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SA:An Uplifting Evening with Young South Africans Hosted by SAWIP
Source: SA-the Good News
Source Date: Friday, November 29, 2013
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Internet Governance
Country: South Africa
Created: Nov 29, 2013

The programme involves the selection of 15 high potential South African students from the Universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and the Western Cape (this year they have started their Gauteng expansion by including the University of Pretoria).
Over a period of six months these young leaders are introduced to an intensive leadership for service development programme, six weeks of which are spent in Washington DC and New York where they undertake leadership assignments, have work exposure and interact with US-based government, NGO and private organisations. During this time they also engage with students from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Palestine and Israel. They are hosted by American families.
The final two months of each year’s programme is dedicated to the Team of 15 engaging with a community and partnering the members in a sustainable community development project.
So far a total of 83 “graduates” have completed the programme.
I was invited to attend the 2013 celebratory dinner in honour of the graduates. Their celebratory “model” is unusual. A number of prominent South Africans who have made their mark in addressing our transformation challenges are invited. There were fifteen such invitees: Judge Dennis Davis, Sculptor Marco Cianfanelli, Demetri Pappadopoulos from Famous Brands, Phuti Mahanyele MD of Shanduka, Miriam Altman Head of Strategy at Telkom, Ben Magara CEO of Lonmin Mining, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba Executive Director Discovery Holdings, Aziz Pahad former Director of Foreign Affairs, Peter Harris Human Rights Lawyer, Judge Kate O’Regan, David Lewis Executive Director of Corruption Watch, Dr Brigalia Bam Chancellor of Walter Sisulu University, Rosemary Nalden Founder of Buskaid, Wellington Radu Head of Programmes:Media Monitoring Africa and myself as CEO of SA - the Good News. Mike Spicer, former CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, as well as many other influential South African leaders, was also there.
What intrigued me was the passion and articulateness of the young men and women on the programme – many of whom stood up to address this august – and quite daunting – audience. Here is what some of them said:
“It’s good to feel you are on the inside not the outside, we often feel as Africans that we are permanently relegated to being an outsider – this programme gives you a real chance to experience being on the inside”.
“This programme has elevated my trajectory, I have learnt, experienced and shared things I never believed possible. I have a completely new view of what is possible here in South Africa, of what our challenges are, and how I can contribute”.
“We want to serve in Government, we didn’t grow up with the scariness of apartheid, we have had a world class education, we can compete with anyone in the world, we can change this country for the better”.
During the dinner we were serenaded by Banele Lukhele, a graduate on the programme, with two perfectly sung Italian operatic pieces. You could have heard a pin drop.
The highlight of the evening was the address by John Kani (I watched his very first performance of Sizwe Banzi is Dead in the Rhodes University Great Hall – they were not allowed to perform in the Rhodes Theatre or charge a fee). His message had to do with the challenge of handing over the baton of our political, economic and social challenges to our emerging young leaders. “You, as the next generation of leaders are going to need to deliver, because our people are disillusioned. The force of hope, passion and believing in ourselves is all powerful, we are developing a new breed of young people, the challenges are enormous. I believe you have the ability to deliver, to make it happen”.
He concluded, “Please don’t think you need to receive the baton while you wait on the sideline, you are already in the race, take it and do your best”.
At a macro-level so much seems to be going wrong in SA. We seem to lurch from one political crisis to the next, from one corruption scandal to another, from one service delivery protest to the next, from one strike to another. Mostly, these are dramatic events which tend to take our eye off the ball of many of the positive trends that are taking place in South Africa.
At a micro-level there is so much good and goodwill out there, there are thousands of initiatives which are focussed on fixing the macro-issues. When we, as I did at the SAWIP graduate dinner, experience them first-hand you can’t help becoming filled with a sense of hope and optimism for the future.
The SAWIP annual dinner was a celebration of our youth, of bi-lateral relations, of development, of positive energy.
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