“I want to retire knowing that democracy is not just a dream whose genesis and revelation are the pages of the Constitution. I want to retire knowing that I was, at least, a hammer used towards the building of a capable state. I want to retire comfortable with the kind of governance our people, my children, their children would be afforded. I want to retire knowing that more people understand and experience freedom in its thickest sense.”
If you also had to take a few moments to absorb the poignancy of these words, and then realised they were uttered by a 23-year-old, you’re not alone. Karabo Khakhau’s career and outlook on life are testament to the fact that wisdom and self awareness don’t necessarily come with age: in 2019, she signed an oath of public office, and was the youngest person in South Africa to sit in a provincial legislature.
“Knowing that the sweat, tears and blood shed by my ancestors were not and could not have been for nothing, drives me to excel. They were construction tools for a space that is open and big enough for me to just simply ‘be’. So, waking up in the morning is a reminder that the baton has been passed over to me to expand the space for other young, black women.”
Gratitude, hard work and an ability to learn from mistakes all inform Khakhau’s world view. That comes through whether she’s discussing the importance of punctuality — “People will rarely judge you based on the explanation you provide for your action. People will, mostly, judge you based on how you present yourself the first time”; or her views on success: “Effort, alone, does not amount to success. Perseverance and an absolute desire for improvement equals success.”