Tensions boil over at Ahmed Kathrada Youth Summit

Frustration and petty arguments were the winners of the day, at summit meant to strengthen democratic practices among the youth.

On the morning of Saturday May 10 2024, a youth summit was hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) in the New Commerce Building at Wits University.

On the cusp of the 2024 elections, this summit aimed to host constructive political discussions between political party representatives about topics relevant to the more than fifty young attendees. However, said discourse quickly devolved into chaos as tempers flared.

The discussion devolved into a frenzy once Economic Freedom Front (EFF) representative, Nyakallo Mokoena derailed proceedings, by arguing that Anele Mda, an independent candidate, should not be given a platform, because she was late to the summit and “did not respect their time”.

This resulted in rage-filled arguments between Mda and the Mokoena, with representatives from the Democratic Alliance and the African National Congress drawn into the fray.

The summit was only able to continue after groups of the audience began to sing in unison, crossing political boundaries in pursuit of a singular goal – to calm the intense situation and get the summit back on track.

The representatives attending the summit, from right to left: Mark Surgeon (Freedom Front Plus), Nyakallo Mokoena (Economic Freedom Fighters), Henry Masuku (BOSA), Nicholas Nyati (Democratic Alliance), and Phathutshedzo Nthulane (ANC). Independent candidate Anele Mda is absent from the photo due to arriving late. Photo: Tristan Monzeglio

A question-and-answer session followed these discussions, where grade 11 student, Precious Hadebe, stated that the audience was “not here for [the representatives] to throw shots at each other”. She specifically criticised the EFF for providing “no solutions” and for continuing to “attack other parties”.

Mokoena, again interrupted the summit, arguing that Mda’s tardiness was representative of how the country is running out of time to make necessary changes.

This resulted in another extended chaotic interruption, which resulted in the Build One South Africa (BOSA) representative walking out on the summit during the lunch break.

After walking out, BOSA’s Henry Masuku, told Wits Vuvuzela that although he “appreciate[s]” the opportunity to have these sorts of discussions, he is concerned about the political leaders who “deflect questions” and “don’t have a real plan of action”.

According to a media release from the AKF, this summit aimed to help “develop young leaders” who are politically “active” and “conscious” and understand their role in “strengthening democracy in South Africa”.

Despite the disarray, the AKF did achieve its goal and informed the youth about their pivotal role in South African democracy, but not in the way it intended.

The audience’s ability to quell the chaotic bickering that ensued by standing united in song is indicative of how these issues could be solved by the youth in the future: collaboratively and with a singular goal of helping one another in the face of adversity.