Deputy Economic Development Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize.  Picture: SOWETAN
Deputy Economic Development Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize. Picture: SOWETAN

SOUTH Africa needs a new generation of world-class leaders who understand ethics and appreciate "the values of ubuntu" to put it on a path to prosperity, Deputy Economic Development Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize says.

Ms Mkhize said on Thursday that South Africa’s Brics membership, alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China, put pressure on the country’s youth as many emerging economies around the world were "being carried" by people under the age of 35, while South Africa still struggled to employ many in this age group.

Delivering this year’s annual Ubuntu Lecture at the Peace and Dialogue Awards in Johannesburg on Thursday, Ms Mkhize said now that South Africa was part of Brics, it had to become more competitive and its young workforce larger and more dynamic.

She told Business Day that her department and the Department of Trade and Industry agreed on a need in South Africa for black industrialists and increased manufacturing of components.

"It’s hard to be competitive if you can’t bring anything to the table," she said. "We are now in partnership with big players in the Brics nations and our relationship with Africa must be geared towards prosperity on the continent."

The annual Ubuntu Lecture has attracted high-profile government and civil society speakers in recent years, including Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Before delivering the lecture, Ms Mkhize said South Africa needed its young people to become more competitive in the global economy.

"We often take ubuntu as a soft issue but it is critical to determine how we have came to where we are nearly 20 years after democracy," she said. "As leaders and as a society we need to find a way to do things differently, and that is where ubuntu comes in. If not, then we are not unlocking future leaders with the values of eminent leaders such as our icon, Nelson Mandela."

Ayhan Cetin, executive director of the Turquoise Harmony Institute, which organised the Peace and Dialogue Awards, said the aim of the awards and other initiatives by the institute was to help South Africans from different backgrounds understand each other.

At the ceremony, Graca Machel, the wife of Mr Mandela, received the Fethullah Gulen Peace and Dialogue Award for her work in "ubuntu and dialogue" in South Africa and the region.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, received the Academia Award. He sent a videotaped message of thanks, saying he was "honoured, delighted and humbled" by the award.

"Whether in South Africa or the Central African Republic or the Middle East, we see that there has to be a better way to deal with the conflict in our societies other than killing one another," he said. "We have giants in our history to learn from, such as the great Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela ... South Africa has come a long way and some might say that we still have a long way to go."

Gauteng education MEC Barbara Creecy was given the Education Award and dedicated it to the matric class of 2012, who "faced a number of social challenges" to produce the country’s leading exam results.

Other recipients included the Shout! Campaign, which received the Community Safety Award, and the South African National Editors’ Forum, which won the Media Award.

South Africa’s national rowing team received the Sport Award for winning gold at last year’s Olympic Games in London. Sound artist James Webb received the Art Award for his audio artwork titled Prayer, which contains audio clips of prayers of different faiths represented in Johannesburg.