Youth Day 2016: 40 South Africans Under 40


To commemorate Youth Day 2016, we look at the class of young South Africans under the age of 40 whose individual impact, small or great, have perfectly embodied the spirit of the class of 1976 in forging the country’s distinctive identity.

40 South Africans Under 40
(Image: Wikipedia)

CD Anderson

Forty years ago South African youth influenced the way today’s young South Africans wield their own historical impact on the country.
This Youth Day we highlight 40 South Africans born since 1976 who have changed South Africa, or even the world in their own unique way through politics, culture, business, sport and public service.

Jeremy Nell aka Jerm – cartoonist

Continuing a long tradition of strong, intelligent and sharp political art led by cartoonists such as Zapiro, Rico and Dr Jack, Jeremy Nell, known as Jerm, is currently one of South Africa’s best and most widely read satirists. At only 37, he has had a fruitful and eventful career so far, first contributing to The Times and The New Age newspapers before taking his current post as cartoonist-in-residence at Eyewitness News and eNCA websites. He also draws for a number of South African non-news publications. He was a finalist at the 2014 Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards, named one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012 and a winner of a number of local and international art and journalism awards. Jerm describes himself as “South Africa’s 39th best cartoonist”, but through his art and acerbic social media presence Jerm has an impressive cool-cache amongst the youth with sardonic observations on the absurdities of South African culture.

Anne Hirsch – comedienne

Anne Hirsch is South Africa’s queen of comedy. The Anne Hirsch Show on Youtube is one of the country’s most watched online channels and features interviews with some of the country’s most famous, most controversial and most loved personalities, all rounded out with Anne’s cheeky humour. Born and raised in Bloemfontein, Hirsch studied drama in Cape Town. She rose to fame winning the David Kau-produced So You Think You’re Funny reality show in 2009. In addition to her Youtube channel and a radio show that won an MTN Best Night Time Show award in 2013, Hirsch is also the popular host of the Great South African Bake Off. Hirsch’s fun, irreverent and youthful sensibility won her a SAFTA for Best Comedy Writing for the ZANEWS parody show, dislaying a firm but funny finger on the pulse of contemporary South African life.

Redi Tlhabi – radio presenter

Redi Tlhabi is a no holds barred radio presenter, writer, wife and mother. The undisputed queen of talk radio, Tlhabi’s 702 morning show is one of the most popular in the country. She can hold her own against the toughest politicians while showing compassion for ordinary South Africans. “I love the interaction that radio offers,” Tlhabi once told the Mail & Guardian newspaper, “it feels more like a dinner table conversation than a programme.” With a degree in journalism and honours in social science, Tlhabi understands the complexities of contemporary South African life. She is known to be fearless against inequality and injustice, yet cool and measured in the heat of the debate. Often called the voice of reason in the multimedia noise of the modern world, Tlhabi’s Twitter timeline is a constant and vigorous medium of debate and conversation with almost 300 000 followers.

Mokena Makeka – architect

As one of the country’s leading architects, Mokena Makeka is helping create a unique South African aesthetic in its public spaces. His philosophy is to create dignified but modern structures that make South Africans proud of how the country looks to the outside world. His Makeka Design Lab has been involved in a number of high-profile building projects, including the rejuvenation of downtown Johannesburg and renovations to the Cape Town railway station. His company is also involved in the design and building of educational facilities around the country. “I run my studio as a place of learning and enquiry with a purpose,” he told Design Indaba. “Architecture is art. It needs personality and bravery.” Makeka is the South African representative on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Design and lectures at the University of Cape Town.

Oliver Hermanus – filmmaker

Oliver Hermanus is one of South Africa’s most original filmmakers, using his passion for the art form to both drive social change and entertain audiences. Directing credits include Shirley Adams and Skoonheid. Hermanus tells uniquely South African stories with distinctive flare, yet never falls back on obvious narrative tropes. It is a style that translates both locally and globally, with Shirley Adams scoring SAFTA awards for Best Film and Director in 2009. Skoonheid won acclaim and awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. His latest film, Endless River is another personal story told with great performances and a tangible and earthy film palette. It became the first South African film to compete for the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, paving the way for an assured international career.

Lauren Beukes – writer

Lauren Beukes is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter and journalist who specialises in horror and supernatural speculative fiction with a distinctive African flavour. In addition to her fictional work, Lauren has a long tradition of social justice work within the arts community, paving a way forward for quality modern African literature and mentoring up and coming female and black writers. Beukes’s second novel, Zoo City, won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke award for most original and outstanding science fiction work. Her follow-up, The Shining Girls, gained the attention of Stephen King who called it one of the best books he read in the last ten years.

Sifiso Ngobese – entrepreneur

An entrepreneur with an environmental vision is a rare and necessary combination. While Sifiso Ngobese might not grab headlines like Elon Musk or Mark Shuttleworth, he is starting small by tackling the litter problem in Gauteng. He is using a ubiquitous city staple: the trolley waste collectors, known as the “Abomakgereza”. Ngobese’s Unconventional Media Solutions (UMS) project, which is quite literally rolling out industrially designed trolley-containers to South Africa’s thousands of waste recyclers, is slowly gaining converts. The project solicits advertising for the trolleys, offering the recyclers a percentage of the profits. The colourful, road safe containers enjoys support from brands such as Collect-A-Can, Nedbank and Red Bull. UMS’ first rollout of 200 trolleys in Gauteng, along with waste management and entrepreneurial training for the recyclers, is taking trash collection to a new level.

Alan Knott-Craig Jr – entrepreneur

Alan Knott-Craig Jr is South Africa’s mobile communications king, taking on the big names in the industry and changing the way ordinary South Africans access the internet through mobile devices. Not only was he the CEO of Mxit, the country’s largest and most popular mobile social network between 2009 and 2012, he is now heading up the Project Isizwe non-profit initiative to bring free Wi-Fi to the nation. The company’s flagship Tshwane operation follows the international model for urban internet accessibility, offering schools, libraries and public spaces user-friendly portals to the world. The project is looking to bring the free Wi-Fi revolution to other major cities in South Africa, but more important, to rural areas. In addition to being one of South Africa’s most creative ideas-people, Knott-Craig is also a proudly South African praise-singer for the country and its people. His ground-breaking motivational book Don’t Panic… urges all South Africans to play their role in building the country. His most recent book collaboration, So, You Want To Be A Hero, is a series of essays targeted at motivating young South Africans to break the mould in business and life.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio – road cyclist

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio is one of South Africa’s top road cyclists, building a quiet but consistent career over the last 10 years. She is the only South African ranked in the International Cycling Union (UCI) top 10 for 2015/16. She has competed in the 2012 Olympics, won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and won first place in the 2015 African Continental Championships in both road race and time trial categories. Pasio also won last year’s 94.7 Cycle Challenge. She has been specifically tipped by Team South Africa coach Frank Dick to be one of the country’s medal contenders at the Rio Olympics in August. In a recent interview with Cycling News, she reiterated her passion for the sport and her country, “I hope [I] can inspire other South Africans and Africans to realise that with hard work, determination and sacrifice anything is possible”.

Bheki Kunene – entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Bheki Kunene is one of South Africa’s most celebrated and respected business minds, yet his story could have ended up differently. Kunene spend much of his youth trouble-making and on the run from the law, becoming almost notorious in his hometown of Gugulethu. That soon changed, as Kunene said in a 2015 interview with Radio 702, “my turning point came after I felt like giving up on myself. Society deemed me as a misfit and thought I belonged in jail, or dead. I felt I had nothing to lose anyway. The agony fuelled me to wanting to become successful.

Bheki turned his life around and begin his own digital design agency with not much more than an idea, a computer and R600. His company Mind Trix Media is now one of South Africa’s top media agencies, celebrated both in South Africa and the world, with clients from four continents. He is ranked as one of Forbes List’s 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa for 2015.

Adriaan Strauss – rugby player

It was hard not to miss the hulking presence and undeniable passion of Adriaan Strauss during last year’s Rugby World Cup. The 30 year-old Springbok and Bulls hooker has had a steady rise in his playing career, and has now become the Springbok captain under new coach Allister Coetzee’s game plan to inject more level-headed consistency and a bit of power into the team. Strauss has 55 caps for the national team, scoring six tries including two match-winning tries against Scotland at Murrayfield in 2013. Coetzee calls Strauss’ leadership a potential a watershed moment for the future of South African rugby, adding that “(Strauss) enjoys the respect of all the players and he has always fulfilled a leadership role wherever he played, since coming through the junior national structures.”

Buti Manamela – Deputy Minister in the Presidency

As a former youth leader, issues effecting young South Africans is something embedded in Manamela’s DNA, and as someone close to senior Minister Jeff Radebe and the President himself, he is able to bring those issues front and centre for the good of the country. Manamela has had a wide-ranging career for someone as young he is, having been a prodigious student activist in his Limpopo province in the early 1990s. He has been a community journalist and trade unionist. A Member of Parliament since 2009, he has fulfilled positions in the Economic Development, Trade and Labour portfolios. He also has extensive experience in pan-African and global economic partnerships. As one of the government’s new generation of grassroots politicians and agents of social change, Manamela is poised for to be even more influential in determining policy that strengthens the country’s democracy.

Sihle Tshabalala – tech entrepreneur

Tshabalala’s story is one of powerful transformation: a reformed convict and prison gang member, he now runs one of most successful prisoner rehabilitation and support organisation in South Africa. Tshabalala began his Damascene journey while still incarcerated in the Brandvlei Correctional Centre in the Western Cape. He joined the Group of Hope, an initiative that assists prisoners in completing their basic education and developing sellable skills. After being released in 2013, he wanted to continue the good work he had started and created Brothers For All (B4All) an organisation that trains both reformed prisoners and the youth in computer programing and coding. Speaking to the Mail & Guardian in 2015, Tshabalala says his time behind bars drives his need to help society, saying “I believe with deep conviction (we all have the ability to) end the cycle of poverty and crime, (with B4All) offering technology skills to youth at risk, offenders and ex-offenders (creates an opportunity to change mind-sets and offer realistic hope).” With programming skills in much demand and an employment boom currently underway in the IT industry, the work done by Tshabalala and his organisation offers hope beyond a life of crime and his own experience is living proof of that.

Simphiwe Dana – singer

As one of South Africa’s most successful music stars, Dana epitomises young South Africa’s message to the world: young, proud and beautiful. Not only a great singer, whose lyrical blend of modern jazz soul and African rhythms has set her apart from others, Dana is also an outspoken social activist for feminism and the rights of the youth. “I wish I didn’t feel so strongly about social injustice,” Dana told Gareth Cliff this year, “I wish I could just write music…(but) I like to fix people.” Hailed when she released her first album in 2004 as the new Miriam Makeba, Dana’s lyrics draws strongly on her upbringing in the Transkei, and she remembers the influence of her mother and her singing voice as a key motivator in both her career and her life. While she has become a mother herself, letting her music take a backseat (for now), Dana is still very much in the public eye and vocal on social media on topical local and global issues with her over 200,000 followers, with the appropriate handle of @firebrand.

Angela Larkan – HIV/Aids activist

For almost ten years, the non-profit organization has helped fight the destructive impact of HIV/AIDS and poverty on rural communities, particularly on children. Thanda, begun by Larkan on the Kwa-Zulu Natal’s rural South Coast, supports over 300 orphaned children in the area, in early childhood development, education and other community services. Larkan and her work was featured in a 2011 Levi Strauss ad campaign Go Forth that highlighted pioneering NGOs. The campaign also featured actor Matt Damon’s safe sanitation project. Larkan and Thanda continue to work in unison with the people to build rural communities that are self-reliant, healthy places where residents respect one another and live sustainably, all while keeping the education and health of children as priority. The organisation has won numerous awards for its work, including the 2010 Brand South Africa Mzansi Soul award and a Southern African Drivers of Change Award in 2011.

Musa Manzi – geophysicist and educator

Dr Musa Manzi grew up poor in a rural village in KwaZulu-Natal, where poverty and God inspired him to become the man he is today. A natural-born teacher with a passion for knowledge, he starting teaching maths and biology to fellow students while still in matric. He always knew his destiny lay in education, and promised himself that when he could, he would give back to the next generation. “It is a lesson to all (students),” he told Mail & Guardian in 2014, “they shouldn’t let the troubles of their past prevent or limit them from reaching their potential.” He became the first black South African to obtain a PhD in Geophysics, and is currently doing ground-breaking work on seismic reflection data from the Wits Basin that has opened up new ways of understanding the distribution of methane gas along underground faults, something that goes a long to improving mining safety and resource evaluation. Manzi is also the first African to win the international award for the Best Research Paper published in Geophysics of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. Manzi is a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, but also donates his time as a science and maths teacher in Alexandra schools, giving back opportunities that he often never had himself when growing up.

Sanelisiwe Ntuli – poet and educator

Inspired by her storyteller father who regaled her as a child with traditional African fables that had a rich history and strong identity, Ntuli was determined to keep those stories alive for the next generation. She believes even in this modern technological age, that stories have the ability to change the world, “by telling a story you can heal someone or change somebody’s life because we are surrounded by stories,” she told the Mail & Guardian in 2015. Mentored by South Africa’s doyenne of African storytelling, Gcina Mhlope, Ntuli is using stories to educate and promote literacy in the country’s poorest areas through her Funda Ubhale project. She is also a published poet and has performed spoken word monologues at literary festivals in South Africa and around the world. Funda Ubhale is currently presented in over 15 schools and focuses on teaching children to read and write through the art of storytelling and inspiring imagination.

Sivu Siwisa – gender activist

Siwisa is the creator of the Ikasi Pride initiative designed to raise awareness and understanding of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) experience, particularly in townships and rural areas. The movement aims to advance understanding of the constitutional rights of LGBTI people by making information, support and resources readily available to combat the marginalisation of LGBTI people. “What keeps me inspired is the knowledge that someone before me worked tirelessly to push LGBTI rights in South Africa.” Siwisa told Mail & Guardian in 2014, “it is then not only my duty to guard those rights, but my responsibility to ensure that everyone else in the LGBTI community, regardless of gender, race or geographic location, enjoys those rights too.”

Bruce Dube – tech entrepreneur

Dube creates and owns a number of highly influential digital media platforms, including youth portals, ecommerce sites, video platforms and online magazines, including the hugely popular education platform EduCan. He has been recognised as one of the British Council’s top 60 Global Change Makers in 2013 and one of the World Bank’s five most prominent young people from Latin America and Africa, as well as one of UNAIDS SA’s Youth Movers and Shakers. Inspired by young people with positive attitudes despite their circumstances, Dube knew that technology was key in giving go-getters better access to developmental information that could enhance their education, employment prospects and inspire their entrepreneurship. In addition to offering these mobile and internet portals, he also invests in youth start-ups across Africa when he sees the potential for making Africa a fully connected continent with the rest of the world. “It’s OK to be different,” is Dube’s life philosophy, “do what you can, use what you have, where you are and you can go far.”

Pippa Tshabalala – tech journalist

With a multi-million local gaming industry growing yearly, it’s important that critical voices stand out to guide the consumer base, which is dominated by the youth, on the ins and outs of the industry, not only in the game technology itself but also in the surrounding social implications of technology that continues envelope everyday lives. Tshabalala has been a writer, TV producer and ardent gamer for over ten years and is one of the most respected journalists in her field. An outspoken critic of sexism in the gaming community, Tshabalala encourages more females to get involved in all aspects of the industry to change the status quo. She was a presenter on The Verge, South Africa’s first locally produced show dedicated to gaming and technology, and has written for a number of local and international publications on the advent of gaming and the local game design industry. She has presented talks at TEDxSoweto, highlighting the importance of gaming and technology in social change and also does consumer education for Vodacom.

AB de Villiers – cricketer

Superhuman batting, a calm confidence and a fan-winning smile sums Proteas captain and batsman AB de Villiers perfectly, but he is much more. He is currently one of the game’s most popular proponents, both at home and around the world, thanks to his stylish gameplay and ability to strike any ball anywhere in the field, earning him the nickname ‘Mr 360’. AB plays in all formats of the game, including time with the fast-paced Indian Premier League, where he rivals even West Indian power-player Chris Gayle in both runs scored and popularity. As Proteas captain, he has fully mastered the modern game: AB holds batting records for the fastest fifty, hundred and one hundred fifty score in ODI cricket, the fastest Test hundred by a South African and the fastest T20 fifty by a South African. Ultimately, he is ranked by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as the best batsman in the world in all formats of the game right now. A fan favourite in South Africa, AB has used his popularity to begin cricket workshops in a number of rural schools, hoping to inspire youngsters to think and hit big. On his success, AB is humble but grateful, telling South African Cricket magazine that “I can never win a game alone. Every time I’m out there, it’s about the team and about the country.”

Lauren Schroeder – palaeoanthropologist

Schroeder is one of South Africa’s top archaeologists and experts working on the forefront of evolution and diversification of Pleistocene Homo, the ‘missing link’ between the Australopith extinct genus of hominids and the genus of modern humans over two million years ago. More simply, she explained to Mail & Guardian, “This period is important as it marks the emergence of our genus Homo; the beginning of our humanness.” Schroeder is involved with both the Malapa and Rising Star hominid projects at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. She is also part of the research team studying recent fossil discoveries, including Australopithecus sediba and Homo Naledi, all of which she describes as “unravelling questions about our origins adds an additional layer to our rich African identity and heritage.” Schroeder has authored a number of publications and academic presentations internationally, and will take up a post-doctoral research associate position at the State University of New York. But she hopes to return to South Africa to teach and share her passion for uncovering the secrets of humankind’s prehistory hidden away right here in South Africa. Her advice to learners and budding researchers is “never stop questioning.”

Karen Zoid – singer

Dubbed South Africa’s ‘Queen of Rock’, Zoid has had an influence on not only her large rock music audience, but also on the greater national cultural landscape. Zoid shot to fame in 2001 with her iconic youth anthem Afrikaners is Pleiserig that poked fun and celebrated a generation coming of age in the new South Africa. A winner of numerous local music awards, including Best Female Artist SAMA in 2008, Zoid has toured right across the country, to diverse, appreciative audiences at South Africa’s premier music and cultural festivals, performing with the likes of Vusi Mahlesela, Dorothy Masuka and Zolani Mahola. Her duet with Francois van Coke, Toe Vind Ek Jou, is one of South Africa’s biggest iTunes hits and the most watched local music video on YouTube, with over 1 million views. In between live performances and her Kyknet talkshow Republiek van Zoid Afrika, Zoid is also a mentor on the popular reality TV show The Voice where she helps nurture new South African talent.

Lady Skollie – artist and social media influencer

Not only is Laura Windvogel, AKA Lady Skollie, one of South Africa’s leading contemporary artists, she is also one of the country’s most outspoken social media influencers through her various online social networks. She describes the power of immediate interaction possibilities of social media as empowering, telling the Superbalist fashion and culture website that “(the world is) definitely nearing a space where our thoughts and opinions resonate louder than ever before.”
In between creating controversial yet engaging art, Skollie runs a full gamut of multimedia operations, including podcasting, photography and writing. It is on her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds that she creates a uniquely South African, humourous and confrontational youth-orientated vibe that is winning her new fans daily.

Faith47 – street artist

Faith47 is the internationally-acclaimed South African street artist, with works exhibited on numerous public city spaces around the world, including Taipei, Manchester and Cape Town. Often compared to English art provocateur Banksy, in at least her temperament, Faith47’s art attempts to disarm the strategies of global realpolitik and speaks to the complexities of the history of the human condition and its global existential search.

Mahala magazine calls her “one of South Africa’s most unflinching and overtly political artistic voices.” Her most famous works include the Capax Infiniti mural in Portland, US, and her Fees Must Fall graffiti at university campuses across South Africa.

Siba Mtongana – chef and television personality

Mtongana is a passionate and dynamic food enthusiast, bringing style and charisma to South Africa television food scene. Her popular DStv Food Network show Siba’s Table is broadcast in more than 130 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, USA, Australia and Asia. With a degree in Food, Nutrition and Consumer Sciences, Mtongana is popularising healthy living at both home and around the world, all with unique African flavours and an easy-going accessibility. She has won three prestigious Galliova (international food) Awards for her recipe development, food styling and food journalism, and, in 2014, was honoured by O magazine’s Power List as one of Africa’s most influential women alongside actress Lupita Nyong’o and South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Victor Dlamini – writer, podcaster

As a former journalist, Dlamini has always asked tough questions and offered measured but passionate commentary on South African life. He left journalism and a stint in corporate communications to combine his two loves: photography and literature. His photography work includes portraiture of South African writers, artists and music stars. Dlamini hosts the popular Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast, where he hosts a number of top South African writers and literary experts, passionately analysing South African and African literature, in particular how language and the written word reflects the African experience. His life philosophy, he tells the Books Live website, is to “decide what is important in your own life, and then do it with all the love and care possible.”

Tsitsi Chiumya – game designer

After Robot is a uniquely South African board game, in the same vein as Monopoly or Risk, that uses the local taxi industry as a backdrop to learning how business works and understanding South African culture. The game is the brainchild of Chiumya and his game development team at Shapa Studios. Chiumya wants use locally designed board games and computer games as an educational tool and a community builder, much like the way he himself played in his youth, particularly the traditional game of morabaraba (or African chess). Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, he says his dream is to put South Africa on the gaming map, especially as board games begin to enjoy a resurgence around the world, adding that “games that are made from a South African or African perspective can create experiences that will cross cultures and bring all people of the world together.”

Simon Mayson – urban planner

Director of inner city transformation for the City of Johannesburg Mayson is tasked with solving the housing crisis in South Africa’s largest urban hub and does so with great enthusiasm, perfectly placed to make a real change for thousands of ordinary residents of the city. Mayson is currently co-ordinating the development of the Inner City Housing Implementation Plan, through a partnership with the Johannesburg Social Housing Organisation, Johannesburg Development Agency, the City’s Planning Department and Housing Department. “Inner-city Johannesburg,” Mayson told Mail & Guardian this year, “despite being a mayoral priority and pinpointed at provincial and national level as the hub and core of Gauteng, had neither formal policy, nor implementation by the housing department. Yet decent, affordable housing is arguably the key to transformation there.” He has worked across Africa, discovering new ways to meet the urban expansion challenges in a truly African way, embodying both the spirit of Ubuntu and the importance of uplifting ordinary citizens with on-the-ground interaction. “I aspire to be a change-maker, a thinker and a doer,” he says.

Trevor Noah – comedian, TV presenter

Without doubt, Noah is the most famous South African in the world right now, having become the host of one of America’s most popular late night television shows, The Daily Show, where he brings his acerbic, down-to-earth African wit and cool outsider hipness to the realm of US politics and pop culture. But it has been a long road to where he is now, having done his time on the South African stand-up comedy circuit for over 15 years. He has acted and presented in various home-grown shows, before trying his luck in the US and Europe as a comedian. Equally able to tackle the US riotous pre-election season and the global politics, Noah has settled in nicely as Daily Show host, and the show has quickly made Noah a popular staple in the lives of young Americans’ (and South Africans).

Itumeleng Khune – football player

The safest hands in South Africa, Khune is a stalwart of the Bafana Bafana football team for over 10 years, and currently its captain. Khune began his sporting career as a school cricketer, but inspired by his father’s amateur football career and a desire to earn a living for his family, he started playing professional football, first as a defender with the Kaizer Chiefs junior league and then later as goalkeeper. He became Bafana Bafana’s first-choice keeper in 2008, competing in the African Cup Nations, Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup. He became the national team’s captain in 2013. He has won numerous awards as both national player and Chiefs fixture, including Premier Soccer League’s Footballer of the Year and the SA Sportsman of the Year, both in 2013. When not defending between the posts for Chiefs and his country, he spends time nurturing the next generation of South African football stars teaching the fine art of goalkeeping.

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng – medical doctor

As a general practitioner Mofokeng has always made it her primary mission to communicate and champion accurate and vital medical information, particularly on reproductive and sexual health. Through her popular Kaya FM radio show, in her forthright yet quirky style, she gets to do that on a larger scale. She encourages thousands of listeners to challenge rape culture, engender respect for patients among health practitioners and raise awareness of women’s health issues and sexual violence. Mofokeng also raises awareness via her social media platforms and on local and international television and runs a successful women’s health practice in Johannesburg. She is also vice-chairperson of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition.
“My end goal as a doctor is to ensure there are places where people can have their bodily integrity respected,” Mofokeng told the Mail & Guardian this year, believing that it starts with information and support, “in communities where there is support at every level, people tend to speak out more, because they know they are not alone. Without knowledge and support, people tend to remain silent, for fear of being shamed and victimised.”

Kyle Louw – poet and culture commentator

A former IT specialist who discovered the art and power of spoken word performance as a way to express his creativity, Louw is one of South Africa’s leading poets. His “witty and entertaining, but intelligent and disturbingly shrewd” performances have inspired a resurgence in this largely underground art form. His poetry tackles a number of contemporary challenges, things like racism, overwhelming internet culture and social politics. Louw has won various local and international spoken word competitions including InZync, Poetica and the Open Book Festival, and has spoken at a Tedx Cape Town event. He is also the rhyming voice that welcomes travellers at Cape Town International Airport, as part of the city’s tourism campaign. In a world where the art of spoken word and rap can sometimes be full of bravado and artifice, Louw’s rhymes are thought-provoking and inventive. According to a critic writing for London’s Roundhouse Theatre during his performance there in 2015, “Louw has the ability to address each audience member individually allowing them to take whatever it is they need from his words which in turn transports listeners outside of their norm. When he speaks people stop and listen.”

Ludwick Marishane – inventor and entrepreneur

Marishane invented the “Dry Bath”, a revolutionary waterless sanitation system that is widely used in impoverished areas. The invention earned him global recognition, and in 2013, Time magazine named him as one of the top 30 people under 30 who are changing the world. Google also placed him as one of the 12 brightest minds in the world. Marishane used the success of the “Dry Bath” to start his own innovation hub, Headboy Industries, that focuses on ideas and inventions that add value to people’s lives. The hub also offers financing and training for young black entrepreneurs. An admirer of innovators like Elon Musk, Marishane doesn’t want to be known just as the “Dry Bath” guy, and is always to looking for new challenges and new ways to change the world. He feels social capital, like networking and creating an impactful word-of-mouth, is essential to finding success in business and innovation. There is a lot of money available to innovators with good products, but they just have to make the right noises.

DJ Qness – musician

Qness, whose real name is Qhubani Ndlovu, is one of South Africa’s premier house and EDM artists, globally recognised for his slick production and innovative music business savvy. At 17, he built his first recording studio and released his first album On Cue Volume 1 in 2009 which sold over 20 000 copies, thanks to the infectious melodies like Fugama Unamathe and Uzongilinda. He later used this clout to record with established artists like Simpiwe Dana and Zamajobe. Qness established himself and his music as a popular crossover genre, enjoying success on both national pop radio as well as more underground house music community. His street cred so solid that he was selected by American hip-hop star Dr Dre as the South African spokesperson for the Beats by Dre audio products. Qness tours extensively around the country and the rest of the world, bringing uplifting melodic Mzanzi sound to some of the top electronic festivals in Europe and the US.

Siyabulela Xuza – rocket scientist

Xuza had always had his head in the stars as a child in the Eastern Cape, and was determined to make his mark both the world of science and the universe. He built his first fuel-efficient rocket on his mother’s kitchen table, and it won him the National Science Expo top prize and later, a gold medal at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. So impressed with his new take on developing solid, reusable rocket technology, the US Nasa organisation named a newly-discovered minor planet in the Jupiter asteroid best after him: 23182 Siyaxuza. Xuza is a firm believer that hard work and not just brains is key to success, telling University of the Free State graduates at a ceremony in 2014 that “[my achievements] are not because I am smart, but because I never gave up”. He currently sits on the Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel, a pan-African organisation of the continent’s brightest minds committed to seeking sustainable energy solutions. He is also furthering his research at Harvard University developing new energy technology for the good of the planet.

Jonathan Liebesman – Hollywood director

Liebesman is currently one of the most sought after action directors in Hollywood, having proven his talent in big budget blockbusters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 2014 and the sleeper action hit Battle: Los Angeles in 2011. Liebesman is a graduate of the highly esteemed AFDA film school in Johannesburg and cut his teeth in filmmaking specialising in short film. After spending years on the US independent film festival circuit, showcasing his self-financed films, he drew the attention of Hollywood action auteur Michael Bay who recruited him to helm a number of Bay’s production company’s smaller films, including a remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre cult classic. Liebesman still describes himself as proudly South African despite his international success and hopes to write and film South African stories for the global market as his career matures.

Rebecca Davis – journalist

Davis is a journalist, columnist and social media commentator with a flair for concise, constructive and often humourous observations on South African politics and pop culture. She has written for the Daily Maverick website, the Mail & Guardian and the Sunday Times. Davis has also worked in radio, written for satirical TV show ZA News and is a published author. She is an ardent defender of women’s and LGBTI rights. Her Twitter presence, with over 33 000 followers can be best described as Liz Lemon meets Hunter Thompson: irreverent, clever, confrontational but always sincere, whether she’s covering parliament, watching television or fighting injustice. She is an essential read for every South African.

Athandiwe Saba – data journalist

Former City Press editor Ferial Haffajee describes colleague Saba as a “digital data guru” and one of the few South African journalists constructively using data to tell compelling stories. Saba herself calls data journalism an invaluable tool for media in the 21st century, when using facts and figures make the difference between a bad story and a trusted one. Saba was part of the team that won the CNN African Journalism of the Year award for deciphering the logistical paper trails behind the Marikana tragedy in 2012. Saba works closely with young journalism students in using data to enhance investigative reporting beyond hearsay and unreliable sources.

Terry Pheto – actress

Pheto shot to fame in the 2005 Oscar-winning Tsotsi, having never acted in film and television before. She has since gone on to become one of South Africa’s most sought after actresses locally and internationally. Pheto has leading roles in Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom and the South Africa crime drama How to Steal 2-Million, for which she won a Best Supporting Actress award at the 2012 African Movie Academy Awards. In addition to her TV work in local dramas Hopeville and Jacob’s Cross, she landed a significant role in US daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful in 2011. In between work in theatre and being the South African face for L’Oreal, and extensive charity work, Pheto will next feature in the big budget UK production film on the life of Botswana’s first democratic president Seretse Khama, titled A United Kingdom.

Source: Mail & Guardian Young 200 South Africans,Wikipedia, South African History Online and other online sources.

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.