We must reignite noble dreams of our youth.

AuthorIchikowitz, Ivor

While African youth across the continent are generally optimistic, according to research, those of South Africa do not share in this optimism. But the country's future direction will be shaped by this same group. What can we do now to empower them positively? The alternative is too awful to contemplate.

The pandemic and its economic and social fall-out has been a test case for many countries --some have passed it admirably, some have crashed. South Africa has been among the latter, despite the example of Nelson Mandela, celebrated in July's Mandela month.

Few could have comprehended the extent of the economic, societal and psychological ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic when it reached the shores of our continent.

The devastation continues and will no doubt lead to a sombre and solemn reflection for South Africans during Mandela Month, from our homes and other places of lockdown.

In these moments of introspection, marking the passage of 102 years since the birth of our Rainbow Nation's founder, particularly on the backdrop of current events, which I argue have besmirched our national reputation, we must ask ourselves the following questions:

Have we, South Africans, lived up to the principles that Madiba lived by all his life and have we lived up to the challenge that he set for us? Have we met his expectation?

Are we capable of continuing his mission of aspiring to a society based on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, characterised by tolerance in a non-racial and non-sexist democracy, where our diverse ethnicities, genders and creeds are unified into one nation?

In light of continued travel restrictions and social distancing, we may feel more divided than ever. We realise that we must now look inward for the growth we seek as a country. However, in doing so, we may not like what we find.

Societally, our differences have left us at a critical impasse. The fault-lines separating us have been widened by isolation, divisive populist politicians, continuing economic disparity and in some cases, the stigmatisation of certain groups --a dynamic which the UN has recognised as a pervasive societal issue when diseases are deemed foreign.

From further a field, across our continent, we have witnessed encouraging green shoots of optimism. Recent research which examined the hopes and aspirations of Africa's youth across Sub-Saharan Africa, has revealed a strong sense of optimism.

There is a resiliency to carry on in the face of major challenges...

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