What is the mission of the youth of South Africa today?
That is a very complex question to answer. One which I choose to use my own story to try and answer.In the words of Frantz Fanon: “each generation must discover its mission; fulfill it or betray it..”
Distinguished guests, board members, host families, friends of SAWIP,fellow team members, ladies and gentlemen-Good evening. My name is Tumelo Mohale from the University of Pretoria. To say that I’m honored does not even begin to quantify the depth of gratitude that accompanies the honor of being selected as one of the SAWIP team members 2017.
23 years ago was the birth of democracy in South Africa.23 years ago, I was born. When the first democratic elections took place in our country, I was only 2 months old, can you believe it?I would like to believe I am cute right now but imagine how cute I was when I was just a 2months old.
My mother often talk of waking up very early that morning and leaving me with my grandmother so that she could go vote for the very first time. For her to vote for change. For her to vote for a new South Africa, one which will not subject me to same hardships which she and her great grandparents endured under the Apartheid government. You see, people who went before me paid a very big price for me to enjoy my freedoms today. I therefore feel a deep sense of responsibility to not take my freedoms for granted. I feel a burning sense of responsibility to step up and take action to make my country a better place. THAT, IS MY MISSION.
Growing up in the dusty streets of the Limpopo province as an eager and curious child, I soon realized that there were so many like myself. So many young people with so much promise and potential but stifled by our environments and limited economic means to access tertiary education. The reality I found myself in speaks of a young man finding his foot in a new democracy. This story of a young man and the democracy are closely related.
Nevertheless I made it to varsity. But still at the university space I struggled with a multitude of isues,culture shock, new city and unpacking my positionality in a post-Apartheid South Africa. These challenges-ladies and gentlemen are not easy to confront.
Whilst at the university environment I found a way to contribute to my country and the kind of continent I envision myself living in. In the year 2015 I launched Young Catalysts For Change, a pan-African youth development organization. This is an organization whose mission is to empower young people from the continent with tools to become leaders in different fields so that they can effect positive to our continent. Leaders in the law field,engineering,politics,business,etc.That was my way of giving back.
A powerful opportunity soon came my way.This particular opportunity is South Africa-Washington International Program(SAWIP).SAWIP has been showing me that I can and I will create change on a bigger scale than in ways I had imagined before. Through SAWIP I have gotten to really understand the south African history and navigate my true identity in the truest and honest ways possible. That for me has been remarkable.
I see SAWIP as a tree that bears fruits. Fruits which will heal our people in SA,fruits which will continue to take forward the mission and ideals of the youth of 1976 in South Africa.
In the words of our former president-Thabo Mbeki I proudly say that I too am an African.I am an African.This is beyond just being a South AFRICAN,beyond being a SAWIP’er;I AM AN AFRICAN.
We celebrate the youth of 1976.
We celebrate the youth of today ,just like the 18 we see in this room
Today we celebrate the burning obligation to take action. Please help me in emphasizing this: “hashtag #TakeAction”.