21 Life Lessons E-Book
Available in PDF E-Book format – take these stories with you everywhere.
Natasha Chigamba (22) is a third-year student at the University of the Western Cape who will complete her bachelor’s degree in Oral Health with flying colours at the end of this year (2020). To graduate in December, she desperately needs financial help. Natasha was born in Zimbabwe and came to South Africa as an orphan when she was only seven years old. I’ve known Natasha for eight years and her tragic circumstances make her achievements up to this point all the more remarkable. A substantial part of the proceeds of 21 Life Lessons @ 21 will go towards helping Natasha settle her university fees.
#Action4Inclusion is a student-led crowdfunding campaign under the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University (SU). The campaign piloted at SU seeks to ensure the registration and the clearing of historical debt of the so-called “missing middle” students and students from poor working-class backgrounds. I dedicate my time and skills to coordinating this campaign with the burning hope that one day, the crisis of student debt in South Africa will be a distant memory.
When I started thinking of ways to celebrate my 21st birthday on 2 December, I realised after the difficult year we’ve all been through due to the Covid-19 pandemic, having a normal birthday party in 2020 wouldn’t feel quite right.
After deep reflection on how I could best celebrate the milestone of turning 21, I felt the need to pay it forward. Over the past few years, I’ve been immensely privileged to have been inspired and mentored by exceptional South African women and men. I wanted other young people to also experience the love, grace and inspiration I have benefited from.
I decided to compile a book consisting of life lessons for young people, 21 Life Lessons @ 21. I approached 21 successful people I admire – some high-profile people and some personal heroes as well as family members – to share one life lesson or insight they wish they’d known at 21. A succinct purpose of this book is captured in the isiXhosa saying Inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili – wisdom is learnt from the elders.
I hope all the pearls of wisdom in 21 Life Lessons @ 21 will inspire and motivate every young person who reads it to rise above the odds and to see that it is possible to escape the shackles of poverty and deprivation – as so many contributors to this book prove with their life stories. My wish is also that this book will encourage readers to provide a lifeline to those who are still suffocated by inequality and injustice.
“This book is incredibly powerful. It takes us through people’s journeys and the lessons life has taught them. It’s not simply a book, it’s a fountain of wisdom from South Africans from all walks of life who’ve made the most of their lives, some against daunting odds. 21 Life Lessons @ 21 contains useful advice illustrated by stories that will move and inspire readers.”Natasha Chigamba
I owe deep gratitude to all the contributors to this book. To me, you exude the highest level of human consciousness, ubuntu and compassion.
Finally, it seems apt to be reminded of the wise words of our global icon Nelson Mandela when he celebrated his 90th birthday: “The world remains beset by so much human suffering, poverty and deprivation. It is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all, especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalised.”
Moshe leads the communications & transformation function for the JSE-listed Spur Corporation, based in Cape Town. Moshe also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Spur Foundation. Born in Gugulethu, Moshe received a Hamilton Mvelase Bursary and matriculated from Bishops Diocesan College in 1997. He sits on the Council at Bishops where he chairs the sub-committee on transformation. Moshe has served a three-year term on the board of the National Arts Council of South Africa, appointed by the Minister of Arts and Culture. He is married to Matomelo and they have a three-year-old son, Neo Ngwanya.
Rochelle is an award-winning journalist and copywriter who has been saying sorry and shrinking herself since the age of 21. From being a ‘wannabe good wife’ in a dead-end vat-en-sit situation for seven years to being a disappointing makoti and ultimately a failed housewife for 14 years and counting, she’s no longer saying sorry and she owns her superhero pose.
Susan is and award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, TV and print media since she turned 21 in1988 when she became the arts editor and later editor of her student newspaper. That was also the year her dad kicked her out of the house. He said she’ll come crawling back. She never did. Two years later Nelson Mandela walked free and Susan became a radio presenter at the SABC. The rest is history.
Edwin is a retired judge who served as a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He is well-known for his HIV/AIDS and LGBTI-rights activism and was hailed by former President Nelson Mandela as “one of South Africa’s new heroes”. President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed him as Inspecting Judge of Correctional Services from 1 January 2020 and in October 2019 he was elected Chancellor of Stellenbosch University. Winner of numerous awards, Edwin has spent his entire career seeking to build a more just society for all of South Africa’s people.
Kathleen was born and raised in Cape Town and Stellenbosch and graduated with a BA LLB from Stellenbosch University in 1986. She worked in financial services as a legal adviser, both in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Kathleen has been married to Giuseppe since 1986. She’s now a happily retired grandmother based in Jersey in the Channel Islands.
Catherine is an international climate activist, human rights defender, trailblazer and agent of change. A 2013 Archbishop Tutu African Oxford Fellow and 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow. Catherine’s commitment and passion for social change takes her to the smallest of communities in South Africa, as well as global platforms including the United Nations, where she works as a human rights defender actively engaging in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council for the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable. Catherine is the co-founder of Generation Earth, a youth-led environmental organisation.
Prof. Wim is Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University and a gastroenterologist by profession. He also serves as Vice-Chair of Universities South Africa, Chairperson of Higher Health, and Council member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. He obtained a DPhil in Immunology at Oxford University and a master’s degree in health-care management from Harvard University. He was also Dean of Medical Sciences at the University of Cape Town and has received a grant from the Harry Crossley Foundation in recognition of his leadership at SU and included in the publication Best Doctors in America and subsequently donated to the Vlakte Bursary Fund.
Sello is the Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Previously he was the Head of Information Communications and spokesperson for the South African Human Rights Commission. He participated in the post-1994 transformation of the National Archives and is a former Director of the South African History Archive at Wits University. He serves on the boards of the Open Democracy Advice Centre and Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. He is a 2014 Archbishop Tutu Fellow. Sello has successfully summited Mount Kilimanjaro three times to help keep girl children in school.
Vuyiseka holds a degree in Organisational Psychology and Industrial Sociology from the University of Cape Town. She’s an entrepreneur, a wife and a mother to three bundles of joy. The year she turned 21, disaster struck that made her feel as though her life was falling apart. Against all odds, she found the courage to stay true to the dreams she had as a teenager.
Zelda is a former Private Secretary to President Nelson Mandela. Born in Pretoria, she completed a 3-year National Diploma at the Tshwane University of Technology. From 1994 until 1996, she served as a typist for Mary Mxadana, private secretary to Nelson Mandela, the newly elected post-apartheid president of South Africa. In 1996, Zelda was promoted to Assistant Private Secretary, and in 1999 she became Private Secretary to the Office of the President. She was a founding staff member of the Nelson Mandela Foundation which served as post-presidential office for Mandela.
Prof. Thuli is an advocate of the High Court of South Africa and currently holds the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University where she is a law professor coordinating social justice research while also teaching Constitutional and Administrative Law. She served as the Public Protector of South Africa from 2009 to 2016. She is the founder of the Thuma Foundation, an independent democracy leadership and literacy public benefit organisation, and convener of the Social Justice M-Plan, a Marshall Plan-like initiative aimed at catalysing progress towards ending poverty and reducing inequality by 2030, in line with the National Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals.
Jean practises as an advocate at the Johannesburg Bar. Previously, while still a legal historian, he taught law at Cambridge University. He is a member of the Council of Stellenbosch University and tries to read and write as promiscuously as time permits. He writes mainly in Afrikaans – book reviews and columns – and is a keen collector of modern Southern African art.
Haji is best known for her thought-provoking opinion pieces. Born in the apartheid township of Laudium, Pretoria, Haji came of age just as South Africa’s democracy was finding its feet. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Pretoria before teaching music and English at the American International School for several years. In 2011 she completed a postgraduate degree in journalism at Stellenbosch University and rapidly established herself as a digital media specialist and columnist. Haji now pursues her own writing full-time. Her first book, Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa, was published in 2018.
Neo is a final year student in a 3-year post-graduate LLB at Stellenbosch University and holds a BA degree in Communication Science, International Politics and Human Sciences. She played an instrumental role in the formation of a Black Lawyers Association Student Chapter at Stellenbosch University, of which she is a founding member. In addition to her law career, she has many years experience in the communication, research and marketing industries where she held various strategic positions.
Marthe studied Philosophy and Political Philosophy at Stellenbosch University and left South Africa in 1984 to pursue graduate studies in Women’s History at Sarah Lawerence College, in New York. She returned to South Africa in 2000, having made a 12 year detour through Colombia, South America, where she worked in documentary filmmaking and created an audio-visual course to teach English. Since 2003 she has been privileged to be linked to the wisdom and leadership of the wise African women leaders who established and maintain the organisation known as South African Women in Dialogue, where she has been Chief Operating Officer since 2010.
Sofia is the managing director of the Cape Town-based youth organisation Salesian Life Choices she helped to establish in 2005. She holds an Honours Degree in Animal Science and a Masters Degree in Marketing & Communication with Rome Business School. Sofia joined the development field in 2001 in an OVC programme in Mozambique and has since gathered vast experience in the non-profit sector across various disciplines in several African countries.
Prof. Kgethi is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, with a B1 rating as a scientist from the National Research Foundation and a PhD in Mathematics Education. She has received numerous awards, including the Order of the Baobab awarded to her by the South African President in 2016. In July 2019, the University of Bristol conferred on her an Honorary Doctorate in Science in recognition of her leadership role in mathematics education in South Africa. She has been named on Avance Media’s list of Africa’s top 100 influential women, and on Forbes’ inaugural list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Africa
Sandra is the pride of the country’s cultural community for her skills as a performing artist. According to the South African Presidency, she was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga for her excellent contribution to the field of performing arts and using creative arts to take a stand against racism. She is one of the South Africa’s most beloved, awarded and highly regarded artists and has worked for more than five decades as a fearless stage, TV and film actress, director, producer, and presenter. The University of Pretoria presented Sandra with the Chancellor’s Medal in 2011 and in 2018 she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Philosophy by Stellenbosch University for her contribution to the arts. Sandra is also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naledi Theatre Awards.
Sithembiso is a 63-year-old former marathon runner who was married for 32 years before he sadly lost his wife to diabetes. They had four children (two boys and two girls). He now lives in Kwa-Nobuhle, Uitenhage. He is currently self-employed, providing transport services catering to different client needs from small to medium. Whenever the sun is out you will find him fixing cars, a skill he taught himself as a young man while trying to make ends meet. He still dreams of running a couple of marathons before the age of 90, he says we will have to wait and see!
Khaya is a qualified Chartered Accountant, an academic and an Oxford University graduate. He writes, talks and Tweets politics, economics, finance, cricket and tennis for a living.
Sonja was born, raised and schooled in Zimbabwe, before emigrating to South Africa to pursue a career in nursing. She quickly moved through the ranks and was appointed as a Nursing Manager (Matron) by the time she was 28 years old. With nephrology as one of her nursing specialties, she served as president of the Renal Care Society of South Africa, Assistant Director of the World Council for Renal Care, and presented many papers at national and international renal conferences. Her greatest joys are living a quiet and joyful home life, pursuing perfection in her job, and spending time with her granddaughter.
Hannelie is a journalist, publicist, layout artist and social media expert with nearly 30 years’ experience at South African newspapers and magazines. After ten years as a reporter at Huisgenoot magazine, she moved to academia in 2011 lecturing journalism at Stellenbosch University (seconded by Media24 as the Rykie van Reenen fellow) and later worked as a lecturer at North-West University’s School of Communications Studies. In 2014 Hannelie became a freelancer – she is currently focused on helping companies and organisations with social media challenges and crisis communication.
A brilliant guide to life’s do’s and don’ts told through the experiences of remarkable people!” – AMANDA TAKIS
The lessons are like a compass in the hands of a sailor navigating through the ever-changing currents of life. 21 Life Lessons @ 21 is the ideal gift, not only for the young people in your life but for everybody who is willing to learn from others.” – SINETHEMBA SEYISI
Some of these stories of celebrated South Africans have never been shared before and give us a glimpse of remarkable personal journeys of growth and success. A well of wisdom that will enlighten and entertain readers.” – AKHONA SANDAZA