The Next Generation

15 September 2014 | Nolundi Walaza | Opinion

The Next Generation Dinner is a series of gatherings with young leaders, as part of the GIBS/Tshikululu Social Investments Dialogue Programme.

Nolundi Walaza

The dinners are attended by 15 to 20 high-performing South Africans, and are intended to foster connectedness among this important group of future leaders.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the first dinner in this series, dubbed “The NextGen Dinner”, joining a group of relatively young luminaries. This dynamic group included philanthropists, lawyers, bankers and heads of companies, who selflessly serve humanity on a daily basis.

As encouraged and inspired as I was on that night, some questions about my generation kept me up: What will become of us? What will we give to the world? What is our legacy?

My parents’ generation probably had it the toughest in resolving these questions; they were black, young and unfree under the apartheid system. I imagine this overpowering lack of freedom to be the most dispiriting experience for a young person.

I, however, envy their sense of unity, coalition and purpose. Perhaps the calling of our generation is that we, too, endeavour a similar path as we contend with a spectrum of socio-economic challenges.

While we inherited freedom, the question of our time is: what will we do with it? Many of us operate in two seemingly contradicting cosmoses. One space involves a corporate culture, boardrooms and large economic imperatives. The other is what you carry with you – the background you come from.

My uncle on my father’s side will never afford a car; my mother’s sister has never enjoyed the transformative experience of a university education. Her aunt, who came to Johannesburg in her 20s, has never escaped the despondent trap of living on the fringes of society. She has struggled to put her children through a good education system because she has never enjoyed the luxury of a supportive and cohesive family structure.

What, then, is our duty? It is an enormous task, but one that we must assume. While there are great lures in walking a personal and self-gratifying path, it is narrow and we must avoid the trappings of grandeur. We should understand that our achievements are intertwined with that of my aunt, and the entire spectrum of family and of society.

The  current state of our society requires us to stand up and become deliberate activists, campaigners, negotiators and agents for social change. As the adage goes, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”