I should take this opportunity to congratulate the Mail & Guardian for a welcome initiative, in a systematic and creative manner, to raise the public prominence of what should, in any country, be the pride of a nation. By profiling young talent on an annual basis in this manner, [the] Mail & Guardian not only reminds us of the talent that our nation possesses; but it also affirms the enduring conviction that South Africa is bound to achieve even greater things. Xstrata, similarly, should be commended for partnering [the] Mail and Guardian in investing in the future. As to why I deserve this honour to have “brunch” with you — when others would break the bank to take you out to lunch — I leave to [the] Mail & Guardian and Xstrata to explain. When the invitation first hit my screen, I naturally had to ask myself, who are these Young South Africans and — wet behind the ears as they should be — what is it that I can teach them about life! I then took the trouble to page through previous editions of Mail & Guardian. Lo and behold, it emerged that most of you have, in barely three decades of your lives, achieved more than what I can hope to attain in a lifetime. And so, I have stepped off my pedestal and come rather to seek advice. The central question that I will pose in this discussion is: what should be done to ensure that young South Africans in general break free of the psychology of marginalisation? As you may not expect, I do not have answers to this question; and attached to it, I will pose a few riddles that you must help unlock for all South Africans. These issues arose in my mind because I noticed that we tend to refer to young talent in years gone by simply as “great figures”; and yet when it comes to such talent in the present, the qualification, “great young South Africans” comes into play. It then struck me, casting one’s mind to the past, that:
- John Langalibalele Dube, who became the first president of the ANC at the age of 41, had already attained laudable achievements such as setting up the legendary Ohlange High School at 30;
- Sol Plaatjie became the first secretary general of the ANC at 35 and already in his 20s, he was a renowned writer and editor; and
- by the time Charlotte Maxeke led the anti-pass campaign in 1913 at 39 years of age, she had emerged as South Africa’s first woman BSc graduate, as an organiser of the Women’s Mite Missionary Society and established a training college in Evaton.