18 July 2017 was International Nelson Mandela Day. We used our former President’s 27 years of imprisonment as inspiration for our most recent writing competition. We asked our writers to project 27 years into the future and write a story set in the year 2044. The instruction was as follows:

“A lot can happen in 27 years. When Nelson Mandela went into prison he was a young activist. When he came out, he was a wise and white-haired national icon, and the world was a different place. It’s 2017. Let’s fast forward 27 years to 2044… What does the world look like now? Write a short story in English of between 500 and 1500 words set in 2044. Let your imaginations go wild! The setting is 2044, but there must also be a compelling story – with a beginning, middle and end – and a convincing main character, who faces (and hopefully overcomes) his or her challenges.”

We asked our writers to think about there the characters are living, what are their difficulties, have today’s problems been solved or have they compounded? We really wanted the authors to explore their imaginations and try to envision what our world could possibly be like in 2044.

Judging these stories was a delight, but it was tough too. There were so many promising stories, so picking just one junior winner (13-21 years) and one senior winner (22-20 years) was a tricky exercise given that so many deserving and talented stories came our way! We judged on how convincing and well described their setting was, and how compelling their story was.

Here are the winners and runners-up:

MorenaMorena Moaka was selected as our junior winner. When I called him to tell him the good news, his response had me in stitches – he told me, oh-so-nonchalantly that he knew he was the winner, he was just waiting for my phone call! Such confidence can only come from someone who has the conviction that their story was a great one! And he knew it. He said as he wrote it, he just knew it was a winning story. From Germiston, Gauteng he is a keen writer and a FunDza Fan reader. He says “Considering that this is my second time winning a competition with FunDza and in two consecutive years, it feels great to win. I mean what were the odds of that? Nevertheless I am more excited about getting to share my story and futuristic thoughts with everybody else. I’ll probably use some of the money to add on to my hard copy collection of Diary of A Wimpy Kid, either than that, it would be wise to save the rest seeing that the summer holidays are slowly approaching us.”

His story Normalisation was very cleverly written, and we see a bright future ahead for Morena! You can read his winning story here.

Jean-PaulJean-Paul Willemse, from Kraaifontein, Cape Town, was the winner of the senior competition. Jean-Paul says “I feel like my practice in writing science fiction has borne some fruit. When I finished Buddy I knew it was a product of my research and binge-watching of Doctor Who. In short, I am proud. I am going to get a new tattoo and buy Fifa 18.”

His story Buddy was a cleverly penned tale weaving in the theme of artificial intelligence in the future. It had everyone hooked. Jean-Paul is a gifted writer and we look forward to more submissions from him. Read Jean-Paul’s winning story here.

The runners-up followed close on the heels of the winners. In the junior category we had Kyle Walker and Shikhar Singh. Kyle is a Muizenberg local (where our offices are) and actually popped in at the office to get his prize of FunDza books and a FunDza t-shirt. I managed to have a chat with this talented youngster. He said “being a runner up came as a shock, I was even expecting to finish in top ten! I’ve always been really shy, and not really be able to talk openly, I feel like I can say more with a notepad and a pen in ten minutes than I could in an hour on a microphone. Being a runner up in my first ever writing competition, it’s galvanised me and has made me hungry for more!” It is comments like this that galvanise US, Kyle. It was terrific to see his passion ignited and to know that we’ve encouraged him to pursue writing. You can read Kyle’s story The Final War here.

Shikhar was thrilled to be a runner-up, and told us that he is “glad to have participated in this competition and that even though I didn’t win first prize, doesn’t mean I won’t learn from his mistakes in the future” – I explained that there were no mistakes made! His story 2044: The Aftermath (read it here) was excellent, given his young age of 14, shows that he has a bright writing future. Shikhar has submitted to FunDza a few times, you can see his work here.

NivashnieOur senior runners-up are: Nivashnie Poonsamy and Brian Khumalo. Brian was beyond thrilled – when I made the call to tell him he was a runner-up, he couldn’t stop laughing and telling me we’d made his day. He went on to tell us more about himself and how he felt about being a runner up: “I started blogging about four years ago and that is when I realised my passion for writing. I used my blog to write short stories and essays about the interesting ‘characters’ I found in the taxi. Last year I decided to challenge myself and take my writing more seriously. That is when I discovered FunDza. The feedback from the editors propelled me to exceed my expectations and I cannot thank them enough! This was the first writing competition I have ever entered and being the runner-up is such an honour. This was such an exciting challenge and I am more than delighted that the team enjoyed my story. I would like to thank FunDza for the lovely platform they have created for us and I wish you guys all the success and further development!” Please read Brian’s story The Gift here.

Nivashnie, from Durban, said: “I want to express my gratefulness to FunDza for giving people like myself these wonderful opportunities to write and to put our work out there. I am someone that is only happy when I am reading, writing or finding myself being moved by a profound line or character in a movie. I have been told countless times that being a writer is ‘illogical’ and that I should rather put my law degree to good use. Entering this competition was actually a ‘Lord give me a sign that I should keep writing’ attempt and well… I think I got my sign!” We love the passion and the fire – keep it up! You can read her story The Game here.

It’s easy to see why making these phone calls is a highlight of my job!

Well done to ALL the writers who entered and submitted brilliant stories, and special congratulations to all our winners!