It has been said on numerous occasions that the people who govern South Africa are too old to be in touch with what society needs, especially when the majority of that society are young people. Now more than ever, we need to look to the youth for solutions; more young people need to be in leadership positions and they need to be at the table where decisions are made; because many of them are already the change they want to see in the world.
This youth month, nongovernmental organisation Activate! Change Drivers, in partnership with Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader website, searched the country for potential presidential candidates for 2031.
The five shortlisted hopefuls are: LGBTQI+ activist Keagen Gertse, 26, who believes being in the top post would make all the difference to his cause; Nkosikhona Mpungose, 34, who wants to introduce a compulsory retirement age for politicians; Bohlale Buzani, 24, who wants to turn dumping grounds into entrepreneurial hubs; education activist Hombakazi Nqandeka, 32 who wants equality for rural schools and health worker Selokela Molamodi, 21, who wants sanitary towels and tertiary education to be free for all.
These young people are already involved in driving solutions for their environments and are not waiting on the government to do it. The big question remains, however, will those in power make space for younger leaders?
The young people of this country no longer look to the older generations for role models or inspiration, they look alongside them, at their peers, at their equals who are taking small strides in spite of seemingly insurmountable challenges. It is their trauma that creates their resilience. Their approach will be considered, it will be focused, it will be dynamic and imaginative. It will come from a group of young people who find unity in their diversity.
Find out more about these future leaders, below:
Keagen Gertse is a civil, socio-economic and political activist who focuses on the development of patriotism, ubuntu and civil altruism.
Gertse is the founder of the Keagen Gertse Foundation which is aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. It focuses on community development through educating people about their legal and human rights and how to protect them and ensure that government is held accountable.
Gertse believes that the nondelivery of services by government is a “heinous crime”.
If he is to become president in 2031, he will focus on all education levels from early childhood development to tertiary but also entrepreneurial and economic development through specialised economic zones specifically catering for young people. He would like for South Africa to have greater exports as “opposed to what we currently have, which is the imports-consumer base”.
In addition, as a member of the LGBTQI+ community he believes ascending to the office of the president would be a groundbreaking win for marginalised groups and serve as a light for those who have lost their lives because of institutionalised hate and disregard.
“My presidency will secure the positions of LGBTQI+ persons in society in order to advance acceptance.”
Nkosikhona Mpungose, better known as Uzzi, is a health care worker, community development coordinator and social activist based in KwaMashu, in KwaZulu-Natal who is already involved in several society structures.
He says he would like to inspire other young people to become more involved in their communities by joining social structures and to bring about change around them.
If he becomes president in 2031 he will implement a compulsory retirement age for members of parliament and government officials.
“This is one of the things that continues to be ignored by government. During my administration, there will be no members of parliament who are over the age of 60.”
He will also ensure that there is a budget for every policy passed so that there is no lag in implementation as is so often the case currently.
“There will, therefore, be no policy that will be passed only to become a beautiful flower in a garden of rocks without being implemented and given the chance to make positive change in society.”
Bohlale Buzani is an entrepreneur and socioeconomic activist who believes that young people deserve to be at the forefront of their development and that they deserve to be co-creators of the economy.
He is currently involved in turning illegal dumping sites into entrepreneurial hubs in Mdantsane.
“I went through the legal processes of adopting a piece of land that was used as an illegal dumping site … We have a salon, a nail bar, a coffee shop, a sneaker-cleaning service and a car wash on the same premises. All the involved entrepreneurs then come together to form a treasury box (inxowa) that is used towards the further development of the hub.”
If he becomes president in 2031 he would create more of these hubs in various communities, especially to include those who are marginalised, such as rehabilitated criminal offenders and addicts.
“It is said that when a child is neglected by their community, they will burn it down to feel its warmth. This, I believe, is proven true by the repeat offence and crime rates in our communities which can be curbed by giving rehabilitated criminal offenders and addicts the opportunity to play an active role in society and the economy.
“In 2031, I will only be 35 years of age and the track record and experience that I will have built will show how I played a role in eradicating unemployment for young people which currently constitutes over 60% of the current unemployment rate. I will have played a role in eradicating not only unemployment, but also inequality in South Africa. This will be enough evidence to have me elected.”
Hombakazi Mercy Nqandeka is from the Eastern Cape, currently based in the rural community of Xhorha Mouth. Nqandeka is an author, cultural activist and beaded jewellery maker. She is currently based 20 kilometres away from her home, in the rural villages where she works to build new toilets and renovate old ones and sort out the water and sanitation issues.
She is also an ambassador of Bulungula College where she assists scholars with career guidance and fundraising for various basic needs.
“In this regard, I act as a role model of what it looks like to obtain an education and come back to serve the local communities within the villages,” she says, adding that the best investment she can make is through education, literature, agriculture and exposure.
“Moreover, I make beaded jewellery because I am really grounded in my culture and I would like to make sure that we conserve our Xhosa culture. I am also the published author of two books. I am currently working on my third title on Xhosa heritage and culture.”
If she becomes president in 2031 the first thing she will do is bridge the gap between public and private education to ensure that the rural child has the same opportunities as a city child.
“Number two is that I will teach people how to fish rather than to give them fish.” She says that people have been removed from their culture of planting to one of buying. “As an agriculturalist by profession, it is important to teach people how to produce for themselves … people need to be capacitated in food sovereignty and food security.”
Selokela Molamodi is a health care educator and an education enthusiast who currently serves on a programme that educates community members on the different chronic illnesses that exist.
“My community has been one of those hardest hit by chronic illnesses such as diabetes, HIV/Aids, TB and hypertension. Empowering the community with education helps them make better choices so that they follow healthy lifestyles,” she says, adding that she would also like to encourage literacy by starting reading and writing clubs.
“When community members are able to read and are able to write, they will be able to make decisions — or rather choices — that will not only benefit them but also those who exist outside of them in a positive way.”
If she becomes president in 2031 she will remain a servant of the people and not be distracted by the fancy title of “Madam President” and she will make tertiary education and sanitary towels free.
“When I become president in 2031 it will be the best thing that the country has ever seen. Because, not only is it time that women took the lead but, it’s time that true servants got a seat at the table.”
Tune into these dynamic young leaders’ new talk show: Uncensored Youth Voices — Reflecting on youth resilience which launched on 16 June.