The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal recently hosted a charged event designed to encourage youth participation in civil society spaces. The event focused on contemporary issues young people in civil society are confronted with on a day to day basis.

This initiative aimed to create a platform in which young people are given an opportunity to voice out their opinions pertaining to political, environmental and social matters. It also aimed to provide space for young people to engage and promote social justice in their respective social contexts, thus propelling students to partake in social activism in a constructive and peaceful manner.

Ms Eliza Solis-Maart, CCS web researcher and postgraduate Development Studies candidate, facilitated proceedings. The first session was addressed by Mr Daniel Byamungu of the Africa Solidarity Network. He shed light on xenophobia and the threats it brings to a peaceful nation like ours.

The second session was chaired by Mr Lukhona Mnguni of the Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit. In the spotlight was the South African Government and its leaders with a special focus on the notion of state capture.

Mr Mnguni said, ‘In a country like ours, we defined the path we wanted to walk in 1994 when we had the elections, we defined it around a constitutional democracy.  So we created parameters of who should have power over the state and how should they capture that power over the state and that’s through a multiparty electoral process. State capture is a normal pursuit of politics so there is good capture so long as it happens with the parameters set up in a constitutional democracy where elections are free and fair and everybody has a chance to participate.’

Mr Mnguni continued saying, ‘We have given up our country to others to do as they please and the questions that you need to ask if we talk about how to undo the state capture issue is that you need to fight back and recapture the state to its rightful owners within the parameters we have defined. If you are an active citizen that is politically charged that is what you do.’

Other speakers included gender specialist Professor Rozena Maart, accompanied by Ms Ayanda Tshazi, who spoke about feminism in South Africa with a focus on gender norms and the roles that men and women are expected to play. Student speakers, Mr Sandile Zondi and Mr Pinda Mofokeng, demonstrated how the issues surrounding education within South Africa have a longstanding history in our country, far beyond the 2015 protests. In addition, they demonstrated how the current context of education and schooling may affect future citizens of South Africa.

Words and photograph: Ziphezinhle Silindile Biyela