ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe accused Mandela Washington Fellowship participants of working with the United States government to destabilise South Africa …

This response by Hlanganani Gumbi was first published in PoliticsWeb.co.za. Gumbi is a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow & Member of the Provincial Legislature in KwaZulu-Natal:

The Mandela Washington Fellowship: It’s about the next generation of young people’s prosperity, not the ANC government Mr Mantashe!

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is President Barack Obama’s flagship young African leaders initiative. The programme places 1000 young leaders from the African continent from 55 countries into some of the best universities in the US to study select courses in public leadership, business and entrepreneurship and lastly civic leadership.

A large focus of the programme is academic, networking and in service / on site learning. There is no obligation on your return to the US, and any further opprtunities to learn and grow are taken at the free liberty of the participants and members of the wider young African leaders initiative network.

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Opportunities

The MWF is the kind of programme and opportunities that us as young people welcome in South Africa. Instead of wanting control and power over the programme, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe should welcome more programmes such as these which equip intelligent, passionate and hardworking young people to get ahead in the competitive global world.

Not only should it be welcomed from as many countries as possible, but from government, the private companies, civil organisations and even political parties who can invest in creating such opportunities.

It is also correct that the programme did not involve the South African government and become a patronage network of the ANC.  The MWF has given opportunities to young people across the political spectrum and should not be tainted by political influence or stalled by government inefficiencies.

Networking

As a 2015 fellow of the MWF, I have been privileged to learn a great deal on the programme and meet many people across our political spectrum (including ANC members). I have developed networks on the continent and in the United States that will have lasting impact for myself and my community.

In fact I was based at Howard University where I got to interact with members of the black congressional caucus and many civil rights leaders who played a large role in the fight against apartheid from the streets of capitol hill and campaigned for disinvestment into the apartheid state working with many liberation leaders.

Mr Mantashe’s comments completely undermine the intelligence of many of our own young people that they can be used so easily and shows a disregard for ability to have opportunities and make choices to use them to fulfil their dreams.

We need more opportunities such as the MWF so young people can fulfil their dreams. It’s about the next generation of young African leaders.