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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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By Penwell Dlamini | Jul 12, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

IT was an emotional moment when Luvo Gila touched down at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday after spending three weeks in the US.

Friends and family were there to welcome him and when the teenager appeared in the arrivals hall he was showered with hugs and kisses.

Gila, an intelligent 18-year-old of Kensington, Johannesburg, represented South Africa at the 14-day Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC.

He is a Grade 12 pupil at the Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg.

Gila was selected from many South African youths for his academic excellence and competence more than a month ago. But he did not have the R120000 to pay for his flight to thee US, accommodation and registration fees.

After Sowetan published his story on April 6 businessman Otto Moswane paid all Gila's expenses.

"The conference was a life-changing experience. It's good for anyone who wants to compete globally to be exposed to such an environment," Gila said.

"I took President Jacob Zuma's advice to keep an open mind on issues but maintain the South African perspective."

Gila met Zuma a few days before leaving the country and will submit a report to him on his experiences at the conference.

He will also submit a report to Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, whom he met with Zuma.

Among the topics discussed at the conference were diplomacy, international relations and the global economy.

"The best presentation in my opinion was by Garry Weaver from one of the US universities on understanding cultural relations, which changed the way we related to each other at the conference," Gila said.

"I was surprised by the insight shown by delegates into their own regional economies. It's an approach I think we should adopt to solve problems in various provinces," he said.

Gila also met SA consul-general Fikile Magubane and visited places such as the Holocaust Museum, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the American Museum of African Art.

"It is our responsibility as a country to ensure that such experiences and talent as Luvo's do not go to waste," Moswane said.

"What Otto has done is great. He gave his time and wisdom and we have learnt a lot from him. I am also grateful to Sowetan for its help," Luvo's mother, Phumla, said.


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