This year the South African Book Fair went virtual – a first, along with the many firsts, in our ‘new normal’. FunDza was invited to be part of the Children’s Programme in the virtual ‘Magic Tent’ which offered a range of exciting activities, from workshops to storytelling sessions and panel discussions aimed at children and teens, but really for everyone from toddlers to grandmothers.

FunDza’s event was a panel discussion on Friday 11 September called: Fly with FunDza – New writers take off! It was about FunDza’s ‘Mentoring young writer’s programme’ that pairs upcoming mentee writers with writing mentors who work intensively with them to develop their writing skills and confidence as writers.

The short stories that come out of the programme are published on as FunDza Friday Stories which have a wide readership. Mentee writers are paid for their stories, and when they are ready, they can join FunDza’s ever-expanding pool of professional writers. The is a fantastic platform for young writers to get their stories out into the world – something that is so difficult through traditional publishing channels. On the platform they get feedback from their peers and through their stories they help to build a culture of reading in South Africa and contribute to the growing pool of young talented South African writers.

The Fly with FunDza panel included as mentors: Marche Arends, who leads the editing team at FunDza, and acclaimed author Sifiso Mzobe, who has written many short stories for FunDza and translated even more from isiZulu to English and vice versa. The mentees on the panel were Amanda Ngema, a student from UKZN studying education, who has a passion for writing in her mother-tongue isiZulu and who wrote Ngizofa Lapho Ufa Khona or, in English I’ll Die Where You Die – an epic tale set in rural KZN; and, Tamica Mopp who is on the editing team at FunDza and who wrote her story – My Naam is Petronella – in Afrikaaps. Hers is a story of a struggling single mother set in the Bo Kaap.

The panel was chaired by Zilungile Zimela, FunDza’s head of marketing and communications and she engaged the panelists about their writing journeys, spreading their wings under the guidance of their mentors, and writing in their mother-tongue. The mentors spoke of their passion for developing young writers and the joys of working with the mentees and helping them soar.

The process of recording the panel discussion was challenging! How do you hold a panel discussion online and record it with panelists who have bad connectivity and only a phone to join the discussion on? After an initial failed attempt where we couldn’t hear Amanda and half of Tamica’s head was chopped off, we decided the only way to do it was for each panelist to record their own video clips where they answered questions that Zilungile asked.

A lot of editing was involved to connect all the moving parts but the result was engaging, heartfelt and showed the joy and pride in writing stories that FunDza readers loved – which was evident in their comments:

Amanda and Tamica are just two of a growing pool of mentees and their mentors who are writing exciting, relatable stories that FunDza readers are loving:

My Name is Petronella

  • The most amazing story i have ever read its inspirational and well written.
  • Dit was n baie mooi storie ..i love it
  • So heart touching n sad at the same time ♥️

I’ll Die Where You Die

  • I enjoyed; I’ll die where you die, like I was watching a movie. There is magic in your writings.
  • Awesome – The author has touched on subjects others squirm about. Fantastic it was all there eg. Abortion, Compassion, Homosexuality. Thanks it was a refreshing change in the books I normally read 10/10


You can watch the panel discussion through the SA Book Fair site. A ticket to the Book Fair costs just R50 and you can then watch this video, as well as numerous other exciting and insightful ones. Buy tickets – available till 30 September 2020 – here.