“Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people."
It was with these wise words that former South African president and global icon Nelson Mandela addressed young people at the dedication of Qunu and Nkalade schools in Qunu, Eastern Cape, on 3 June 1995. Twenty-three years later, three Maties are carrying his vision forward.
In celebration of what would have been former president Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday on 18 July 2018, News24 set out to honour 100 young South Africans who embody the characteristics that Mandela was best known for. Current postgraduate student at Stellenbosch University (SU) Lindo Makhathini and SU alumni Nathaniel Japhta and Farai Mubaiwa are among the nominated 100 young South Africans.
“It is quite an honour to be amongst individuals who have contributed significantly to their communities in diverse ways. I'm truly grateful for the recognition. However, this not only affirms my good deeds but also encourages me to do more," says Makhathini.
She is currently completing her BSc (Hon) in Geology and was nominated for her leadership in empowering women in the geology and mining sectors. She is the president of the Western Cape Society of Economic Geologists and Society of Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits. She is also the deputy chairperson of the Black Management Forum Student Chapter in the Western Cape and is an executive committee member of SU's Earth Sciences Society.
According to Makhathini, being in a leadership position is a very daunting task that requires a substantial amount of hard work, dedication and, to a degree, individuals who are open to criticism. “My goal has always been to break social barriers by exploring frontiers that no one (or very few) has dared to explore before, not only to benefit mankind but also to impact the environment positively. To ensure that women leaders of the future have role models to aspire to, I believe it is our responsibility to assume these positions in the fight towards gender equality."
SU alumnus Nathaniel Japtha says that he is also very humbled by the accolade and believes that more young people should take on servant leadership, which was modelled by Nelson Mandela. “To be echoed in the same breath as Tata Madiba is significant and reassuring that I am on the right track. What I've learnt on my personal Mandela journey is the younger generation particularly struggle with patience. Madiba was in jail for 27 years, yet we want success tomorrow. I've found that, if you humble yourself, you will be lifted up. Break down barriers by engaging people with different cultures and backgrounds. Learn as much as you can. If you do this, you will be successful."
Japtha grew up on the Cape Flats, which has been riddled with crime and poverty for decades. Yet, despite those circumstances, he pushed barriers in the sport, corporate and social impact arenas. He has excelled as a chartered accountant, helping Cipla South Africa save over R100 million in its last financial year as the lead project manager. He is also a successful entrepreneur and, in 2017, he formed the Pro 226 Africa non-proﬁt. This organisation's agenda is focused on connecting youth to opportunities and equipping talented young people to take up opportunities in sport, education and business.
“Communities across the Cape Flats are in desperately hopeless situations, especially our young people. When schools don't have maths teachers, when parents are desperate for a future for their children and when you get asked for a job every day from young willing people, you have no choice but to heed the call. The organisation is a call to action," says Japtha.
Another Maties alumnus who heeded the call to action is Farai Mubaiwa. She describes herself as a change-maker, an African feminist and a youth leader. While studying towards her Accounting degree at SU, she co-founded a youth-led organisation, Africa Matters, in 2015. The organisation was created to counter the negative narrative and perception of Africa, which is perpetuated by the media and bought into by young Africans. The organisation also aims to equip the emerging youth demographic with the skills and tools to contribute to the continent's growth and has since reached at least 12 000 youths across the continent.
“We are growing exponentially and, from our base in South Africa, we now have ambassadors in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia. In the next five years, we want to have ambassadors in at least 20 African countries. These ambassadors will receive training from us and we will support them in running projects to benefit their communities. We believe that changing the narrative is directly linked to empowerment. When you change the negative narrative of Africa, African youth are encouraged to contribute to the growth of Africa because they, too, believe in Africa's potential," says Mubaiwa.
Mubaiwa believes that every young person should learn from the legacy of Mandela and help to change the image of South Africa and the rest of the African continent. “It is an opportunity if we, as youth, step up and contribute positively to our society. This means we must lead well, be intentional, be bold, be innovative and, most importantly, serve communities around us. We are not the Dark Continent but, rather, we are the continent of light and opportunity, with passionate youth to lead us forward."
Photo supplied. From left: Farai Mubaiwa, Nathaniel Japhta and Lindo Makhathini.
*Photo on website landing page by Erhardt Thiel, taken in 1991 in what was the Neelsie passageway, upon Dr Nelson Mandela's first public address at SU.