How Mpumalanga Youth Create Change, Acquire Land and Income

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

FEDUP's KwaNdebele youth group in Mpumalanga

FEDUP’s KwaNdebele youth group in Mpumalanga

For Sylvia Mduli South Africa’s Youth Day on 16 June 2014 was energising and inspiring. She recounts how the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) gathered seventy FEDUP youth coordinators from across the country for a workshop in Durban. Discussions focussed on the youth’s experiences on the ground, their challenges and how they could use FEDUP’s mobilisation tools to organise themselves, build partnerships and influence change in their lives and communities.

“When I went to the youth exchange in Durban I saw how active other youth groups were and how they ran their youth activities. So I wanted to start my own youth group. Since then we have grown a lot and our members are doing many activities including income generation. Our challenge is that we need land for a youth office so we can do our work. We asked the FEDUP mamas to help us organise a partnership meeting with the local chiefs and councillor so we could share our work and negotiate for land”.

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Sylvia Mduli (far left) with fellow FEDUP youth coordinators

Sylvia Mduli (far left) with fellow FEDUP youth coordinators

The meeting took place in early December 2015 in KwaMhlangu and was supported by long-standing FEDUP coordinators Nomvula Mahlangu (Mpumalanga) and Rose Molokoane (National). The group introduced itself to the listeners present, speaking about membership, its momentum of gathering savings and their income generation initiatives. Sylvia explained that the group’s struggle for land was based on the aim of building their own houses. Their immediate priority, however, was acquiring land for a youth office that would be a space for gatherings and income generation activities such as beading or storing recyclables.

“In 2015 our group had 62 members – 40 women and 22 men. We saved a total of R 15 970. As a group we do daily savings and collect them from each member during door-to-door visits. We also do stokvel and birthday party savings. We meet every fortnight and exchange ideas. This is how we started recycling cans, bottles and boxes and selling them to the depot. We used our recycling income to organise an end-of-year party We also use our earnings for more income generation – some members have a hairsalon, utshisa nyama [street barbecue] or do beading.   We also have a small catering business with 22 chairs that we rent out. We bought them for R40 each and rent them out for R7 each. You know we are always fighting for the money. Its not easy but we are trying!”

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Mpumalanga youth collect door to door savings

Mpumalanga youth collect door to door savings

Rose Molokoane (Left), Nomovula Mahlangu (Right)

Rose Molokoane (Left), Nomovula Mahlangu (Right)

Together with the chiefs and councillor the group inspected a large piece of land, a portion of which was promised to the youth in a prior meeting. Sylvia emphasised the success of the youth group’s meeting with the elders who agreed to sell a portion of land to them. They also supported a FEDUP by joining the FEDUP funeral scheme and requested that the youth group present their work to youth in the chiefs’ area. The councillor indicated his interest in engaging with the youth as a group that could mobilise the entire community.

“We now need to make a proposal to the chief and continue to save. It will be local elections soon so there will be a new councillor. This can be difficult but we will continue to talk to the new councillor. I have learnt that there are some organisations that you join and at the end you get nothing out of them. But with FEDUP it is “work for work”. “

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Regional chief addresses the group.

Regional chief addresses the group.

In a country that has an “urbanising and youthful population” the priority of building South Africa’s youth is evident (see the National Development Plan (NDP)). While the youth-oriented lens of the NDP focuses on improvements in critical educational, social and economic indicators, the building of self-reliant youth movements is essential, especially in urban and rural poor contexts. FEDUP coordinator, Rose Molokoane underscores the point:

“We need an organised youth that is able to create an agenda of change in their lives. Our children grew up seeing their mothers create impact and opportunities for the poor in their communities. We are pulling the youth next to us to learn from us. To draw in the youth is to create the next level of leadership. There are so many service delivery protests in South Africa and it is heartbreaking to see the youth leading them. We need to groom new youth leaders that want to learn about new avenues to negotiate with the state. Because of unemployment we advise them not to sit down and wait for the work to come to them.”

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