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On Saturday, 11 October 2014 the Mbewu Movement community had breakfast with Sandisiwe Vilakazi, who is a Communications Specialist at the Secretariat for the National Planning Commission. The topic of discussion was “The Role of Young Women in Shaping our National Development” and naturally this attracted a group of young women who were both excited to hear Sandisiwe’s personal journey and eager to learn more about the NDP.

Sandisiwe made it quite clear from the start of the conversation that the NDP serves as a framework for building a South Africa that provides the freedoms of its constitution. This means that the document prescribes the what (i.e. the ideals) as opposed to the how, and the government (in consultation with stakeholders) is currently working on establishing how the aspirations of the document will be delivered. Furthermore, our speaker emphasized that establishing “the how” is not necessarily a role that should be played exclusively by government, in fact, she advocates the view that this is something that citizens should take ownership of as well. In a country where many of us expect the government to provide solutions for an incredibly unequal, diverse and historically complex society, we tend to assign responsibility of delivering this enormous NDP dream squarely on leadership and choose to play the role of skeptics despite the fact that we have the most to gain in its success. Instead of thinking proactively, creatively and practically about what the solutions to our challenges are, or how we can contribute to the long term vision of our country, the feeling of overwhelming hopelessness heightened by depressing media headlines often leads us to apathy. However, as one of our guests expressed, a key learnings from the morning was that as citizens of South Africa we are, in fact, all public servants and we should be obliged to take ownership in actively developing the country.

Another poignant take away from Sandisiwe talk, was that ‘we won’t be able to achieve a national development if we don’t have a self-development and then a community development’. Considering the demographics of our country, I felt that this elevated the need for self-development particularly amongst youth, amongst women and amongst the black population. Also, connecting the NDP with the self, followed by our communities and then the country helps with taking more manageable steps towards building our country as opposed to understanding the NDP in the reverse order (i.e. country, community, and then self). In addition, starting with self-development helps develop the discipline, passion and self-awareness that is required for effective leadership, and going back to the earlier point about the demographics of the country, this is especially important in order for young people to continue building on the foundation that has been laid by our elders, learning from their successes and mistakes, in order to realize the NDP goals.

In closing, the quote which was most profound to me was when Sandisiwe said ‘[we need] a movement that will capture the imagination of the nation’. Looking around the table at the bright, talented, diverse and patriotic young women who, by-in-large, have started initiatives that promote inter-generational leadership, rural development, gender equality, and education and mentorship, the proactivity and creativity in changing South African society is very evident, these movements exists. Furthermore, this presents a phenomenal opportunity to collaborate with an expanding network of young “activists” to tackle the country’s challenges with more might and also raise the profile of how we are supporting government in getting the country closer to the 2030 vision. Our time has come.

Article by: Magcino Radebe | Mbewu Movement Founding Member

Magcino Radebe holds a Master of Philosophy in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (University of Cape Town). She is a former Strategy Consulting Manager and is currently on sabbatical until she embarks on a career in Insurance Financial Services.

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