Wally Mbhele, Sunday World Editor. Photo by Bongiwe Mchunu

This is our second chapter of the Sunday World Unsung Heroes Awards – a campaign this newspaper launched in June last year in recognition and celebration of our country’s youth. Sunday World Unsung Heroes is dedicated to saluting young people who continuously pursue their goals with vigour and row against the tide to change lives. They perpetually work for change in their daily lives at the time when political systems seem to be conspiring against them. Among a myriad challenges South Africa is confronted with today is the youth that is despondent, losing hope about their personal and collective destiny. These are young people who are facing uncertainties as political systems struggle and fail to absorb them into the mainstream economy. Poverty is draining their determination. They struggle to handle social, political, and economic complexities and frustrations of current times. They hardly feel the benefits which were supposed to come with freedom, the very freedom which was inspired and piloted by the generation of June 1976. We are faced with a grave societal problem where young people have decided to adopt an indifferent attitude to themselves and their future. This hampers what is supposed to be their personal commitment and involvement to soar beyond current social barriers and impediments.

To many of them, these barricades appear impossible to overcome. The road ahead is too foggy. It renders their ability to row past stormy frontiers impossible to think about and not worth pursuing. They ask themselves why political and other systems appear to be conspiring against them at a time when they have acquired education that is supposed to steer them to a better life for themselves and their families. They see the systems to be full of noble promises and connotations, yet signifying nothing of value in practical terms. However, amid this sense of despair and hopelessness, there are millions of others who never give up. They succeed in achieving what many think is impossible to realise in their lifetime. These are the Unsung Heroes and Heroines whose remarkable journeys are told in this special supplement. We celebrate and salute their innovative minds and lack of fear to venturing into unknown terrains. They demonstrate an extraordinary sense of “Innovation in Tackling Tomorrow’s Challenges Today”. Their stories are inspiring. Like that of Dr Decent Mkhombo – one of the unsung pathfi nders who became the youngest medical student in the country when he enrolled for a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at only 15 years old at the University of Limpopo in 2016. Dr Mkhombo tells a story of how he literally spent all his teen years at varsity and how challenging it was to be in a new environment at that age. And yet, with a great sense of determination and majestic vigour, Mkhombo soared beyond what many among his peers believed could not be done. Dr Mkhombo’s inspiring journey is similar to many others splashed across this supplement today. They include a story of young Thulile Khanyile, an award-winning academic in the sciences, whose goal, she says, is to show African girls that they are the face and future of science and technology. We are truly humbled to honour these exceptional young men and women of our nation today. Their different life accounts are a true source of inspiration and inspire confidence in the ability of young people to make South Africa a great nation. We also extend our sincere gratitude to all the sponsors whose generosity and belief in youth innovation ensured that the Unsung Heroes project is realised. These sponsors include MTN (title sponsor) as well as the Central University of Technology, Presidential Climate Commission, Department of Agriculture Land Reforms and Rural Development, the Free State Department of Education, Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment, Department of Tourism, National Lotteries Commission, National Youth Development Agency, SA National Roads Agency, TELKOM, Thabo Mphelo Films and the University of Limpopo.

Wally Mbhele, Sunday World Editor



Once again this year the South African public responded with enthusiasm in nominating youngsters who punch above their weight in various spheres of life. All of them are united by a desire to engineer change or simply excel in their fi elds, thereby setting a powerful example to others. They are all seeking solutions. It’s an absolute joy to read about their various paths to success. As you will read in the pages, you will notice that some of the stories can be situated in one of the biggest tragedies of our time – the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19). While the pandemic has been crippling in many ways, some of our young heroes launched their initiatives despite it or because of it. Sharon Moatshe launched Sharon’s Café in Woodstock, Cape Town, despite the national lockdown. The business is still going strong. Lebohang Nyandeni launched his co ee business, LebzCafe, at round the same time. Keketso Reneta Mokgothu, from Odendaalsrus in the Free State, invented Motswako honey and turmeric booster to solve the health challenges that came with the Covid-19 headwinds. Mapula Legodi inadvertently started a new skipping rope enterprise after creating a skipping challenge online during those uncertain times of the mandated lockdown. These are just a few inspiring stories. You will see the rest in these pages. While it’s been a pleasure compiling these stories, we experienced sorrow at the beginning of this project when Diketso Setho, one of the young heroes we had profiled suddenly passed away after a short illness. He was a talented programmer and innovative thinker from Ivory Park, Ekurhuleni. We salute his spirit and hope that the work he started will go on (see page 9). Around that time we were also grieving the passing away of one of our writers, the highly respected Phindile Xaba. She was a seasoned hand in journalism who deeply cared about empowering others, particularly young people. She was a beloved colleague, sister and friend. She will be forever missed. We dedicate this supplement to her.

Phakama Mbonambi Project Editor

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