Monday, June 23, 2014

Play Your Part -- An Initiative by Brand South Africa

I was privileged to attend a Brand SA and Nelson Mandela Foundation youth caucus event at the Centre of Memory in Houghton on Saturday.

The Play Your Part Campaign event, driven by Brand South Africa, was attended by different young professionals from different fields and backgrounds. I met some quite interesting, inspiring and ambitions young people. And I mean “ambitious” in a very good way. 

Refilwe and Mpho.
The whole event, from start to finish, oozed professionalism – from the warm and friendly team of Brand SA to the host: Nelson Mandela Foundation and its personnel.

My sister, Mpho Akinleye, and I were quite early. Nice. So after exchanging greetings with the Brand SA team that welcomed us, we headed straight to the Museum (Centre of Memory) where some special memories of Tata Nelson Mandela are kept. Exceptional man he was. We saw his letters to and from different Universities, his certificates, his note pads and books. We also saw his cologne, his towel and a Vaseline aquous cream.

This comes exactly a week after I watched the film: Long Walk to Freedom. The timing is completely amazing. I could not watch the film while it was still showing in cinemas, and I am glad I only got to watch it now because it made my experience at the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Centre of Memory more profound. We walked around, took photos and posed next to the pictures of the great history maker.

Gradually the place filled up and our session started.
Mpumi Mabuza welcomed us and briefly told us why we were there: To reflect and review the role of youth in driving active citizenship 20 years into democracy.
Shortly after, the vibrant Sithembile Ntombela, Brand SA brand manager, educated us on the Play Your Part Movement and why the active participation of youth is crucial. She was on fire, her presentation was “pashash” and she got us hooked with her cool lingo and energetic delivery.

“I’ll tweet about all of you,” the “cool mom” joked at the end of her talk.  

Brand South Africa brand manager Sithembile Ntombela.

Then Brand SA researcher Leigh-Gail Peterson did the SA’s reputation and competitiveness briefing and research manager Dr Petrus de Kock followed. All speakers welcomed questions from the attendees. That was quite interesting and fascinating. Smart questions were asked. Satisfactory responses were given.

Ous Thoko Modise gave the vote of thanks and informed us that the Bloody Miracle documentary DVD, which we could not see at the event because of time constraints, was in fact, included in our goodie bags.

Some of Tata Mandela's documents.
We continued to take more pictures outside, helped ourselves to some tasty refreshments and networked with fellow young people.

I managed to have a short moment with Dr Petrus and I asked him this: You mentioned “strengthening the nation” and “creating awareness”. But Gauteng is only a small part of South Africa. What is being done to reach people in outer communities in the rural areas who should also rally behind this initiative and Brand SA as a whole?”
He said they were spreading the messages through community radio and TV and aimed to work with municipalities.  
Play Your Part is a nationwide campaign created to inspire, empower and celebrate active citizenship in South Africa.
Its objective is to lift the spirit of our nation by inspiring all South Africans to contribute to positive change, become involved and start doing – because a nation of people who care deeply for one another and the environment in which they live is good for everyone. For more information, go to and

To make the whole experience complete for myself, I watched 1994 The Bloody Miracle documentary DVD when I got home.
I was lost for words. We all know that South Africa went through hell in the apartheid years – with June 16 1976 being a day that will never be forgotten in SA history – but the 12 months leading to the 1994 election were filled with even more blood, cruelty and immense pain that words can’t describe.

The freedom we experience today came through tears, pain, sweat and blood. People lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, comrades and even lost their own lives.

When I attended a Youth Day event on June 16 at the Nike Football Stadium recently I heard one of the speakers asking: “What is the youth of today doing to honour the youth of 1976?” and I thought: Maybe she should rather ask: what is the youth of today doing with the freedom fought for by the youth of 1976? There is not much we can do FOR the youth of 1976. What are we doing in honouring and respecting what they did for us, is the question.

Freedom came at a prize. Let’s respect and appreciate it.
To my younger brothers and sisters:
Young boys, go to school, respect all women and your elders. Violence and aggression are NOT signs of power. 
Young girls, finish school and put having babies while you are teenagers on hold. You will have all the time in the world to have them. Having a child when you are only a little girl yourself robs you of your youth. It shatters dreams.

Dream big. Go make things happen. You can make a difference. It does not matter where you come from -- always remember that the Great Nelson Mandela was a humble man from a small rural Qunu. This simply inspires me.
You too, can make history! Play your Part!

 A great thank you to the team of Brand SA: Thoko Modise, Anele, Sandisiwe, Onke, Sithembile, Leigh, Dr Petrus de Kock and Yase and Clive from Nelson Mandela Foundation.  

We had fun!
Mpho Akinleye