Civil Society

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Ian Mangenga, 26

Founder and designer
Digital Girl Africa

Ian Mangenga is a designer and the founder of digital hub Digital Girl Africa. She wants to see more women entrepreneurs running businesses online, more content created by women for women and women having an equal stake in the digital economy. She pushes that agenda by educating and connecting young African women in tech.

Mangenga holds a BSc in geography and archaeology from the University of the Witwatersrand, and is pursuing honours in landscape architecture at the University of Cape Town.

Initially, she wanted to study landscape architecture, but getting to learn technical spatial design skills after having gone the social sciences and social justice route has added dimension to her design perspective.

“All of these have made me the multidisciplinary designer and urban thinker I am today,” she says.

Mangena sees the need for her outlook: “I have been creating spaces for inclusion, access and social action for close to five years now. And I’m finally at a point where I can design not just spaces for dialogue and social movements, but sustainable and resilient spaces to live, love, heal and be liberated by merging my interests in science, tech, design and social justice.”

Working as the communications manager at the Parliamentary Monitoring Group stands out for Mangena. Being trusted to enhance public participation and increase access to information about Parliament with her design skills is a highlight.

She says she finds the drive to excel in the need to exist.

Author - Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha
Ramphele Mawelewele, 31

Ramphele Mawelewele, 31

Office administrator and disability integration advocate
KG Maluleke Memorial Disability Integration Organization

If you take the time to listen to the stories of others, you can find a well of motivation to get involved and help. That’s the hope of Polokwane-based Ramphele Mawelewele, who, through her journey and advocacy, is hoping to improve the lives of people who live with disabilities.

Mawelewele’s life changed in her matric year when a motor accident left her with paraplegia. That didn’t stop her enrolling for a food technology qualification. When she had to do experiential training, not a single company would hire her because of her disability. More than six years later she is still campaigning for businesses to be more open in hiring those with disabilities.

This injustice has led her to her current place of work, the KG Maluleke Memorial Disability Integration Organisation. It’s an nonprofit that advocates for inclusive education by assisting physically-challenged learners move from specialised schools into traditional schools, helping with tuition and adjusting to a new learning environment. She also facilitates the dialogue at the schools, universities and homes of people with disabilities about gender-based violence and the mistreatment of people with physical and mental disabilities. Mawelewele faces challenges with resilience, challenges that most people with disabilities face at some point in their lives. She’s hoping to remove those obstacles to make South Africa a more inclusive place.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Funzani Mtembu, 29

Funzani Mtembu, 29

Investment/economic analyst
Kaelo Naledi

“I wish to see a South Africa that has complete economic sovereignty. A South Africa with economic policies that are about economic development that centres people and their social needs.”

Funzani Mthembu is an investment/ economic analyst and an activist advocating for ethical economic practices. Although her work concerns numbers, she’s also interested in how those numbers affect how people in society actualise. She is a member of the Fallist movement and was one of the ground activists who stood in the forefront of mobilising the Fees Must Fall movement in her university.

“I think about the circumstances black women live under a lot; the courage to do so much, while also building communities and families, is awe-inducing. The women who wake up every morning to make huge sacrifices so they can provide for their families remind me that I have the power to do more.”

African women are constantly breaking barriers set by a patriarchal system to find their voices and pull through for one another in the midst of adversity. It’s all the more important to not be afraid of challenges that inspire the confidence needed to move through this world.

“I knew that corporate South Africa had its barriers for women, but I still get shocked by the experiences. Constantly having to prove one’s intelligence is exhausting and unfair; however, I am pleasantly surprised by my ability to navigate every space I find myself in with grace and assertion,” says Funzani. She doesn’t limit her contribution to professional excellence alone, but also pays it forward with community service.

Being able to build a bigger house for her parents is Mthembu’s proudest moment. “Seeing the consistent and constant pride and support they hold for me — that is where I find my well of strength.”

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Alia Kajee, 30

Alia Kajee, 30

Climate Support Programme Technical Advisor
GIZ

Justice and equality are at the heart of what drives Alia Kajee. The technical advisor on climate change believes that there can never be environmental justice without social and economic justice. Kajee says the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep-rooted, systemic crises and social ills.

Her work as a civil society activist has seen her behind a drive that has distributed food parcels, vouchers or money to people who most need it during this time without trampling on their dignity. She believes that it is important to stand up for others and support a just cause even if you stand to benefit nothing.

Looking back and considering what advice she would offer to her younger self, she would say,

“To always stand up in solidarity with those who are at risk of losing, not to divert or distract away from the struggle at hand, but because gains won through collective action are for all and not a privileged few.”

She learnt this when 10 years ago, as a privileged university student, she supported student protests against fee hikes and living costs from afar. She later learnt that her support and solidarity would have meant more if she had been part of the protest,supporting the demands of the students and taking a stand.

Her efforts have involved work with underprivileged high school learners, offering them mentorship, leadership skills and getting them bursaries to standing up against injustices to mining communities to climate justice to fighting patriarchy. She is modest about the role she plays in society and says she owes her success to the people who have enabled her to do the work needed.

“I am ever-inspired by collective actions towards a collective vision, and to excel at something that is beyond myself is motivation,” she says.

Bongekile Macupe | mg.co.za
Palesa Madi, 29

Palesa Madi, 29

Attorney and Acting Deputy Director
Centre for Applied Legal Studies

In reflecting on her recent achievements, Palesa Madi makes a point to note the room for self-improvement, “Although I am proud of the last three years of my life – having raised a three year old, lectured, and being appointed as acting deputy director at one of the largest and oldest human rights centres in the country – I did not take enough time for myself to pause and reflect.“

One can forgive the lack of reflection time when considering her other outputs, including co-editing and publishing a first-year textbook, “I felt proud lecturing using the textbook, inspiring law students to use the law as a tool to advance social justice. I also feel proud having contributed to the book because through it, young people can then see for themselves the various non-traditional career paths in law such as academia and human rights law.”

Along with a prodigious level of productivity, Madi goes to great length to emphasise the importance of introspection, vulnerability and mental health, saying “The state of one’s mental well-being is at the core of the daily decisions we make, our mental state shows itself in how we treat ourselves and others and it affects your outlook of the world.”

“While it’s important to draw inspiration from others’ success, it’s even more important to look within to ascertain one’s own passions, interests and talents. Once you know what sets your heart on fire, you must do all you can to excel at that passion and to build wealth from that passion.”

This translates into her work for the Centre for Applied Legal Studies: “I want to see a better functioning state and government, where human rights are equally protected and where state resources are used to serve the country and particularly those that are most vulnerable.”

Max Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse, 25

Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse, 25

Founder and chairperson
Black Womxn Caucus

Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse is the founder and chairperson of Black Womxn Caucus, a non-partisan movement for black women established in 2017. The movement was formed in response to the increasing prevalence of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) against women, children and the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa. It has since expanded its objectives and hopes to become the biggest feminist movement on the continent and diaspora.

In September 2019, Moutloatse and the Black Womxn Caucus led the #SandtonShutdown march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, demanding action and contribution from the private sector towards the fight against GBV and femicide.

During the National Lockdown this year, Moutloatse and BWC established the Crisis Of Care (COC) WhatsApp Helpline in response to increased demand for free, accessible psychosocial support in South Africa. The helpline has trained, mobilised and organised professionals including academics, social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists and community healthcare workers nationwide to provide community-based services.

“My dream is to create employment opportunities, be fully present in all nine provinces, and establish an even greater network of professionals across the continent and globe,” she says.

As a feminist social worker in training, Moutloatse is driven by a deep desire to educate and empower people to become agents of change. She hopes to promote understanding of psychosocial support services and shift the perspective that social workers have the answer to all your problems; rather, they are a catalyst to help you reach those answers. She envisions less passive approaches to community interventions and more radical stances that are driven by feminist theory and praxis: “One day, I’d love to teach first years on Critical Social Work and Macro Practice; I want to plant the seed of radical and critical thought in them from the start of their journey in training.”

Afrika Bogatsu | mg.co.za
Noncedo Madubedube, 29

Noncedo Madubedube, 29

General secretary
Equal Education

Making effective change starts with the education of the youth, and that’s something that Noncedo Madubedube understands all too well. She is the general secretary at Equal Education, the membership-based movement of learners, post-school youth, parents and citizens striving for quality and equality in the education system through activism and analysis. By mobilising the people directly affected by problems linked to education, she’s hoping to win victories that secure a better future for more learners.

Madubedube is a queer feminist activist who is has a BA in education (maths and languages) from the University of the Western Cape. She is dedicated to developing youth politics and activism, with the long-term aim of reaching marginalised voices. Through her job at Equal Education she says she recognises the shortfalls in the education system, the inequalities that come as a result of these, and works to hold those responsible accountable.

Madubedube was recently a spokesperson for the C19 People’s Coalition regarding the troubles basic education is facing during the Covid-19 pandemic. She also hosted a children’s conference focusing on education during the pandemic. Learners were able to talk about their experience of studying in the presence of government officials.

Her biggest goal is to shift youths’ mindset and so develop robust, conscious and activated young people.

“We will always be better for having a youth that is self aware, conscious of the world around them, empathetic, brave and imaginative,” she says.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Makgatla Thepa, 36

Makgatla Thepa, 36

Procurement officer and social activist
Capricorn College for TVET

Makgatla Thepa-Lephale describes herself as a social activist, academic and occasional writer, and is renowned in her village for founding and growing the Ponelopele Reading Club — an initiative that teaches local children how to read and write.

Originally housed in a tin shack structure, the reading club has upgraded to a permanent brick building, thanks to the money she has helped raise for the nongovernmental organisation. This means that more and more children are spending time at the reading club, learning the basics and also taking part in other activities, including chess, after-school camps led by university students and various sports.

Passionate about the power of books, Makgatla wants to inspire young people to start reading movements in their villages, townships and suburbs. She believes that a solid foundation produces innovative, well-rounded leaders who will use the knowledge they gain from books as a way to better their lives and the lives of those around them.

When she’s not busy expanding the minds of local children via the reading club, she challenges herself in new ways. She took on a role as a part-time lecturer at Capricorn College for TVET and discovered that she’s a natural — she produced a 100% pass rate for the public finance class she taught, even though she had no previous experience in lecturing.

Her mantra through all of this?

“Never be afraid of failure, it is better to try and fail, than postpone your dreams” — words of wisdom that she has instilled in the children of Dipateng, her home village, too.

Rosie Goddard | mg.co.za
Advice Chuma, 27

Advice Chuma, 27

Intern publicist
Empire Entertainment

Once you experience the satisfaction of making a positive difference in a person’s life, dedicating your free time and resources to non-profit work becomes the obvious decision. Advice Chuma works as a publicist intern at Empire Entertainment and fully embraces his extracurricular charity and community work, something that he holds close to his heart. He’s reached his position through nothing but hard work and passion, and it’s due to the odds he’s faced that he’s an inspiration to his community.

Chuma has been volunteering for a host of non-profit organisations to make sure he can reach as many underprivileged people as possible. He’s a founding member of Swakoteka Foundation, helping students from poor communities with applications for higher education. At the Thusong Youth Centre in Alexandra, Chuma is leading the way in teaching computers to the unemployed, preparing them for job opportunities with computer skills. It’s also at the centre that Chuma does some of his proudest work with Hands of Wisdom, helping to source and facilitate donations to uplift the youth in the community; this was featured on SABC2. “What made it very special was bringing smiles and joy to ordinary people and the respect that I gained from the community,” he explains.

While he understands the importance of his work, Chuma emphasises that his passion for helping gives him constant motivation. It’s vital to find a mentor with the knowledge to help you, he explains, and credits the Get Ready program with helping himself and other youths from disadvantaged backgrounds to develop and find employment. “I want to see young people give back to their communities through skills that they have, and more collective effort in making sustainable relationships between communities and non-profit organisations.”

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Allan van der Meulen, 24

Allan van der Meulen, 24

Co-founder
Zlto app

Allan van der Meulen, who was born in the Cape Flats, wants to see people in his community living without poverty, able to pursue their dreams. To this end, Van der Meulen co-founded Zlto, an app that rewards young people in South Africa for volunteering; in exchange they are rewarded with vouchers, which they can use to buy essential services. In addition, the individuals who complete the tasks gain valuable work experience. Since the app was launched in 2016, it has assisted more than 25 000 young people.

While the app has gathered momentum, Van der Meulen says he did not imagine that one day he would be in meetings with executives from companies he had only heard and read about. His advice to young people is to follow the advice they are given and try to learn as much as they can. Besides that, he said people should strive to be better than yesterday and listen to their intuition.

“The funny thing about advice; people can try to convince you to do something, but you need your own Eureka moment to really understand how to apply it.”

He also believes in doing research and not blindly accepting what you have been told.

The business he is in has taught him that a person does not need to “trade income for impact”; he adds that it’s something that people in impoverished communities are not taught about.

He says he wants young people to understand that although their circumstances may make it difficult to achieve big goals, it’s not impossible.

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Zanele Melissa Simango, 20

Zanele Melissa Simango, 20

Student
University of Cape Town

As a student, an organiser and a scientist, Zanele Simango has achieved a lot in a busy few years: “My proudest moment was winning the Most Outstanding Society in the Social Cluster for the work I did in Activate Wits, a student society that strives to create a social and safe space for LGBTIAQ+ students to raise and address their concerns, needs and interests. The win was a testament to all the hard work I did as vice-chairperson throughout the year.”

Simango has exhibited a willingness to work hard and take courageous steps on her path to success. She moved from Limpopo to Gauteng and now Cape Town to complete her studies and achieve her goals. She says: “I am a young, black, queer, female African scientist; you do not see a large number of us in the history books or among the names of the greatest. What pushes me to excel daily is knowing that one day a young black African girl will know that the sky is the limit because I showed her that it is possible. I am driven by the legacy my work will leave behind and the lives it will change.“

For now, Simango is pursuing her passion in genetics:

“I was and still am amazed at the prospect (of technologies allowing us to get rid of diseases) but knew that this world would only occur in the West if young African scientists like myself did not take up the baton. It is up to us to study and use these technologies to ensure that Africa is on track with the future of science. My goal is to become a genetic counsellor and continue to pursue research that is relevant to my interests and trends in genetic disorders I incur in my daily clinical work.”

Max Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Enrique Hermanus, 21

Enrique Hermanus, 21

Pastor, programme manager and ward committee representative for education
El Shaddai Christian Church Mould Empower Serve, The City of Cape Town

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Enrique Hermanus has partnered with nonprofit organisations, business and churches to lead a R1-million feeding scheme, providing children with food, sanitary products and educational material.

Spiritual development is an often neglected or mismanaged aspect of a child’s education and Hermanus is hoping to change that. He’s a pastor and leader at the Mercy Ministry at the El Shaddai Christian Church, a programme manager at the Mould Empower Serve organisation and a City of Cape Town ward committee representative for education.

He has organised countless litter clean-ups, formed chess clubs in impoverished schools and set up holiday and tutoring clubs for the children who need it.

He works to motivate fellow South Africans to embrace empathy and recognise the plight of those who are disadvantaged. A broader and more rounded understanding of the challenges they face will help the cause immensely.

Hermanus says that people want to fix the biggest problems first, without focusing on themselves and their immediate environment. In his words,

“Everyone wants to clean up the world yet they can’t clean their room. Start there.”

Hermanus works hard to get the most out of people. He believes most people are ready to help, but lack trust or knowledge about reliable channels through which to help. He relies on his passion and ability to motivate people to help those in need. “If you can prove yourself or organisation worthy and champion people around a cause, people will give,” he says.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Mpho Seipubi, 27

Mpho Seipubi, 27

Program coordinator and founder
Whose Stories Will We Hear?

We’re living in uncertain and extraordinary times. One day we’ll look back at this period as a defining moment in history. But some stories may not be told. Writer and editor Mpho Seipubi is on a mission to capture those stories that may be lost in the chaos of the Covid-19 crisis. Her project, Whose Stories Will We Hear?, aimsto honour the experiences of ordinary people as they navigate this turbulent time.

Seipubi has been committed to uplifting sometimes unheard voices for a long time. She has more than seven years of experience in outreach aimed at rural communities. The impact of her work as part of the department of education’s Kha Ri Gude mass literacy campaign in the rural North West still surprises her.

“The generational success of the project has not only changed my views on what change is, but it has also shown me that people-oriented change can be sustainable,” she says. “I am honoured to have worked on that project.”

Seipubi is the editor of Empower, a free publication distributed to more than 50 villages in the Northern Cape and the North West. Her hope is that, through the equitable distribution of information, she can help to contribute to the economic inclusion of the people living in the communities she serves.

“South Africa’s youth is imperative to leading this country towards progressive development,” Seipubi says.

“A South Africa that is economically inclusive is possible. And I believe that South African youth have the capabilities to bring about this transformative change.”

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za
Lorraine Khoza, 23

Lorraine Khoza, 23

Founder and chairperson
Lorraine Khoza Foundation

In the work that she does through her foundation, Lorraine Khoza aims to be a reliable advocate for marginalised groups and a champion for gender equality. Earlier this year, the Lorraine Khoza Foundation received a presidential honour for their contribution to the campaign against gender-based violence.

“It came as a surprise because we had only been in existence for a few months, at the time. And even though we had already reached out to a lot of women and children, I could not have anticipated being honoured by the President in such a short space of time.”

A survivor of sexual violence herself, Khoza is called to her activism by empathy. Shenearly gave up on her dreams when she was sexually assaulted two months into her first year of university but she found the strength to see her qualification through and be an agent of change. “It is almost unimaginable that I almost gave it all up; the impact that speaking out and reaching out to women and children who have been through what I went through has had is gratifying.”

Khoza’s commitment to growth and transformation keeps her focused, “knowing that every morning I wake up is a new chance to work on my goals and to become a better person for me and those around gives me purpose”.

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Brown Lekekela, 35

Brown Lekekela, 35

Counsellor, volunteer and founder
Green Door

Brown Lekekela is doing the work required to deal with gender-based violence where it’s most needed. He runs the Green Door shelter in his backyard for women and children in the Diepsloot informal settlement in Johannesburg. He set it up in 2013, after volunteering as a trauma counsellor at the Diepsloot police station.

Lekekela is driven by the knowledge that someone needs his help. He advises young people to identify their unique skills and talents and work on them. He began volunteering at the Vuselela HIV organisation as a peer educator and later served as a lay counsellor. From there he coordinated lay counsellors from Diepsloot, Midrand, Ivory Park and Rabie Ridge. One of his proudest moments was being selected as Lead SA Hero of the Month in January 2016.

Lekekela was raised by a single mother amid inequality, poverty and crime, and never received a postgraduate education. He says community workers do not receive the same recognition for the work they do as people with doctorates but the work they do is just as valuable and necessary.

To his younger self, Lekekela says:

“Make your existence felt, you are more to the world than what your community sees of you.”

His vision for the effect he wants his work to have, Lekekela says: “South African men need to respect women more than protect them.”

Shaazia Ebrahim | mg.co.za
Tsietsi Morobi, 32

Tsietsi Morobi, 32

Performer and drama teacher
Kids Haven Drama Group, Younitiate NPC

Tsiestsi Morobi says he wants to see art become part of the school curriculum. He is a performer and drama teacher who sees art as a vehicle for social change, especially for those who were previously disadvantaged.

Morobi studied a dramatic arts degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. He works with the Kids Haven Drama Group where he runs a weekly drama programme.

“I want to use performance as a catalyst to building the youth holistically and to make it easily accessible to the youth,” he says.

Earlier this year Morobi wrote a play called Skrop’laap for the children of the Kids Haven drama group to perform. The play examines themes such as sexuality, friendship, loss and society’s perception on homeless children.

Working with the children from the drama group has been one of the proudest and rewarding moments of his life. Seeing the children performing on a professional stage at the Shakespeare schools festival at Joburg theatre in 2019 for the first time stands out for him.

“It was an amazing moment and one that will stay with me forever,” he says

Morobi says he had always dreamed of getting the group to a professional level because he has witnessed their progress..

He says being asked to perform in Orlando, Florida, and New York City in 2014 was a personal highlight. It showed him that he was capable of doing great things.

“The advice I would give my younger self or any young person is that ‘you are enough’,” he says.

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Jhono Bennett, 33

Jhono Bennett, 33

Architect
1to1 - Agency of Engagement

According to Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and Jhono Bennett and his fellow students learned that lesson the hard way. In 2010, led by the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), Bennett, his colleagues and a group of Slovo Park residents spent a university term upgrading an abandoned 1994 voting structure into a co-designed multi-function community resource as part of their final year in architectural studies.

Weeks later, Bennett brushed his shoulders off and alongside the Slovo Hall build team that included Jacqueline Cuyler and SPCDF leader Mohau Melani, founded the non-profit design led social enterprise; 1to1 – Agency of Engagement. The organization set its aim to support the various grassroots and national level forces that are addressing the post-1994 symptoms of spatial inequality in South Africa through socio-technical design support and projects.

Bennett says his practice works towards concepts of Spatial Justice and aims to critically address the legacy of apartheid spatial planning that deliberately kept South African society not only economically unequal, but spatially separate.

“I believe in the power of our urban spaces to address patterns, and provide a platform to develop new and inclusive patterns of sharing, making and growing together as a nation,” he says.

Bennett is reading for his MPhil/PhD in architectural design at the University College London. He obtained his Bachelor of Architectural Studies at the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal and his Honours and master’s at the University of Pretoria.

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Muhammed Choonara, 23

Muhammed Choonara, 23

Media, communications and marketing professional; volunteer

Wanting a better future is a most admirable goal and the work required to achieve it comes from only the most dedicated and passionate. At just 23, Muhammed Choonara is leading the way in this regard. He’s currently volunteering as the head of media, communications and marketing for the South African Muslim Covid-19 Response Task Team for the Johannesburg region, but runs a successful consultancy business when there’s no pandemic to worry about.

He’s had a keen interest in politics, international relations and activism since he was young, and has used those interests to break down boundaries across communities and reduce ethnic and racial divides. In his short but impactful career he has been heavily involved in social endeavours at the University of Pretoria and with the Muslim Students Association. When the pandemic arose and many of us were staying safe, Choonara was on the frontlines to provide aid to those desperately in need. His humanitarian and leadership qualities are ensuring that people are getting the help they need, and he’s inspiring others to do the same through his actions.

Choonara knows exactly what his efforts can achieve. He summarises it as

“the creation of an equitable future for all regardless of race, creed, social standing, educational dispensation, sex or gender”.

Fundamental issues that need to be addressed in his eyes are gender-based violence and the abuse of children, whether physical or emotional, and removing the prejudices and learning that perpetuates these issues. Choonara knows that building strong communities that care for each other means building economic stability first.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Chulumanco Mihlali Nkasela, 20

Chulumanco Mihlali Nkasela, 20

Student and spokesperson
Black People’s National Crisis Committee

In assessing her busy last few years, Chulumanco Mihlali Nkasela highlights the self-assurance that has propelled her presence in student politics and the fight for social justice: “The biggest mistake, which I have learned a great deal from, is to never despise my youth and think that I am not capable because I am too young. Downplaying your capabilities denies you and those around you the best of you.”

Nkasela has shown herself to be significantly capable, elected as #UniteBehind’s inaugural Organising Secretariat at 18 years old, managing a civil society coalition of 20 organisations behind causes as diverse as state capture, fixing the country’s dysfunctional train system, safety and policing, and seeking housing solutions.

As for motivations, Nkasela speaks of how her traumas have driven her to fight, saying: “I am a four-time sexual assault survivor. I still had it in me to lead a protest against GBV and femicide of more than 20 000 students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).”

“I overcame my fear of being triggered and decided to take the baton and lead. I was able to put my pain and trauma aside because of the love I have for women and my hunger to see their liberation.”

She is currently studying a Bachelor of Health Science in Biomedical Sciences at CPUT, and sees this as being part of her activism: “The impact that I want to see in South Africa’s future through my work is a safer South Africa for queer folk, black women and black bodies. I hope to see justice being served and I hope to see the lives and freedoms of black people in our country advanced.”

Max Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Karabo Mokgonyana, 23

Karabo Mokgonyana, 23

African Youth Ambassador for Peace
African Union

At just 23, Karabo Mokgonyana has a very clear idea of who she is, and where she’s going. She’s one of those people who makes doing it all look easy: while studying, she balanced full-time study with side jobs, running a nonprofit organisation and advancing an international leadership career.

“I knew that I was a great leader and aspired to change lives. Ambition and internet access kicked off my career — the minute I understood what I wanted, I researched. It didn’t matter that I was a village girl from Limpopo or that none of my parents had experience within the field I wanted — I certainly knew that I wanted to be a change-maker.”

The hard work paid off, and she was appointed an African Youth Ambassador for Peace by the African Union. She originally applied during the extended submission period thinking she wouldn’t succeed, but she put so much effort into the interview and assessment that she walked away with an appointment.

Mokgonyana may just be starting out, but she is tireless when it comes to advancing the causes of social justice and representation of marginalised groups in society – from womxn and children to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people as well as those living with disabilities. She also advocates for the socioeconomic freedom of previously disadvantaged people in South Africa.

“The continued existence of social injustice and the lack of socioeconomic freedom within our communities drives me. Being a young black woman means that I walk through communities that experience poverty, sexual and gender based violence, racism, huge levels of economic disempowerment, harsh effects of corruption and other social issues. This is a huge reason to wake up everyday and push the work that I do.”

Rosie Goddard | mg.co.za
Keabetswe Letsholo, 33

Keabetswe Letsholo, 33

Founder, Client support specialist
Tag-A-Sister, Sanlam

Keabetswe Lesholo, from Hammanskraal in north Gauteng, founded Tag-A-Sister in 2016. This organisation is focused on empowering women and young girls, especially those affected by teenage pregnancy and poverty-linked issues.

Lesholo herself was a teenage mother, and credits that experience with where she is today. “What was anticipated to be my biggest failure, has turned out to be my biggest success,” she says. “Not only did I give birth to adorable little beings, it was my rebirth … That has translated into me fully understanding that raising children is not just the responsibility of the immediate family, it does indeed take a village to raise a child.”

Enter Tag-A-Sister. “Our aim is to inspire and motivate [girls] to reclaim their dreams, remain in school and not give up,” Lesholo says. This is achieved through the Adopt-A-Sister mentorship programme, in which the girls are paired with people who are leaders in their fields. The mentors also pledge monthly donations for necessities such as dignity packs and stationery. To date, Tag-A-Sister has worked with 40 girls to help them achieve their dreams. Given the crucial role of education in social and economic development, Tag-A-Sister has also established a virtual tutoring programme for the mentees in grade 12 to assist them with their studies in English, maths and geography.

In addition to her day job as a client support specialist at Sanlam, Lesholo is furthering her own education: she is completing a BCom in investment management and a higher certificate in financial planning. Lesholo is one of the top five finalists in the 2020 Accenture Rising Star Awards.

Theresa Mallinson | mg.co.za
Chaeli Mycroft, 25

Chaeli Mycroft, 25

Ability activist and student

Being in a wheelchair has never held Chaeli Mycroft back. In fact it’s propelled her forward, turning her into an ability activist heading an initiative to support disabled children and their families and lobbying society to become more inclusive. At the age of nine she co-founded The Chaeli Campaign with her sister and friends, and raised R20 000 for a motorised wheelchair to get herself new independence. The campaign has since helped thousands of other families and rewritten some rules. Another success is wheelchair athletes can now enter the Comrades Marathon.

“Activism is not just about single moments of bravery and resolution, although these are important too. It’s about showing up consistently.”

Her current campaign is 3000inthirty.com, the aim of which is to get 3 000 people signing up to donate money every month.
She’s also learned never to underestimate how life-changing a small act, like giving someone a wheelchair for independence or an iPad for communication and self-expression, can be.

Mycroft has been honoured with the International Children’s Peace Prize and the World of Children Youth Award, as well as being hailed as an Obama African Leader. She’s addressed the United Nations in Geneva twice and was the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Laureates’ Medal for Social Activism. In 2015 she became the first female quadriplegic to summit Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Her work seems particularly relevant in 2020, with the Covid-19 lockdown forcing everyone to re-evaluate their lives. “It took a pandemic of this scale for non-disabled individuals to realise the difficulties of a life with restrictions,” she says. In addition to her work, Mycroft is doing her PhD in public law.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Mandima Qunta, 31

Mandima Qunta, 31

Entrepreneur
The Fam

Mandima Qunta specialises in bringing people together. It’s gone beyond a profession – it’s now a matter of pride.

“Watching how people engage and interact with whatever I have curated, is such a fulfilling and motivating feeling,” Qunta says

Qunta creates safe spaces for thought-provoking discussions. Under her umbrella brand, The Fam, she has provided opportunities for various groups to mingle and participate in constructive dialogue.

This includes the monthly show Tint Talks. Described as a “safe space for the queer body”, the events are held in front of a live audience with recordings later uploaded onto YouTube and give participants the chance to discuss any topic without fear of judgment or prejudice.

The Fam also co-created the Le Grand Ball events, a showcase that flaunts Johannesburg’s queer creatives. Last year, Le Grand Ball and Vogue Nights got together to host The Championship Ball at Afropunk. Through events like these, Qunta aims to redefine the nightlife in the city and ensure it’s a more inclusive enviroment for anyone that identifies as queer, trans or non-binary.

“I want to contribute towards fostering a culture of mutual respect, informative dialogue, acceptance and celebration of individualism,” Qunta says. “And to encourage us to adopt and effect the community mentality, which will help propel us to the better South Africa we envision.”

Luke Feltham | mg.co.za
Ashraf Booley, 29

Ashraf Booley, 29

President
Impulse Cape Town

The work Ashraf Booley does today is the product of the many challenges he faced and the resilience he showed in overcoming them. As the president of Impulse Cape Town, he strives to create and foster an entirely inclusive community for queer people, one which will allow them to be comfortable in discussing issues such as sexual and mental health.

Growing up Muslim and coming out to his family was an immense challenge that formed the early part of his journey to Impulse, but it was a volunteer experience at Tygerberg Hospital — where he was introduced to The Gender Equity Unit at UWC — that sparked his passion for advocacy and civil engagement. It was while developing a media and marketing career that Ashraf decided he needed a big change – he leapt into the world of freelancing, launched an online business and then applied for and received the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship, with which he headed to New York to study Civic Leadership at Wagner College.

Ashraf’s tireless work is done with the vision of a future South Africa where no one is defined by or criticised because of their identity or status: “A South Africa that is anti-racist, does not stigmatise HIV, mental illness, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” he explains. There’s a lot of honour and responsibility in being chosen and trusted to lead Impulse Group’s first chapter on the African continent — to have a place where everyone can feel valid and heard, and that destigmatises identity and HIV status, is a big step towards his vision for the country. As he says:

“Your dreams are valid, no matter how big or small.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Pelontle Mosimege, 26

Pelontle Mosimege, 26

Founder
She Brigade

Pelontle Mosimege uses the growing medium of podcasting to inform her listeners about women in South Africa who are doing great things. Her platform, She Brigade, has hosted women entrepreneurs, corporate professionals, and creatives to share their success stories.

Mosimege says she started the podcast for herself and those closest to her, but now it’s grown and she’s learning to treat it as a business. She is intentional with every move she makes to continue growing her podcast and inspiring other women. “I feel like I could’ve been much further along in the journey had I done that upfront. Going forward I don’t take any move of the business for granted,” she says.

Her achievements include She Brigade being ranked as one of the top business podcasts in South Africa’s Apple Podcast. She is also gaining recognition from international organisations wanting to collaborate with her.

Through her podcast, Mosimege wants to continue to inspire women to success — whether that means occupying spaces in corporate companies and or becoming entrepreneurs themselves. “I want to see more young women especially, go for their dreams, believe in their voices and not let anything stand in their way,” she says.

In order to become the woman she is right now, her journey has previously taught her to trust her inner voice and to also be her authentic self.

“To everyone who is younger, I would say trust the journey. With everything that happens in life, it is very easy to get discouraged and want to give up. You will be surprised at how often the most disheartening moments are actually the ones that propel you to excellence.”

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za