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Celebrating African youth

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This week mark’s another June 16 commemoration, thirty-five years after apartheid-era police responded by firing teargas and bullets at students protesting and insisting on their identity by refusing to be taught in Afrikaans.

For the purposes of this article, it does not really matter what issue they were protesting about. What matters is that they felt strongly enough to speak out about something they felt strongly about.

In every battle, the spotlight falls on an individual or group of persons and so we have the Hector Pietersen Memorial Museum.

In many countries around the word today, Youth Day is a day dedicated to the youths of a country in accordance with the history of that particular country from Taiwan to Turkey.

If you were to have such a day dedicated to you, what will have you done to deserve such recognition?

As I said earlier, it does not matter what the issue is. The youths of Soweto planned secretly and surprised not only the authorities, but also their teachers and parents.

They did not seek any recognition which is why not many people know that the first person to be shot was one Hastings Ndlovu, but as fate would have it, Mbuyisa Makhubo spontaneously and heroically picked up Hector who had just been shot as photographer Sam Nzima arrived on the spot.

The result, an iconic photograph that helped to tell the story of the courage of the students and the extreme brutality of the apartheid regime became another brick built in the struggle to dismantle the odious system.

Harassed by the regime, Mbuyisa fled the country to Nigeria and died an anonymous death either there, Tanzania or in Zambia.

The vendor in Tunisia who sparked off the Arab spring revolutions, whose reverberations will be felt for eons to come, was 26 and thoroughly fed up with the constant humiliation he suffered at the hands of the local authorities.

His funeral was attended by 5 000 people, a free young man in his grave despite the obviously very painful nature of his death.

You do not have to be a political revolutionary. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was just a really gifted kid who took his prodigious knowledge of computers from an early age to a very high level by starting Facebook from his college room at Harvard with the simple aim of making “the world more open”.

Money was not the issue at all, certainly not for the first six years. They will make movies about all these young people. In fact, they already have, in Zuckerberg’s case.What about you?

Do you want to be all dressed up with nowhere to go or do you want to star in your own real-life movie as I asked last week?

What is going to be your Youth Day moment that will be written and spoken about for generations to come?

Towards the end of last year, I attended my son’s Grade 7 Young Scientists exhibition that every Grade 7 pupil takes part in, individually or in groups and I must admit, while fascinated and impressed by most of the exhibits on offer, I saw it more as parent entertainment than anything else.

Well, in the UK last week, a 13-year-old school boy, Laurence Rook, earned himself over $250 000 of sales orders by inventing a doorbell that calls your cellphone tricking burglars in to thinking you are home!

Surely many a Zimbabwean kid has thought of this at least once?!

This is a very simple example of a young person doing something very simple that is going to have a huge impact on his life, societal life and a little positive impact on tax revenues for the state.

So if he gets to meet Cameron in the same way that Zuckerberg has been hosted by Obama, well good for his proud parents!

Are you in business? Do you carry the same zeal, faith and healthy ambition that once characterised the Nigel Chanakiras and Strive Masiyiwas of yesteryear?

Who out there is striving to replace the Black and Olonga siblings in sport?

Are headmasters still excited about announcing sports and other competition results at assembly or is their time taken by exclusively by fundraising to keep things going?

What about in the currently depressing world of banking? Who is dreaming of restoring the flamboyance and flair of NMB and Trust Bank at their peak?

And music? I was privileged enough to watch Tuku and Thomas Mapfumo share the stage at Carnival City recently and privileged is the right word.

They do not make them like that any more although I would say Pied Pipers, Talking Drum, Ilanga, Lovemore Majaivana and Chiwoniso have made their contributions.

Which young musicians are dreaming of emulating and continuing a tradition of uniquely Zimbabwean music?

As I type this, I know that the Mail and Guardian will tomorrow publish their annual list and profile of the 200 most influential and promising young South Africans this year.

Perhaps the editors of The Standard and NewsDay could consider doing the same for young Zimbabweans between the ages of 18 and 30?

There is tremendous national energy to be galvanised from such seemingly touchy-feely initiatives.

Who are the brightest prospects in science, engineering, sport, politics and business?

South Africans celebrate these youngsters, envy them, gossip about them and support them in their endeavours. We, too, can do the same.

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