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Young people need more support – youth leader

by Zahid Jadwat

Irfaan Mangera at the Young Lions of Lenz book launch with Yunus Chamda (seated) Photo Ponty Moletsane

Lenasia – In an impassioned plea to those before him, Youth Activism Programme Manager at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF), Irfaan Mangera begged for the support of the born-free generation in its post-apartheid struggles.

The youth leader spoke at the launch of Dr Ismail Vadi’s book, Young Lions of Lenz, which looks at the Lenasia Youth League between 1982 and 1991. He said young South Africans today face a myriad of challenges but lack the resources and support to tackle them effectively.

Mangera reminisced on the founding of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Youth Club, saying “we managed to pull through twenty to thirty youth at a time. We had meetings in our garage, we had movie screenings in our lounge – a big mess but it was worth it”. However, he lamented, “It’s difficult to keep that consistency because there’s not enough resources to support those young people.”

Among the challenges he highlighted were financial constraints and what he believes to be a growing sense of individualism.

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Financial constraints affect support

“The story of now,” he said, “is what do we do to support the struggle of youth today. We have twenty-five youth clubs in this province. Every day, I get communication from youth around the country [saying] ‘we love what you’re doing, we see what you’re doing [and] can we do it? Can we emulate it?’”

Mangera said that as much as he wishes the AKF could support these communities, the organisation simply does not have sufficient funds to do so.

“I really wish I could do that, but our budget is very limited. There’s one thing that I think the civil society sector knows very well, is maximizing our impact on the most minimum resource and perhaps government officials should learn more about,” he said.

“The systemic challenge comes that we don’t have the kind of financial support… you all know today that everything is expensive. Just a tank of petrol today is far beyond what it would have cost way back and that alone makes it so difficult to organise the resources that many organised,” explained Mangera.

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According to Mangera, a growing sense of individualism has made it difficult to mobilise youth to rally for their causes. He said this was not the case during the struggle against the apartheid regime when youth mobilised beyond racial and religious lines.

“In addition is this very individualistic space and culture that we’re in. You all built comradery, you built collectivism and it took time and effort. Unfortunately, today we are very individualistic in our approach to life,” he said.

Mangera urged parents to actively work to break the boundaries of individualism by encouraging activism among youth.

“We say values of non-racialism, non-sexism [and] of collectivism, but how we’re living those values is the challenge. As parents, how many of you do encourage that? How many of you say ‘no don’t sit here at home, if you’re interested, go… let me support you in doing that. I’ll give you the support – if it’s paying for transport or food, I’ll do that but go.’”

He added: “Many of us don’t do that. We swear to the political differences that we have or the religious differences that we have and that’s what’s already spearheading the kind of work being done in Lenasia and it’s isolated. I think that’s something that needs to be addressed and we’re trying to [do so] through the work of conscientisation building workshops, training and so on”.

The current economic climate contributes to the growing individualism, said Mangera who urged parents to support youth in their battles against various pertinent issues that remain, even after the dawn of democracy.

Book Launch: Young lions of Lenz ( Lenasia Youth League(1982-1991) by Dr Ismail Vadi

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