South Africa is commemorating the youth of 1976 who revolted against the apartheid government’s Bantu Education Policy. On 16 June, the youth took to the streets to protest against the government’s decision to make Afrikaans a medium of instruction. Some of the students paid the ultimate price when heavily armed police fired live ammunition and teargas at them.
Forty-five years later, scenes of young people taking to the streets to voice discontent remain a familiar sight. The high dropout rate in schools, lack of jobs, mentorship and financial exclusion from institutions of higher learning are some of the challenges the youth continues to grapple with.
In this two-part series, SABC Digital News focuses on the young people who have picked up the baton from the youth of 1976 and are challenging the status quo.
Nandipha Tselanyane (31) is one of the game-changers.
The coronavirus pandemic saw reduced productivity in some companies as a result of the restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. Some companies implemented salary cuts, offered zero percent increments while others retrenched workers. These circumstances further strained relations between employers and trade unions with members of some unions embarking on strikes.
Improving the relations between unions and employers is one of the reasons why attorney, Tselanyane chose to pursue Labour Law.
“I realised that there was a gap in the market in that a lot of employers and employees did not quite understand how to manage the individual employment relationship due to lack information and/ or training. I noticed the sometimes unnecessary tension between employers and unions during collective bargaining was caused by a lack of information, training, and positional bargaining. I then saw that with the experience and knowledge I had I could definitely contribute to the labour law field, a field that is often misunderstood and often taken for granted,” she says.
During her articles of clerkship at Finger Phukubje Inc Attorneys, Tselanyane dealt a lot with trade unions, employers, and employees in the sectors including, among others, mining, construction, energy, public service, agriculture and information, and technology.
“The exposure enabled me to advise clients with implementing discipline management, handling protest action or strikes and restructuring processes, dismissals, discrimination, conducting and representation of disciplinary hearings including chairing thereof, probation and unfair labour practices.”
After practicing for three years, in 2017 Tselanyane decided to take the road less travelled and started a law firm. Tselanyane Attorneys Inc focuses on areas including labour, commercial and cyber law. The firm employs three professionals and three support personnel.
Tselanyane, who is the director of the firm, says being young and female has presented challenges in as far as securing clients.
“I believe that my purpose is to overcome the barriers of entry which have been my motivation throughout my career. I continue to break stereotypes about Black female-owned law firms and businesses in general through hard work and dedication to prove I am more than capable of offering quality legal services,” she says.
Other problems the company has had to deal with include cash flow problems with invoices not paid on time.
Issues affecting young people
Young people are among some of the clients that the practice services. “The lack of employment opportunities really exposes a lot of young people to desperate situations. Often, they are willing to accept exploitative wages and working conditions just to stay employed. They are reluctant to enforce their labour law rights because they fear victimisation and dismissal. So, even when I do train and empower them with knowledge concerning labour law rights, a lot of them will not implement the advice due to fear of losing their livelihoods,” says Tselanyane.
According to Tselanyane, sexual harassment in the workplace remains problematic for female workers. “There is still a need to educate and empower society at large about the trauma harassment has on those affected.”
She identifies a lack of business support and mentorship and general economic participation as another challenge facing the youth. “Young people hardly ever form part of trade delegations nor advice on policies that affect young people. Small businesses still need accessible credit without all the red tape so what is needed is an environment that encourages entrepreneurship.”
Tselanyane is calling on young people to be united in dealing with problems they are presented with. “The youth in SA are seemingly not organised enough to speak with one voice. There are however insufficient platforms in the country that allow young people to express themselves and agitate and contribute to policy changes on issues that affect them. The youth need to speak in a united and unapologetic voice about the issues that affect them and holding decision-makers accountable. ”
Born in Klerksdorp in the North West, Tselanyane’s family moved to different places as her father who was a miner worker was constantly seeking new opportunities. Tselanyane, the eldest of five children, regards her father as her role model.
“Retrospectively I realised that my father has been my role model. How he sacrificed for his family and how hard he worked to ensure that me and my siblings were always taken care of. I loved how he conditioned me to be independent and assertive from an incredibly young age. All of that really shaped why I believe it is my purpose to continuously seek out equality and better treatment for women and youth in society.”
After getting her LLB from the University of Witwatersrand, she completed three post-graduate certificates in Individual Law, Collective Labour Law, Prospecting, Mining Law. She has a postgraduate Diploma in Labour Law and is currently completing her master’s degree.