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Adriaan Basson: Here they are – 100 young Mandelas

Leadership. Vision. Creativity. Compassion. Resilience.

These were the five values chosen by News24’s journalists that embodied Madiba for us. In the centenary of former president Nelson Mandela’s birth, we set out to find a new generation of leaders to take South Africa forward.

Looking back is good. We must learn from the past and avoid the mistakes of those who came before us.

But looking towards the future is crucial. Who will be the architects of our beloved land over the next 100 years? What are the issues that will determine our fate? Who are our new Nelson Mandelas?

We were overwhelmed by your response to our call for entries.

In a time when one could easily be duped into believing that South Africa is more polarised than ever before if you listen to certain “leaders” or walk the grubby streets of social media networks, we were blown away by the over 1 300 entries we received to be part of our first 100 young Mandelas series.

It was extremely difficult to select only 100 from the hundreds of incredible nominations we received.

Your stories have inspired and delighted us. Police officers, teachers, school children, doctors, entrepreneurs, social workers, IT specialists, filmmakers, activists, academics and lawyers – we received nominations from a broad range of people with one thing in common: their love, commitment and compassion for South Africa and all who live in it.

If you are doubting whether we are on the right track as a country and have the right people to lead the way, look no further than these 100 stories.

Read the story of Johan Pedro, a civil servant from Bellville who earns less than R5 000 a month but uses his money to teach sports after school to underprivileged kids and help them find bursaries.

Be inspired by Dr Mukovhe Phanguphangu from Thohoyandou who is a champion for children with hearing disabilities, breaking international ground with his research and efforts to raise funding for surgically-implantable hearing devices.

Or join Marcelle du Plessis in her efforts to empower the community of Lavender Hill in Cape Town by planting lavender, producing and selling beauty products made from the plants and ploughing back profits into education projects and skills training in the area.

We are publishing contact details for most of our 100 young Mandelas of the future and encourage you to support them in their efforts to make South Africa the country Mandela dreamt of.

In July, Madiba’s birthday month, News24 is celebrating his life and legacy through numerous multimedia features and think pieces to honour him and reflect on his life and times. All of this will be hosted on our dedicated Mandela 100 website.

Also read: Contrary to widespread belief, Mandela was not God

For the next four weeks, we will publish thought-provoking contributions about Madiba’s role in shaping our past and future and encourage you to contribute on our many platforms.

A champion for freedom of expression and defending the rights of those who differed from him, we will attempt to emulate Mandela in giving space to a variety of views and opinions about where we are as a nation, 24 years after he became the first democratically-elected president of South Africa.

The overwhelming reaction from readers to our 100 young Mandelas project has shown us that Madiba’s dream of a united South Africa where equality, freedom and opportunity reign is far from dead.

Speaking in Cape Town after his inauguration as state president on 9 May 1994, Mandela said: “Ours has been a quest for a constitution freely adopted by the people of South Africa, reflecting their wishes and their aspirations. The struggle for democracy has never been a matter pursued by one race, class, religious community or gender among South Africans. In honouring those who fought to see this day arrive, we honour the best sons and daughters of all our people. We can count amongst them Africans, Coloureds, Whites, Indians, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews – all of them united by a common vision of a better life for the people of this country.”

Our first 100 young Mandelas have told us what they are doing to achieve Madiba’s vision of a better life for the people of South Africa.

What are you going to do to fulfil his dream? Join the conversation by sending us your feedback or views to 100mandelas@24.com.

* Basson is editor-in-chief of News24. Follow him on Twitter @adriaanbasson

** Grandchildren and great grandchildren of Nelson Mandela pose for a group photo on his 88th birthday. Pictured are: From bottom left Zwelami (3) great grandchild, Zenani (9) great grandchild, Andile (13) grandchild, Pumla (12) great grandchild, Mbuso (15) grandchild, Bambatha (17) grandchild, Zwelabo (14) grandchild, Zuzuko (14) grandchild, Ziyanda (5) grandchild. (Photo by Gallo Images/The Times/Halden Krog)