Acting Editor: Ngwako Malatji. Photo by Thendo Luruli

Any nation that fails to invest in its youth would probably need to have its head read – for the future of any land depends on the quality of youth each country nurtures for itself. For South Africans, June 16, 1976, was a watershed moment, becoming a needed catalyst from which the people’s revolution would evolve – a moment that would directly lead to the creation of a new land envisioned by former president Nelson Mandela, where every South African would have a stake in the land of their birth – to dream as they wished and pleased.

Today’s edition of Sunday World’s Unsung Heroes celebrates the great strides first put in motion by the brave 1976 students, who dared the might of the apartheid security forces to demand a dramatic change to the way education was dispensed to the black masses, demonising the inferior education they were receiving from the oppressive system as a system that needed not to be revised but to be abolished. Happily, today’s latter-day heroes and heroines of different kinds we present to you, our dear readers, through the project we describe as Unsung Heroes 2023, meet the test of what South Africa ought to be – a site of excellence through youth entrepreneurship.

They are a group of innovative young achievers identified by you ,our readers,from your own localities in various categories. These categories include youth in business and entrepreneurship, youth in education, heroes in communities or sports, arts, and culture and heroes of climate and sustainability. Without any shadow of doubt, these latterday heroes and heroines stand on the shoulders of great women and men who came before them 47 years ago, infused with the spirit of justice to bring about democracy and human rights to the land of their birth. These men and women who led the charge of change in 1976 included, Tsietsi Mashinini, Khotso Seatlholo, Murphy Morobe, Sibongile Mthembu Mkhabela, Jefferson Lengene, Thabo Ndabeni, Seth Mazibuko, Daniel Sechaba, and many others across the length and breadth of our country.

They were dedicated to a cause of human rights, and sacrificed their young lives then, 47 years ago, so that a new just society created out of the ravages of injustice would come into existence. We are proud as Sunday World, that in today’s edition, we bring to these pages, for your reflections, these heroes and heroines who are today shaping the fortunes of the country in various human endeavours. Bantu education, the Verwoerdian creation, whose main objective was to keep the black man and black woman down, has been defeated, and will never return. The Sunday World, a black-owned publication that prides itself to be in the forefront of promoting black excellence, is proud to celebrate the achievement of these young innovators. On this occasion, we thank our readers for playing a pivotal role in helping us to select our heroes, and our valued sponsors for making the project possible. Rest assured that as a newspaper we will continue to promote excellence as we do today, as well as encouraging entrepreneurship.



Firstly, the team that laboured in passion to put this project together is honoured to present to you, South Africa, your 2023 Unsung Heroes – the flowers that define the scent of our nation. “Botjha,” writes prolific Sesotho novelist Dr. Maphalla, “ke palesa.” Of all things in the world, Maphalla compares the age of youth with being a flower because being young is a thing of beauty, yet so delicate. As a result, continues the award-winning storyteller, we should protect the joys of being in our prime years with all we have. This he says conscious of the perils that may come with both the urgency and agency of youth. I found myself revisiting these words as I combed through this year’s Unsung Heroes nominations, marvelling at how so many young people are part of something bigger than them. This is, therefore, not just an ordinary supplement you pull out to read ‘the real news’.

In contrast, these pages have a life beyond print. They’re breathing in coal mining towns like Carolina in Mpumalanga, where we find Bongekile Zwane forming part of the women who are bringing a feminist approach in our country’s electricity planning. They live through the innovative entrepreneurship of Bloemfonteinbased Karabo Tlhotlhalemaje who started a mobile carwash by using taxis to come to his clients, and has since grown his business to a point of buying a fleet and securing profitable deals with big institutions. And Mawethu Soga, a young business strategist who belongs to a team that is leveraging technology to revolutionise the car-care industry by making it easy for us to book mechanics. The heartbeat of these pages is felt during theatre workshops in townships like Botshabelo, facilitated by Khauhelo Maikhi, and online tutorials that make sure that every child is confident in maths and science, as Apiwe Hotele defines her vision. There is more where all this excellence is coming from, told through every profile in this supplement. With it, we hope to share an inspiring narrative of what it means to be a vessel of glory, a disruptive innovator and a thought leader who is equally thoughtful. To all our 2023 Unsung Heroes, we are greatly honoured to sing about you. 

Ace Moloi Unsung Heroes Project Editor



Unsung Heroes 2023 Categories