Winning essays on fathers

In partnership with FunDza, Fathers Matter ran a competition to find out what the  word ‘father’ means to young people in South Africa.

There were 1 475 entries across the three categories of Senior (ages 24-30), Intermediate (ages 18-23), and Junior (ages 13-17). There were many different stories of present, active and positive fathers, as well as heartbreaking stories of absent or abusive fathers, and and fathers who faced their own complex journeys. The brilliant entrants also shared about men who had stepped into the role of father and loved and supported them.

Here are the winners and links to their submissions:


Senior Winner: Athenkosi Cetyana

“This win comes at an important hour in my journey as an artist and a human being. I’d had writer’s block for a while prior to this competition, so I am grateful for the win because it restores my creativity and affirms the work I’ve been doing. It truly is meaningful and I am more grateful to the FunDza team for deeming this story worth publishing. This win is dedicated to my old man.”

Read Athenkosi's story 'A man of not so many words'.

Intermediate Winner: Lamla Bam

"I chanced upon this competition when I applied to be a volunteer, teaching children reading skills on ‘YouthPotentialSA’. They mentioned it to me during our email communication and I jumped at the opportunity. I doubted I would win so I had even forgotten I entered. Ha Ha. This means a lot to me in that the money will be helpful as I am unemployed. I will use it to buy a coding course on Udemy. Winning also gives me a tiny confidence that perhaps there is a future for me as a writer."

Read Lamla's submission 'Bastard of Bhacaland'.

Junior Winner: Mwewa Beatrice Ng’andu

“Winning means the world to me as I would love to further improve my writing skills and I will be saving the cash prize.”

Read Mwewa's essay 'The firefighter of my troubles'


Senior Runner-up: Moses Phiri

“I’m a writer, and a traveller. Before the pandemic, I hitchhiked across the country and ended up in Cape Town, Tableview. I found there a wonderful, serene park, where I wrote from dusk till dawn. I cannot hitchhike at the moment, so I’ll use the prize to finance my trip back there.”

Read  'Heads or Tata?'here

Senior Runner-up: Angel Mhlongo

“For me, winning means I actually have my head in the right path. It validates my skills and makes me feel like someone appreciates my writing. Winning makes me feel like I’m actually one of the best. I heard about FundZa from a friend in 2020 during the first hard lockdown. With the cash prize, I’m going to get a few medical essentials for my mom, spoil the family a little with KFC, keep some pocket money for in case I get called in for an interview or any emergency arises at home.”

Read 'There's a man in the kitchen' here. 

Intermediate Runner-up: Phaswana Asakundwi Emmanuel

“Winning this competition was a huge surprise since I don’t usually write essays on my free time I am a poet so it came as a surprise to know that I won but it really gives me hope as a young South African writer who is hoping to be a well-published writer because I believe that my work can inspire anyone who reads it. I will be spending the money with my family since they are my biggest supporters in this journey.”

Read 'I was raised by many fathers except mine' here.

Intermediate Runner-up: Innocent Madzhoni

“I have been reading material on Fundza for years. This win confirms some suspicions I have been trembling with for a while, and which have been keeping me awake at night with sweat forming a well on my face: I can write, and my writing deserves some space in the hearts of those who value honest literary outputs. For some nostalgic reason, I feel like Can Themba when he won the Drum short story contest in 1953. It’s without a doubt that I am getting the physical paperback copy of James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son with the prize money and, of course, I am buying some pencils too. I might slide the rest of the money into my dad’s hand and say, ‘Thank you.’”

Read 'Baba, I carry what I can...' here.

Junior Runner-up: Karabo Nwamusi

“I will use the money responsibly and definitely pamper my father, driven by him to enter the competition. And also save some of the money to publish my book (Little Comrade) in print. I found out about FunDza on social media sites early last year. I’ve never looked back since I became one of the fundza writers. I’d also like to encourage other aspiring writers to enter such competitions, if you don’t win get up and write again!”

Read 'The white king' here.

Junior Runner-up: Rayyan Ebrahim

“I first found out about this competition (and FunDza) around the beginning of June from my English teacher at Pinelands High School. I am a passionate writer and having my piece selected gives me a great boost of confidence in my writing ability. This is the first writing competition I have ever won! Thank you so much for this opportunity! It has truly made me a better writer and has served as a motivation for me to continue writing. I will probably donate a portion of the money and save the rest of it for a good cause for my future. Once again I express my deepest gratitude and am humbled to have been chosen.”

Read 'Dad with a plan' here. 

Angel Mhlongo
Phaswana Emmanuel
Karabo Nwamusi
Rayyan Ebrahim


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