates their development.

How has ACTIVATE! supported you so far in driving this change? I have become more focused and structured in the way I do things, with project planning and models.

What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country over the next five years? Early childhood development. We’re focusing too much on higher and tertiary education, forgetting that most people don’t even have the basics.

How do you motivate yourself? I’m a “this is what needs to be done, do it” kind of person. It just happens naturally.

Final comment? One of my challenges is getting people to respect differences and not to judge. If we can work together through mutual understanding and respect then the community would be a better, more secure place.

Taking up the struggle against corruption

Corruption is rarely ever seen as a youth struggle. Corruption Watch took up this challenge by bringing together young people from across South Africa to contribute to their youth strategy and  take what they learned from their youth survey forward. 

The month of June celebrates young South Africans while the 16th is used to commemorate the youth of 1976.In the lead-up to Youth Month, Corruption Watch undertook a youth survey which it hoped would inform their future youth interaction. Over 6 000 participants between the ages of 14 and 34 took part in the survey, which revealed that:

  • Young people perceive the police, transport and licencing to be the most corrupt departments, followed by Home Affairs;
  • 26% of young people feel that corruption hampers their access to basic services, and
  • 22 % see corruption as hindering their job prospects.

On the 16 June 2014, Corruption Watch used the survey as a basis to bring together a diverse group of youth from across the country. Organisations such as ACTIVATE! Change Drivers; Equal Education; Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ), together with university students and high school learners.

According to Ronald Menoe, Corruption Watch’s head of stakeholder management, “Corruption Watch is engaging with young people, so that the, especially those affected by corruption, can contribute to the development of the organisation’s youth strategy and inform us on methods to be used”.

Corruption Watch sees youth as central in the fight against corruption, because youth are seen to have a stronger sense of what’s ‘wrong’ and ‘right’- as older people have generally needed to do more to get by.  Youth are trendsetters in most communities this influence means they have a greater potential to drive change. These are all very important features of the youth demographic that could be useful for the work Corruption Watch does.

Executive Director of Corruption Watch, David Lewis, says “young people are concerned about corruption and want to do something about it. S,o we see the youth strategy that will be developed with you [participants at the gathering] as a potential vehicle through which they can take action”. 

Amongst those present, there was a sense that the lack of faith in public institutions and this is a major hindrance in the fight against corruption. “Because I know the police where I come from, I honestly have very little faith that any corruption I report will be taken seriously”, said one participant, drawing a lot of agreement from others present.

Participants were taken through a process, where they identified which corruption issue they feel is a huge concern for them. Procurement at local government level, licencing and youth development funding were amongst the issues that came up tops. They were then tasked with developing campaigns to address these concerns – after being given a quick guide to what makes a campaign successful.

The ideas developed ranged from apps to simple campaigns that depended solely on word of mouth. Innovation was a key feature in the development of the campaigns – with a common thread of identifying what has traditionally been seen as ‘big people’s problems’ to young people as co-owners too.

Lerato Mahoyi (25), facilitator at ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, expressed great excitement about the process saying, “It was a great platform for young people to be heard on an issue we are often excluded from. An important realisation for me anda lesson I keep coming across is that corruption isn’t just about institutions and others ‘out there’. It’s about an individual, what they do with what they know and their everyday actions”.

What makes a good leader?

The present generation of young people in South Africa has a responsibility, as “tomorrows’ leaders”, to re-write a narrative that is different from what existed before 1994. Young people are faced with a challenge of evolving a South Africa that is more open and more just, where people have equal access to basic needs – with equal opportunity to live, work and learn, and where the rule of law holds sway in the fullest sense. Ultimately, to influence change within the current context, young people must first recognise and seize the opportunities that a liberal democracy affords them. They need to become active and responsible citizens who are committed to their communities. 

For young people to be able to participate meaningfully in the dispensation, and eventually succeed in leadership roles – where they are entrusted with state responsibilities, it is critical that they first become the change that they envisage. Theymust adopt character traits that can improve their personal growth and consequently effect impactful change across the country. Against this backdrop, the rest of this opinion piece looks at some of the essential character traits that young people must embrace or aspire to in order to effect lasting change in South Africa.

Interest to participate in public and community life

Young citizens should have, as a character trait, the interest to participate in public and community life. They must see themselves as social citizens with a group identity and rights; sense of belonging and interest for the pursuit of the common good rather than individual interests. This implies that at the community level they must exert their rights and enforce accountability of their elected representatives. Participation in activities such as volunteering at community centres, which foster community-building, is an essential attribute that many a young person should have. Young citizens should participate in community events, for example ward committee and IDP forum meetings taking place in their constituencies to make their voices heard. By exercising citizenship through participation in public and community life, young people are exposed to processes that deepen their knowledge and understanding of municipal procedures; in effect they discover how their communities are governed and who their leaders are. This experience is important for young people to effectively engage and contribute to community development. 

Get into the habit of learning and education 

Interest in learning and education is perhaps the most important trait that any young person should embrace. We live in a world where technology has taken root in almost every facet of our existence which calls for more effective education. This development continues to impact our lives in many ways. People have lost their jobs, while many others are unable to get jobs due to lack of requisite education to provide them with the necessary knowledge and skills they need to adapt to the changing circumstances of the 21st century. Arguably, lack of education is among the many factors responsible for the high rate of youth unemployment in South Africa. Many young people seeking jobs often do not have sufficient employable skills. It is thus crucial that young people develop keen interest for learning and education. They must take advantage of the education and learning opportunities that are now available to them.

However, they can only achieve this if they endeavour to ensure that learning and education become an integral attribute of their character.            

Personal responsibility and self – discipline

Personal responsibility and self-discipline are important character attributes that can transform young people into better and more responsible active citizens. Young citizens ought to take responsibility for their actions, have a sense of discipline and conform to the values, morals and laws that govern behaviour in our society.  When young people begin to take personal responsibility for their actions, some of the implications are; they do what is socially acceptable and right, such as practicing safe sex, restraining from violence, alcohol, drug/ or substance abuse, school absenteeism, and all manner of social vices. They do not lend themselves to corruption nor any form of deviant behaviour, instead they make good choices and conduct themselves in line with accepted principles.    

Commitment and resilience

Staying committed and resilient to a course is a major determinant of success of the course. It is an attribute that resonates with many successful people, including those who have made significant strides in academics, business and politics. If Nelson Mandela and his entourage in the African National Congress (ANC) had failed to remain committed and resilient to the course of freedom, during apartheid, South Africa would still be grappling with the challenge of toppling a regime that systematically marginalised majority citizens. Young people who have made decisions to pursue university degrees can only achieve this objective if they are committed and resilient to this course. Commitment and resilience are thus essential character traits that could elevate many young people and help them achieve their objectives.        

Be innovative and challenge themselves to implement strategies to end youth unemployment

Innovation, translated in this context as doing things differently or implementing ideas that transcend conventional ways (creativity) for the purpose of achieving positive results, is another essential attribute that could enable young people to make impactful change in society. If young people became more innovative and challenged themselves to implement their ideas, they will not only become self-sufficient through creating jobs for themselves, but also contribute to end youth unemployment in the country. Young people should think outside the lines and look for unconventional solutions every time they encounter a challenge. By focusing on how it can be done instead of why it cannot be done, young people may be surprised by how creative/ innovative they can become if they continuously strive to do so.       


Although the character traits discussed above may not be exhaustive, they are, nonetheless, important attributes that young people from across South Africa could embrace in order to bring about enduring change in their communities. In addition to these attributes, it is vital for young people to develop positive self-esteem and identity about themselves.

Youth Month vs Youth Development

The month of June in South Africa is dedicated to young people. In 1976, on June 16, young people mobilised themselves and changed South Africa. Through this action, young people proved that they are a powerful force.

As much as we celebrate youth month and the impact the young people of 1976 made in South Africa, youth development is still a problem in SA, particularly in rural Eastern Cape. The Department of Provincial and Local Government defines youth development as: a process in which young people are engaged so that they can acquire social, physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and economic skills, knowledge and attitudes to enable them to (i) meet their personal and social needs, (ii) take up adult roles effectively, (iii) become well-rounded and productive members of their society and immediate communities. One aspect I want to raise, particularly in rural Eastern Cape, is: Access to Information and Resources. Young people in rural areas do not have access to the National Youth Services and the National Youth Development Agency. A number of social forces (i.e. unemployment, poorly resourced schools and poverty) have changed both the landscape of family and community life and the expectations for young people.

 Today’s world has become increasingly complex, technical, and multi-cultural, placing new and challenging demands on young people in terms of education, training, and the social and emotional skills needed in a highly competitive environment.

This year, our leaders and the media have created an atmosphere of excitement and thrill that more young people are in Parliament. But will this bring change to the challenge of youth development? Development from the top won’t have an impact at the bottom. In fact by employing a few individuals does not mean our leaders are addressing youth development. They are just creating jobs for a few. An alarming number of young people are in townships and rural areas. Living in these places is a challenge because young people do not have access to information and resources.

Start youth development from the bottom, today. Youth Development should be taken as the ‘top-bottom’ approach. Our political organisations say ‘the branch is the basic unit of the organisation. The branches make the policies’. That approach must be applied to youth development as well. Local Government is the first and the most prominent position for young people to develop. Let us see young people take an active role in local governance. Our local leaders, the Ward Councillors, must co-opt young people into ward committees. If there are no young people in ward committees, young people need to mobilise and demand their rightful roles in local governance.  Adopt programs and strategies at local government that will see every municipal council in South Africa made up young people (at least half the council).

There is still lack of participation by young people in the decision-making processes of the municipalities e.g. Integrated Development Plans. Most municipalities do not understand the NYS programme, therefore lack of implementation. The Department of Provincial and Local Government conducted a ‘baseline research on youth development at local level’. Out of 283 municipalities, only 56 municipalities responded to the study. Expanded Public Work Programmes are the most popular programme being implemented by municipalities.

All municipalities should establish a policy on youth development. Municipalities need to put together a youth council that will deliberate on priorities for youth development locally. Municipalities need to convene annual youth summits before the end each financial year. The youth policies on youth development, youth councils are all in legislation already. Youth summits should be compulsory to all municipalities.

Now is the time when young people are afforded the opportunity to acquire the attitudes, competencies and social skills that will see them take up the roles of Councillors and Mayors in 2016. Young people cannot acquire these competencies and attitudes themselves. Local Government (i.e. municipalities, cooperative governance and traditional affairs, the department of provincial and local governance), the NYDA and the private sector must put all of their hands on deck and accelerate the mainstreaming of youth development. Young people need to stand up and claim their rightful roles in government. In Gauteng and Western Cape, especially Johannesburg and Cape Town municipalities, there are youth councils. Why can’t we have them in other municipalities?

Anda Gqamane is a first year activator from Dutywa, Eastern.  He is currently Chief Operations Officer at Imbasa Community Services, a registered Non-Profit Organisation dedicated to both in-school and out-of-school youth in the rural village of Esikhobeni A/A.

Photo exhibition: Protest against the self

On my way to the photo exhibition, a drunken man with a foul smell sat opposite me in the train. He had marked his territory with his smell and in so doing had also isolated himself from the rest of the commuters. Before settling down on his sit, he walked around, appearing to be wandering around with no purpose. The way he slouched on the seat gave the impression that he would have preferred if he had been lying down on the floor on his back. The man appeared as if that was all he did, drank and took trains, to what pleasure, only he knows. Some song or another played from his phone, entertaining a few train commuters and angering a few. I think about this when Dean Jates, who had organised a street exhibition that he was hosting in Bonteheuwel, next to the train station, says to me “The media perpetuates stereotypes about us. No newspaper says we are good people. This project is to prove that wrong”. I realised then the man did not only drink and take trains.

The exhibition forms part of a project that occurs in different platforms that he has been running since 2012. The project is not one of those opportunistic foreign-funded initiatives that set camp in a township and does not care whether they make a change or not. What he wants to achieve more than anything else is for people in Bonteheuwel where he grew up to take pride in themselves and not be brainwashed by media that all they are drug dealers and gangsters.

The project does not operate on a big scale. The few photographs, of different sizes, colour grades, and frames lay on small ground. Kids of all ages hunched over the photographs, recognising themselves from a years ago, denying how little they have changed.

The pictures were from an earlier event “Gooi I tafel”, an event that Dean hosted a year ago. In that event, he had mobilised the community of Bonteheuwel to build a table. He never knew what the table was for and looking at on the day of the exhibition, the table still standing there, he still did not know. The event was never about the table to begin with. The table was simply a catalyst for him to get people to work together as a community. During the process, the community had to find harmony or else the table would have uneven legs. His ideas to initiate change are not grand and they do not seem practical at first glance but listen to him explain them and you begin to understand that when his project is complete, all the elements implemented, the people of Bonteheuwel that do not believe anything good about themselves will begin to believe that they are worth something.

“The exhibition is a protest against self” says Dean whilst the rest of the community gets about the festivities of the day. A boy disguising a beer with a black plastic cycles past the exhibition. He comes back again, this time, carrying nothing. He later comes back and thanks Dean for organising the event. This is the gradual step that Dean is hoping to achieve. That the boy would have joined the event and participated would have been the rapid change that Dean does not expect and with it carries the excitement that would not last. That the boy saw the good work is the beginning of a community that is beginning to cleanse itself. The boy was beginning to protest against himself, as Dean had put it.

“This is not mine. This is ours. We must all look after it. We must take ownership” Dean says, opening the exhibition.

He reads from a book that was put together by Emile from Heal the Hood Foundation. The book is a collection of essays, short stories, photographs, graffiti, rhymes, drawings and letters. The book was put together because Emile, like Dean, was fed up of seeing despondent communities who had given up on themselves.

In the introduction of the book, Emile writes that he had gone to a school and asked all the black kids to put up their hands and none of the coloured kids put up their hands because they did not think they were black.

The book and the projects that Dean organises do do not exist to redefine the coloured community. Redefining is a condescending view. They have always been like any other society, fraught with both excitement and struggle; they have always been misunderstood.

Dean also began a newspaper to give the community a voice. Proving that he is not confined to being a critic of the wrong representation of the coloured community. A newspaper that, he explained to me, is not concerned with the frivolity of correct grammar and beautiful design but it is concerned with content. “If the story of the people is told. I am happy. Grammar is not my concern” he said. In addition to this, Dean is also in the process of organising drama, film, dance, photography workshops at the Lydia Williams Center in District Six. There he aims to mentor kids from the township and give them workshops.

“I too am not working” Dean explains to ease my anxiety about how much money he needs to do all of these projects. “You will never do anything if you are waiting for money” He says and is convinced of it.

Dean’s plan to inspire the community of Bonteheuwel and other communities to protests against self is targeting stereotypical representation even in music. “What is AKA saying anyway?”. Nothing”. A rhetorical question followed by an aphoristic answer. Dean holds the view that the youth of Bonteheuwel does not need music that has been passed as cool. He says that they have their own musicians that speak about what is happening in the community in not a condescending manner.

Dean’s obsession with reverting stereotypes that have been for many years now, stretching back from Apartheid into the new South Africa, been perpetuated by mainstream media fuels his very existence. When I interviewed him I got the sense that the passionate character he was in the interview is the same person that he is everyday. This is his reality and not something that wears when he it suits him.

The community’s reaction to the exhibition was interesting to witness. Only a few gathered to view the pictures. The majority peeped through windows and walked past so they can have a look. A group of teen boys gathered at a corner next to the exhibition and then disappeared without ever coming close. The music playing from the PA system was not interested in manipulating anyone to join the exhibition either. The onus is on you to make that decision.  

On the day of the photo exhibition, a notice board was unveiled. The notice board hung on the wire separating Bonteheuwel from the train station. It is not fancy and it does not have to.

“Is the notice board to give us jobs?” asked a woman standing on the other side of the road.

Her question is followed by chuckles but when Dean was done answering her, the chuckle turned into something more powerful, the realisation that we can do this. His response was nothing high breed or theoretical. He told them that the notice board will be used for people to write whatever they want to write, from job, internship, inspiration messages and community notices.

Dean’s exhibition and the installation of the notice board are not, at least to me, eternal ideas. Their physical presence is meant to exist and if they are gone, that does not spell out their failure. The success of the exhibition and the projects before it is that they remain in the community members’ memories. A memory that will, when mainstream media paints the community as gangsters and drug dealers, sprout up into existence and dismiss those newspapers as nonsense and nothing more.

Having lived all his life in Bonteheuwel, 33-year old Dean Jates says his activism not only seeks to transform the area, but also the residents.

The exhibition took place on a garden that Dean had created in 2012. There are no veggies growing there now but that is not the success of it. Its success is that now, unlike before, nobody is dumping rubbish there. Before it was a garden, everyone used to dump rubbish there, endangering the health of the residents. But now old men and women, when the sun is hot with no wind flapping about, rest their loins on their chairs, reminisce about old days or simply not think at all.

It was late when the kids dispersed from the exhibition. After the formal proceedings, they sat and mingled with the elders, staring at the photographs.

Dean’s next plan is to turn the small garden where the exhibition was into a big garden. One that will feed the community.

Be28 Sets Out to Make a Habit of Success

The Be28 initiative, based on the principle that positive behavior can be established by 28 days of repetition, has taken up the challenge of developing a nation of good habits.

Founded by Activators Tshepiso Phakedi, Tshepang Mokgatla and Elcin Botha and launched officially in Johannesburg earlier this month, Be28 aims to encourage young people to adopt success-orientated habitual behavior by providing leadership development, access to motivational speakers as well as to social media-based networking and thought-sharing at regular think tank events, says Mokgatla.

The event attended by fellow Activator Linda Simelane of  Eldos FM 87.6, Dineo Mahao, the co-founder of NGO, Each One Help One and life coach Xoliswa Moraka, also served to announce Mdumela Media’s sponsorship of a website and corporate branding design for the initiative as well as the unveiling of the Be28 branded clothing range that will include T-shirts, sweat shirts and snap back caps.

Be28 was placed among the top ten social entrepreneurship projects featured at the annual Activate! Showcase in January this year by fellow Activators. The initiative will be piloted in Johannesburg initially with a view to a national roll-out during the course of 2014.

Contact details:

Facebook: Be28 Movement or

Twitter: @Be28Movement


Inspiring stories, inspiring women

Ayanda Cokoto, 28, says she has found more joy in her community activism than her nine-to-five job as a Human Resource practitioner.

Her mother moved the family out of Khayelitsha in the mid-1990s, “when crime got a bit too much”.

Unusual for the time, Ayanda’s mother who is a nurse, bought a house in the traditional Afrikaans neighbourhood of Kraaifontein located in Cape Town’s northern suburbs.

On an overcast Saturday Ayanda finds herself on the Cape Flats, specifically the Lavender Hill neighbourhood, to encourage women tell their own stories of strength through adversity.

Their host for the day is Lucinda Evans who started an NGO, Philisa Abafazi Bethu (Heal Our Women), which works mostly in the impoverished Lavender Hill and surrounding informal settlements.

Woman Zone, the organisation with which Ayanda is involved, was being hosted by Philisa Abafazi Bethu, while the day’s events were documented by acclaimed radio host Nancy Richards.

Women from the community, along with those who work there, and some visiting for the day were treated to inspirational stories, songs and laughter while acknowledging that a lot of work was required to empower women.

Evans, a former trade unionist, says her move to start Phila Abafazi Bethu was motivated by angry feelings she had for her former boss. Listening to other women’s stories helped her to get over her anger.

In a small bungalow, at the back of her house, Evans and her volunteers run motivational workshops for the area’s children and women.

Ayanda says her community activism was prompted by her own experiences after finishing matric.

“I finished matric in 2003, the very next day I was in my first job while there are other kids who were struggling,” says Ayanda.

She then went on to do a learnership, and even after that experience she still was unclear about her future plans.

“There was no one to tell me, if you want to be a psychologist ‘this is how you go about it’. I was just drifting on and then in 2006 I decided to study tourism …I love being with people, I love to talk and this seemed like the right space [for me],” says Ayanda.

After her first year of study, she owed the university R23 000 along with the costs of accommodation.

“My mother said no, ‘I’m not going through this again, either make another plan, or study nursing’. She had been a nurse for around 30 years, and told me there was no other profession which would suit me,” says Ayanda.

Her mother insisted on nursing, but also gave her the option of studying human resources. Ayanda chose the latter.

Ayanda says: “I didn’t know what it was, I went to apply and I was accepted but my Head of Department wanted to know why I had left tourism because I was getting distinctions. I did HR for the first year and realised that it’s not too bad, I could apply it across the board.”

For the next few years, she would struggle to pay her school fees. And her mother had to take out personal loans to pay off Ayanda’s student debt.

“I wouldn’t like other youngsters to struggle the way in which I struggled,” says Ayanda.

She has started career expos, targeting specifically township youngsters, by exposing them to opportunities in the tertiary and job market.

Ayanda and her partners at Woman Zone host a series of monthly inspirational talks under the banner of The 13 Series about being a woman in Cape Town. 

On posing for Jodi Bieber: Q & A with Sabelo Mnukwa

Fellow Activator, Sabelo Mnukwa, was one of the subjects in photographer Jodi Bieber’s breaking boundaries exhibition, Quiet, at the Goodman Gallery in April 2014. The exhibition examined conventional masculinity by confronting traditional representations of men in which strength and toughness among other masculine attributes are valorized while locking men into gender roles that are complicit with violence.

“Bieber’s portrayal of men in their naked, vulnerable moments rather than the usual portrayal as workers and providers was interesting in that it went against the stereotypical role of men in the media, says Mnuka, “The exposure of unseen moments ironically demonstrate how rarely men are portrayed as ‘imperfect”.

ACTIVATE! Asked him a few questions about the experience:

A! Why did you pose for Jodi Bieber (JB)?

SM: I was curious about being exposed in public, breaking away from an image that I try to project and how others experience me and rather just being the person no one ever really sees. Her idea of portraying men in their quiet moments was also something I realised I don’t see much of in the media.

A! How did you get involved with JB?

SM: I attended a lecture by Jodi at Wits University last year where she mentioned her next project and what she was trying to achieve. The idea of going against the conventional image of what it means to be a man excited me as well as the opportunity to get involved in breaking down gender stereotypes.

A! What drew you to this project?

SM: Before this project I had never questioned why particular images of men are popular in mainstream media. It is rare that men are shown to be less than perfect such as in this photo series where Jodi shows regular men reading books in their underwear or caught in their everyday life away from masculine pressures. This kind of exploration into image made me question how I portray myself and how others perceive me.

A! How did you feel about going against traditional representations of masculinity and opening up, literally and metaphorically, leaving yourself bare?

SM: The experience was awkward and uncomfortable. I didn’t tell any of my friends that I had signed up for the project because I felt that they wouldn’t understand. I was hyper-aware that going against traditional representations of masculinity, was going to be difficult to explain, even amongst friends. The reinforcement of notions of heterosexual masculinity as separate from feminine qualities made it hard to express my involvement in the project. I learnt, more than I had ever realised, how little opportunity men have to express their inner feminine qualities to the world because we are supposed to be constantly representing ourselves in a certain “masculine” way.  Having participated in the project I think there is a need to begin breaking barriers around masculine representations as well as the expectations around personal representation.

A! What were you impressions of the project?

SM: This project was an important conversation starter around how men are portrayed in mainstream media and for me personally, how black men are represented. There have been mixed views about the project from critics with many people asking whether the project actually helped change any of the stereotypes. However I think that this was a bold project and that Jodi did well in her portrayal of “behind the scenes” male life. If nothing else, I think that this shed light on an issue that does not get enough recognition, although we still have a long way to go.

A! How did you feel about confronting the viewer the way you did?

SM: I felt strong and balanced in my representation of myself as an African man. African people in the past wore very little clothing and this was not seen as taboo. By posing the way I did I felt like I was reclaiming that indigenous part of me.

A! What have you learnt from the experience?

SM: I’ve learnt that we hold on too tightly to the representations we are taught to follow by society, culture and religion. Even worse is that we don’t question them. If we are moulding ourselves to fit these representations then it should benefit us rather than creating problems in our relationships and more importantly our self-esteem and self-worth. My advice to people is captured in the words of James Baldwin, the African American writer who once wrote that; “Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned. This trust in one’s nakedness is all that gives one the power to change one’s robes.” 

Has Mazibuko made a meaningful impact on SA Politics?

If we are to celebrate 20 years of democracy, we need to credit all those who contributed and who have continuously redefined our spaces. Such praise should not be limited to be people who hold the same views but should acknowledge those that have kept our democracy alive. 20 years of democracy should tell us a story that we have become politically mature regardless of our affiliations; after all we want a new generation of leaders who will not be afraid to take our country forward. Mazibuko is one such leader and I hope her example will speak to many young black women to do the same.

When it was announced that Lindiwe Mazibuko would be quitting as the DA’s Parliamentary Leader, to study abroad at Harvard University, social media went crazy.  Comments ranged from wishing her well to astonishing comments attempted to discredit her decision. The latter comments were mostly related to the perceived fall-out she had with DA’s Leader, Helen Zille, over the Employment Equity Amendment Bill (EEAB).

While there may be some merit in the speculation over Mazibuko’s real reasons for departing, it’s important that the impact she has had on young black women is not lost in the noise. Politics, among young black females in particular, is often thought of as a business for old men.  Her entry into and triumph in a male dominated environment, which saw her rise from an ordinary DA member to effectively lead it, needs to be acknowledged and not undermined by South Africans.

I believe that that Mazibuko speaks to a new generation of young black women. She has become a force to be reckoned with, challenging conservative ideas about why black people shouldn’t vote for the DA but, more importantly, shattering the glass ceiling which insulated the patriarchal political system from women. In terms of representative politics, her presence allowed other young black women, even if they disagreed with her, to believe that they too could claim that space as their own. Under her leadership, Parliament became a place of robust debates, something that interested young people and made Parliament less of a distant and irrelevant institution. From her Impeachment of President Zuma, to her stand on POSIB, Mazibuko has led our nation’s discourse on critical issues. And she has allowed young black women to believe that they can do the same.

I am personally not very supportive of the DA. I believe that they still haven’t cracked the code that would help in reaching the majority of black South Africans. They are, inmy mind, still too white and middle class. Mazibuko, and the likes of Mbali Ntuli, the DA Youth Leader, are embodiments of a changing DA. These are beyond just appearance, but in substance as well. There are other young black women in politics,  such as Anele Mda, but Mazibuko is among the few who actually seized the  opportunity given to them and did not fade away.

Despite being  called  ‘sell out’, a ‘tea girl’ and other derogatory names that none of her male counterparts are subjected to, her staying power and determination to lead has left a lasting effect on me – and, I’m sure on other young black women too. That she will study at Harvard University, something that still remains a far-fetched dream to most young black women, makes her even more inspiring.  To continuously see young black women pursuing education at the best universities across the world – something our forebears may have never even conceived – shows us that despite the difficulty in overcoming the effects of systemic racism, we can and we will.

Whether she left because she was pushed or because she chose to jump should not be our concern. That she continues to trailblaze her way through South Africa and soon-to-be Harvard is enough for us to accept her contribution to our development, as a nation and individuals, and hope that she is back soon.

If we are to celebrate 20 years of democracy, we need to credit all those who contributed and who have continuously redefined our spaces. Such praise should not be limited to be people who hold the same views but should acknowledge those that have kept our democracy alive. 20 years of democracy should tell us a story that we have become politically mature regardless of our affiliations; after all we want a new generation of leaders who will not be afraid to take our country forward. Mazibuko is one such leader and I hope her example will speak to many young black women to do the same.