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Young leaders discuss race, privilege and Madiba’s legacy




Pictured: Rabbi Dovid Hazdan

The topic was racism, xenophobia, privilege and the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Youth from Afrika Tikkun’s four Johannesburg centres in Orange Farm, Diepsloot, Alexandra and the inner city/Hillbrow; with youth from the Alexandra Youth Parliament; the Hillbrow Theatre Project; and the Johannesburg Junior Council, shared views. They raised their voices through performance and dialogue on topics ranging from the Rwandan genocide, to poverty, lack of transformation, low self-worth to BBBEE.

Afrika Tikkun said in a media release that some of the points emphasised in the dialogue, which was facilitated by the outreach organisation’s CEO Marc Lubner, was that racism is learned – it is an inter-generational belief system and set of behaviours that is passed from parents to the next generation.

One could be raised to hate or raised to love. This message was emphasised by Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, of the Great Park Synagogue in Johannesburg. Rabbi Hazdan’s father lost his family to the Bolsheviks and the Holocaust, but as Rabbi Hazdan movingly recounted, he was never raised to feel pity or hatred but to love and embrace life and positivity. This profound lesson was taken to heart by the young people present.

Young people felt they didn’t relate to the history of apartheid, though it was only 22 years ago since apartheid ended. They learned about it through stories their parents told them, and the values that they passed on to their children as they told their stories.

Marongwe Ramosobane, chairman of Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament of South Africa, explained that racism was more prominent among the older generation. The key to overcoming discrimination, she explained, “is knowing your own self-worth”.

For participants Nellie Zembe and Marie Ndlovu, racism is furthered on a day-to-day basis by people who take to heart the discrimination they may experience. “We can be our own worst enemy by seeing colour and seeing situations in terms of colour.” 

With so much of the dialogue being about the fact that hatred is passed from one generation to the next, former Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs, advocated for “soft vengeance”. This, he explained, was a vengeance for the wrongs of apartheid not through violence, but through ensuring that we have a living, functioning and constitutional democracy.

Success is the best revenge, he maintained – success being a society in which we were united in our diversity.

Jabu Ncube of the Alex Youth Parliament said: “A hungry man is an angry man.” Real success and real transformation also involves defeating the problem of poverty and youth unemployment. 

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