Are you passionate about making a change in your community and interested in learning more about local government? Look no further than the Junior City Council (JCC) programme—these junior councils operate in many metros across the country, and there are variations of the official names. In Johannesburg, it’s called the Junior Council; in Durban, it’s called the Youth Council. These junior city councils are a unique opportunity for high school learners across South Africa to get involved in local politics and positively impact the issues facing the youth in their communities.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Zinzan Van Wyngaardt, a former member of the JCC, to learn more about his experience and the programme’s impact on him. Zinzan emphasized the value of the JCC in providing young people with the skills and knowledge to make a difference in their communities. Through his time on the council, he better understood how local government works and learned to work collaboratively with his peers to achieve their goals.
During the eight-month programme, nominated high school students to work together on the JCC, developing leadership and management skills and tackling issues important to young people in their community. From advocating for better education resources to addressing social and environmental issues, the JCC is a platform for young people to make their voices heard and drive meaningful change.
If you’re a high school student in South Africa looking to get involved in your community and develop your leadership skills, the junior city council could be the perfect opportunity. Keep reading to learn more about getting involved and making a difference in your community.
Fundza: What motivated you to join the youth city council, and what did you achieve?
Zinzan: I have always had a deep-rooted passion for politics and I felt a need to assist and a burning desire to assist South Africans in any way possible. The JCC gave me an opportunity to do so and to help me uplift my community and nation. In doing so the one thing that I had wished to achieve was to create change, whether it was big or small, that had pushed me to join the JCC. As part of my work I ran a community project called, I Matter, where I donated clothing obtained from peers, friends and family members to a local NGO called Bright Stars within Kraaifontein that housed children that came from homes where they were exposed to danger as well as Bodisa, a governmental organisation.
Fundza: What was it like working with youth from other communities?
Zinzan: It is a priceless experience that I’ll never forget. Being able to work with others from various communities really broadened my horizon in terms of the many harsh realities that youngsters face and to be able to work with them was a phenomenal experience and life-changing.
We met on a Saturday a few times a month and we had debates discussing issues in regard to the socio-political landscape of South Africa and how it can be fixed and addressed. We also had the opportunity to visit state Institutions such as the provincial parliament.
Fundza: What skills and experiences did you bring to the council, and how do you hope to use them to make a positive impact?
Zinzan: I would say the biggest skill I brought to the JCC was empathy and compassion. The ability to identify and assist when other members were struggling emotionally or just needed to be heard. In a nation where empathy is as scarce as opportunities, I have learnt that as a leader, we need to learn to engage with curiosity and empathy before jumping to conclusions and that is something we as a nation need to do before judging the homeless or a drug addict. I hope to use these skills in future endeavours and to bring change that embodies understanding, compassion and direct love both within my community and our beloved nation.
Fundza: Are you planning to get involved in politics in future? Why or why not?
Zinzan: I hope to get involved in politics, but condemning others’ actions on a public platform is not where my heart lies. It lies in assisting the vulnerable, assisting in laying the bricks that build a functional society within our nation and helping to alleviate poverty. And if I can achieve that in a political career then I would wish to pursue it. I was told that I should look for the opportunity to serve others and then leadership will find me.
Fundza: What advice would you give to other young people who are interested in getting involved in local government and civic engagement?
Zinzan: I would say to try and take up space. It starts off small by volunteering at a local orphanage, going to a beach clean-up or keeping up to date with the latest news. In this way, you’ll be able to identify organisations that need your assistance and get involved both within government and civil engagement. But the most important thing I would tell others is to believe in themselves and to grab the opportunities. Many times, we feel as if we’re swimming in a sea of doubt and need a lifeboat to rescue us, but we fail to realise that we are our own lifeboats and in order to keep pushing, we need to keep believing in ourselves.
If you missed out on applying for the Junior City Council in Cape Town this year, don’t worry! Watch for next year’s application process if you want to join. And if you’re not based in Cape Town, remember that similar programmes exist in other cities, like Johannesburg, Pretoria, and George.
Being part of the JCC can be an incredibly fulfilling experience for young people who are passionate about making a difference in their communities, developing their leadership skills, and learning more about how local government works. So if you’re a teen looking to get involved and make a positive impact, consider applying for a youth council in your area. It could start an exciting journey towards creating change and shaping the future.
Tell us: What are some issues in your community that you would like to address if given the opportunity to serve on a youth council?
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