Alfenzenzo Sithole could not hide his excitement when he was announced the Free State winner of the annual Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Awards in Bloemfontein at the weekend.
Sithole, a Grade 12 pupil at Koffiefontein High School just outside Bloemfontein, pipped nine other district winners in the public speaking competition.
Before Sithole emerged as the winner, the adjudicators had deliberated for more than an hour, showing just how tough the competition was.
Runners-up are Bloemfontein students Bojosi Morule of Eunice High School and Nkosi Mangali of Brebner High School.
In the prepared speech section, Sithole chose to talk about the attitude of youth towards various challenges of life. His presentation was well-planned and well delivered, according to the adjudicators.
In an interview afterwards, an ecstatic Sithole said: "I prepared well during the district eliminations, but never thought that I would win after such stiff competition. All the competitors were well-organised and the contest was very tight."
Sithole attributed his achievement to hard work, dedication as well as a burning desire to win.
"I would also like to thank my teacher, Ms Lydia du Toit, who spent many hours perfecting my presentation," he said.
Sithole, who is still unsure as to what to study next year, is at least convinced that his tertiary education should be spent at the University of Johannesburg, in Gauteng.
Thabo Mashiane, a senior official in the Motheo district of the Free State education department, was very impressed with the high standard of the competition. He was especially impressed by the good quality of the topics chosen.
In another Young Communicators Awards contest in Kimberley, Northern Cape, at the weekend, the top three winners were Shanice Titus, Nomalizo Mabika and Boaz Moore.
Sithole and Titus have qualified for the finals that will take place in Johannesburg on June 20. They will be joined by Mpumalanga's Thandekile Maseko, Gauteng's Ndumiso Hadebe, North West's Tsholofelo Sebolao and KwaZulu-Natal's Mnelisi Gasa.
Three more provincial heats will take place: in Limpopo on May 23; in the Eastern Cape on May 30 and Western Cape on June 6.
l Protea Hotels is the YCA's proud accommodation sponsor.