Tshepo Tabane is the co-founder of the Young Men Movement
The success of our country depends on what we are investing in our youth, writes Tshepo Tabane.

The year was 1994 and I was only 6 years old - that was the time I discovered my artistic abilities I was good at drawing. At that time the portrait that was hung all over the street poles and walls was that of Nelson Mandela.

I kept on redrawing that portrait countless times to get it as perfect as I could. Doing this, I would fight with my grandmother because I was not attending to my chores.

One day my grandmother confronted me, trying to understand why I was not doing my chores as expected. We ended up having a conversation that turned into a history lesson. She asked me if I knew who Mandela was, and all I could say then was that he was one of the presidential candidates.

She then said to me: Mandela O fedisitse apartheid, meaning Mandela ended apartheid. I then asked what apartheid was. She gave me an answer that changed how 6-year-old me thought. She said apartheid was a system where white people were allowed by law to beat up, imprison and deny black people access to everything because they were black.

Teaching youngsters to help create a new productive future. Picture: Kabelo Chabalala

So, my question was: “Granny, all I have to do is to just be black to be a victim of such a system?”

She said “yes”. I then told myself that from that day I would make the most of my life because there was a time when people of my colour were denied being or doing what they wanted to do with their lives.

In 1996 they showed the Sarafina movie for us at school, and that is when we got a glimpse of what happened to the youth of 1976 in Soweto during the June 16 Soweto uprising.

Knowing that things didn’t used to be the way they were for us as the black youth, and that someone had to die or be beaten up to buy us the freedom we now have, propelled me to dedicate my life to a more meaningful cause. A life of service to others was a more attractive life to me. I realised at a very early stage of my life that the sacrifices made by the likes of Mandela, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, the kids who died on June 16, 1976, and the rest of the martyrs to our freedom should not have been made in vain.

June 16, the commemoration of Youth Day, to me comes as a reminder that hundreds of kids died and some were badly injured, because they believed that they, too, deserved quality education - education that would help them unlock possibilities many never thought possible.

It is for this reason I dedicated my life to ensuring that I learn whatever I can to bridge the gap caused by the ills of the then oppressive system.

Being a teenager and a young adult, I got to realise that the warfare and battle field had now changed, the baton had been passed to us, the youth of today, to combat the challenges we face today as the youth, especially the black youth.

To combat today’s challenges we need different tools and means, because the warfare has changed. We are no longer facing an oppressive system that is appearing to be oppressive, hence the oppression is overlooked and it is for this reason we need to be equipped to operate in this current system and warfare.

In my young adult life I got to witness the hidden damage done by the apartheid system to our youth. Damages such as lack of self-identity, diminishing sense of self-worth, lack of emotional stamina to confront difficult situations in life.

Restoring our pride and sense of self-worth as people of colour, especially our youth, Young Men Movement (YMM) was by far the best solution I saw, fit to combat most of our societal challenges as the youth of this country. YMM is an organisation that looks at a boy child holistically from all pillars that contribute to his success, such as family dynamics, society, the political system, education system and economic system.

YMM is aware the success of our country depends on what we are investing in our youth. By investment I mean the time and effort we take to restore our youths' pride and unlock their potential. Being part of YMM has made it easy for me to be a custodian of the ideal that all black kids are worthy of being agents to shape and change the trajectory of our country’s future to be a more desirable one.

Succeeding as a unit will fast-track our progress, helping a black child realise his potential. The most effective tool for shaping the future is his brain to do so much more good for this country than 100 politicians seated in Parliament would.

* Tshepo Tabane is the co-founder of the Young Men Movement, a resident of Pankop, Dr JS Moroka Municipality, Mpumalanga.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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