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Winners of 2019 Sanlam Prizes for Youth Literature announced

04 November 2019 - 13:14 By nb-uitgewers/publishers
The winners of the 2019 Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature were announced in Joburg on October 31.
The winners of the 2019 Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature were announced in Joburg on October 31.
Image: Tafelberg

Sanlam and Tafelberg, an imprint of NB Publishers, are proud to announce the winners of the 2019 Sanlam Prizes for Youth Literature. The prizes, which serve to encourage original and creative writing for teenage readers and young adults (ages 12-18), were announced in Johannesburg on October 31. The prizes are for new manuscripts and are awarded biennially.

Two winners (gold and silver) are chosen in each of three categories – English, African languages (Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Nguni and Sotho languages) and Afrikaans. The prize money totals R90,000.

Sydney Mbhele, Chief Executive of Brand at Sanlam, says that living your best life possible, requires a commitment to make the most of what you have. 

“Sanlam’s 39 year-sponsorship of this acclaimed award is evident of our commitment to our youth, giving them access to the highest level of youth literature available in their home language. Similar to the skill applied by Sanlam in creating wealth, we recognise and congratulate our six writers for the craftmanship they apply as wordsmiths, turning 26 letters into something of much greater value – a literary masterpiece that takes our youth on a journey to experience emotions and places they might never visit in real life.”

He congratulated the authors on their positive contribution towards the development of the leaders of tomorrow. 

Illustrating the depth of South African youth literature, this year’s winning titles cover genres ranging from realistic fiction and fantasy (science-fiction and horror) to fables. The winners are:


  • Nerine Dorman won gold for Sing Down the Stars, described by the judges as “a brilliant piece of dystopian writing. The manner in which the author has created a strange world, yet created characters that have conflicts we can identify with is extraordinary.” The protagonist, 12-year-old Nuri, survives in the desolate barrens surrounding a far-future city by running with a gang. Half human and half alien, she has to make critical decisions to stay alive. Nerine lives in Welcome Glen.

  • Toby Bennett won silver for The Music Box, which, according to the judges, is a masterfully told fantasy novel grappling with big questions of good and evil. It tells the story of Jonathan, who has an uncanny ability to fix things, except his erratic mother. When her episodes grow worse, he hides out in his secret cave, together with his new gypsy friend. The arrival of a stranger sets off a chain of events that leads them into a magical dimension where his family secrets are revealed. Toby lives in Claremont.

African Languages

  • Gold went to isiXhosa debut author Thembisile Kundlwana for Tata sikuxolele (“Dad, We’ve Forgiven You”), described as “an eloquently written novel that engages a silent pandemic in African families – the abuse of orphans by relatives”. Twin girls Silinda and Sinekusasa go to live with their uncle after the death of their mother. Treated like slaves, they go looking for their father, who turns them away. Hard work and resilience help them to succeed in life. Thembisile lives in Sebokeng.

  • Another debut author Mbedzi Nyelisani, who is only 24 years old, won silver for U kondelela (“Patience”), a Tshivenda novel in fable form with “a compelling message” about leadership, the greed for power, democracy, true friendship and patience. When Lion, king of the jungle, dies, his successor is not his own offspring but an animal with no royal bloodline. Using animals to portray human royalty, the author also illustrates his understanding of human behaviour, the judges said. Mbedzi lives in Polokwane.


  • Derick van der Walt won his second Sanlam gold for Toring van Jasmyn, a suspense story set in the turbulent streets of Istanbul. It was described by the judges as a perspective broadening story which combines action and adventure with living, breathing characters that readers can relate to. In it, Markus Combrink visits Turkey with his family, only to experience bomb attacks and a kidnapping. Van der Walt won Sanlam Gold for the classic Afrikaans youth novel Lien se lankstaanskoene in 2007. Derick lives in Pretoria.

  • Annerle Barnard won silver for Sindikaat, another action-packed travel story. The judges called it a “well-thought-out, realistic text that grips the reader until the last page”. Sixteen-year-old Paul finds himself in the crosshairs of the Chinese mafia when he uncovers a syndicate smuggling endangered sea horses to the Eastern market. His worried father sends him and two friends on holiday to Zambia and Zimbabwe – but the gang is in pursuit. Annerle lives in Bloemfontein.

The winning manuscripts were developed and published by Tafelberg and are available in both print and ebook format. Manuscripts were judged anonymously so that debut writers were able to compete on an equal footing with established authors.

“We’re excited about the diversity in themes and genres of this year’s winning submissions,” says Michelle Cooper, Tafelberg publisher. “These novels cover enough familiar ground to engage South African teen readers but also offer much that is new and different to expand their minds and shift boundaries. These are novels with integrity, by authors who respect children and their experiences.”

Since the Sanlam awards were first bestowed in 1980, close to 80 entries have been prescribed for schools, emphasising the value of the competition, says Cooper. Among the long list of prescribed prize-winning titles have been Praise Song by Jenny Robson, Kungasa Ngifile by E.D.M. Sibaya, Leba Seipone by Kabelo Duncan Kgatea, SuperZero by Darrel Bristow-Bovey and Lien se lankstaanskoene by Derick van der Walt. Some titles have also been made into films, including Lien se lankstaanskoene and Die ongelooflike avonture van Hanna Hoekom by Marita van der Vyver.

Call to entry

Entries for the 2021 Sanlam Prizes for Youth Literature are now open. Entry forms are available at www.nb.co.za and the closing date is June 1 2010.

Article provided by NB Publishers