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Law Practice News South Africa

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#YouthMonth: Be a responsible inspiration - Kamogelo Mashigo

This month, as we commemorate Youth Day and the sacrifices made during the 1976 Soweto uprising, we chat to Kamogelo Mashigo - a candidate attorney at Baker McKenzie - about the rights of young people today, honouring ancestral struggles while tackling present-day challenges, and what it means to be 'born-free'...
Kamogelo Mashigo, candidate attorney at Baker McKenzie
Kamogelo Mashigo, candidate attorney at Baker McKenzie

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to get into law?

I am Kamogelo Mashigo, a second year candidate attorney/trainee at Baker McKenzie. I am dedicated to safeguarding the rights of individuals, particularly those who are less privileged. To pursue this passion, I recognised the need to choose a career that would enable me to make a significant impact and contribute to the advancement of South Africa and its citizens.

Among my various career options, law resonated with me the most, allowing me to actively engage in pro-bono cases that educate the public about their rights. In addition to my pro bono work, I am committed to serving our corporate clients, as I understand that their success directly translates into opportunities and empowerment for the less fortunate. For me, the practice of law is a mutually beneficial endeavour.

What is the significance of Youth Day to you, as a young attorney?

The importance of Youth Day lies in its ability to inspire me to take on a leadership role. It serves as a reminder that, as a young attorney, I possess influence and must always carry myself with the responsibility of an owner. This day positions me as an authority figure and empowers me to navigate the challenges on the path to success.

Above all, Youth Day underscores the fact that my pursuit of excellence is not just for my own benefit; it honours the sacrifices made by my ancestors, who paved the way for my freedom. Ultimately, this day is a celebration of the South African youth's achievements as they overcome obstacles such as mental health and the various challenges of our time.

What does it mean to you to be ‘born-free’?

Born-free refers to individuals who were born after the apartheid era, signifying the youth who embarked on a new journey in post-apartheid South Africa. These young individuals are indirectly affected by the consequences of apartheid and acquire knowledge about it through historical accounts. Being born-free also implies that we have an opportunity to achieve greater success compared to our parents, who endured the harsh realities of the oppressive regime.

What do you feel is the most important right young people have today?

The youth of today possess the most crucial right, which is the right to freedom of expression. This fundamental right has significantly contributed to making South Africa a more vibrant and welcoming nation. It allows the youth to freely express their opinions and access information without any external interference or the influence of propaganda.

What is one of the liberties you are grateful for today that weren't available to - or were hard-won by - earlier generations?

The workplace equality that exists today is a cherished freedom that I am truly grateful for. This freedom enables individuals with my skin tone to pursue careers at prestigious global law firms such as Baker McKenzie. Not only does it grant us the opportunity to work at these renowned corporations, but it also fosters a culture of fairness and impartiality within the workplace. This freedom has played a pivotal role in shaping Baker McKenzie's identity as a close-knit community that values unity and exceptional achievement.

When individuals are liberated and free from oppression, they can truly flourish in their roles, driven not only by financial incentives but also by a shared vision and the firm's distinctive culture. This freedom facilitates growth and ensures the equitable distribution of wealth among all South Africans who call it home. It is the embodiment of our aspirations and the South Africa that our ancestors envisioned for us.

Why is it so important for the youth of today to get involved in societal change?

The active involvement of young individuals in societal change is crucial, as they hold the key to our future. The youth are the ones who will lead the way in bringing about change and cultural transformation in South Africa. It is the youth’s responsibility to challenge the outdated narrative that perpetuates discrimination based on skin colour and establish a new norm that embraces and includes everyone.

Older generations often comment that the youth of today "have it easy", but that's not necessarily true. What are some of the challenges youth are currently experiencing that other generations might not understand?

The youth are presently grappling with a significant amount of anxiety and depression. This could be attributed to the secondary trauma they have experienced from their grandparents, parents, siblings, or other family members who were victims of apartheid.

Additionally, the deteriorating state of the South African economy is exacerbating the youth's anxiety and depression. Despite being repeatedly told that education is the pathway to success, the scarcity of employment opportunities resulting from the economic decline has made this notion appear as nothing more than a myth.

Share one piece of advice given to you by an elder...

There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. Keep pushing and never dwell much on the comments made by people because you never actually know if they are genuine.

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