Nelson Mandela Foundation

Neliswa  Fente

Neliswa Fente, cofounder of SpringAGE

A group of bright, active, aware young people gathered at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory on 18 June 2014 to chat about the impact that South Africa’s youth can (and do) have on society, and to ponder the question: “Are South African youth creating a legacy?”

The conversation formed part of the Sowetan Dialogues, a series of talks designed to confront issues that affect all South African citizens. They are run in partnership with Brand South Africa’s Play Your Part initiative.

In June, which is Youth Month in South Africa, the dialogues focus on young people, encouraging them to raise issues that are not generally easy to talk about and to share ideas as part of a healthy conversation.

The speakers at the event – young philanthropists, entrepreneurs and academics – raised some weighty topics in the course of the discussion.

Some memorable quotes were:

Simamkele  Dlakavu 2

Simamkele Dlakavu, cofounder of Rethink Africa

“The best way to make a difference is to start from where you are. Don’t focus on creating a legacy. Make good decisions daily and take small steps to improve the lives of those around you.” – Neliswa Fente, cofounder of SpringAGE

“We are no longer faced with the unified struggle that the youth were engaged in before 1994; we now have a multitude of complex and separate challenges facing us.” – Simamkele Dlakavu, cofounder of Rethink Africa

“It would be disrespectful to those who fought for our basic freedoms, not to make an effort to make our country a better place. It is important for the youth to be politically aware and active, especially in a democracy as young as ours ... [but] activism does not necessarily have to be political. The best way to make a difference is by acting from within whatever sphere in which you excel.” - Nzinga Qunta, owner of and Anyana Africa Model Management

Other important issues raised in the forum were the need for intergenerational dialogue, as well as improved collaboration among South African youth around a unifying driving force. Youth should also push for more meaningful engagement with community and national leadership to ensure that their voices are properly heard.

A call was raised for access to improved education and facilities, and the development of a spirit of serving among South Africans in general, and the youth in particular.

The challenge remains for today’s young people to stand up and fight for what they believe in so that they can make a difference, no matter how big or small. That’s the underlying spirit of Mandela Day and the source of inspiration that lies behind it, Tata Madiba.