“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

― Toni Morrison

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

― Alice Walker


Civil Society


Cluver Markotter Inc.

Thembalethu Seyisi, a candidate attorney at Cluver Markotter Inc, describes his job as “diving deep” to come up with legal solutions, as well as advising individuals, communities, entrepreneurs, small-to-medium enterprises and corporates in all spheres of business. From 2018 to July 2021, he was a board member at Salesian Life Choices, a non-profit organisation which aims to disrupt inequality through investing in youth. In that role, he was responsible for ensuring good governance and accountability, among other things. The 23-year-old Thembalethu co-ordinates the #Action4Inclusion campaign, a Stellenbosch University crowdfunding effort aimed at alleviating student debt for the so-called “missing middle” students. He is also an ambassador at the Centre For Social Justice, which promotes social justice scholarship, awareness and collaboration to ensure reform in the academic field and in society. His submissions to parliament show his commitment to a South Africa based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Thembalethu has written several opinion articles for news platforms, such as the Mail & Guardian, News24, Netwerk24 and Daily Maverick, focusing on issues such as leadership and social justice. In 2022, he was among News24’s 30 Young Mandelas. At 21, became the self-published author of a book titled 21 Life Lessons @ 21, in which he asked successful people, including high-profile role models, personal heroes and family members, to share one life lesson they wished they had known at 21. Prominent contributors include Justice Edwin Cameron, Professor Thuli Madonsela and Zelda la Grange. Thembalethu is training to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

LLB, Stellenbosch University .

  • LLB Degree, Stellenbosch University, where I’ve been a Social Justice Ambassador throughout my studies. 
  • Rector’s Award for Excellent Achievement in Social Impact, Stellenbosch University, 2021.
  • News24 30 Young Mandelas, 2022.

My mother’s death, when I was only 13 years old remains a distinguishable memory and a fuel for my passion and quest for social justice. If we were living in a just country where opportunities, resources and privileges were equitably distributed, her life would have turned out very differently.

Shame is a wasted emotion. Get over your self-pity and ask for help. There is always someone willing to help.

The above is advice I would give to my younger self and it is informed by the collection of essays in my book 21 Life Lessons @ 21 which features prominent South Africans, including the likes of Prof Thuli Madonsela, Prof Kgethi Phakeng and Justice Edwin Cameron.

As Nelson Mandela said in 2005: “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times … as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

My ideal South Africa five years from now is a country where diverse stakeholders work together to end the deepening poverty, inequality and unemployment and build accountable institutions that are responsive to the egregious human suffering and come up with solutions to the threat that social injustice poses to sustainable development, social cohesion, peace and stability.

A South Africa where Ubuntu is more than just a principle but a lived reality across races, genders, sexual orientations and other markers of humanity and, at the core of that Ubuntu, is that my humanity and my neighbour’s humanity have equal value. The respect I deserve and the respect someone else deserves should be the same regardless of your sex, your culture, your age, etc.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

Subcribe to the newsletter