Youth Month

By Niko Allie

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." These powerful words were spoken by civil rights movement leader Frederick Douglass who called on people around the world to stand up for their rights.

These words have inspired a generation of leaders around the world to speak truth to power and to demand change and freedom. During the Soweto uprising in 1976, those students intimately understood that progress can only happens when they act, and they will have to lead from the front for that to happen.

They fought against exclusion and an inferior education system as well as the right to self-determination. These includes the right to participate in influencing the direction of the country and choose public representative of their choice.

Many of them were willing to face constant intimidation, teargassing, torture and death for their quest for freedom. This uprising was a turning point in our struggle for liberation and through their collective action, these young people helped raise awareness of the injustices and brutality of the apartheid government.

This year we mark 48th anniversary of the 1976 uprising and we are pleased that most of the things they fought for have and continue to be realised. For instance, last month we held our seventh successful national and provincial elections which was free, fair and peaceful. We are also encouraged that young people came out in numbers to vote and gave effect to the clarion call of the Freedom Charter that the people shall govern.

Our young people must however appreciate that their role does not end with voting. They have a responsibility to follow in the footsteps of the 1976 students who advanced the interest of our nation. We need the youth to be at the forefront of innovation and ensure our country becomes a hub for entrepreneurs. We need more entrepreneurs who can start their businesses and create the much-needed jobs.

Government has put in place legislation to create an enabling environment for the youth to be skilled, employed and participate in the economy by opening their businesses. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition established a fund that supports an enabling ecosystem for young people to engage in forms of enterprise and self-employment. Likewise, the National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Small Business Development continue to provide financial enterprise support to young people.

Work also continues in earnest to dismantle the structural impediments to job creation, while at the same time we are scaling up temporary work opportunities through our Expanded Public Works Programmes to support employment. Furthermore, the Presidential Employment Stimulus created over 1,2 million opportunities since its inception in 2020, reaching every province and district in our country. This saw 235 000 young people placed as school assistants in 23 000 schools in the country.  

This year’s Youth Month coincides with the celebration of 30 Years of Freedom and Democracy. As government we have plans to celebrate and mark this national milestone throughout the year. We have already launched the 30 years celebrations campaign under the theme “30 years of Democracy, Partnership and Growth”.

This celebration is an opportunity to reflect on our many successes over our democratic journey, assess the remaining challenges we face as a nation and how we can together find ways innovative ways overcome them.

We call on South Africans and all sectors of society to participate in celebrating 30 Years of Freedom and Democracy. South Africans can join in by telling their stories of what it was like to have lived in apartheid South Africa and help us to build on the achievements we have made so far.

Our 30 Years of Freedom and Democracy celebration is a unifying moment that draws us together to promote inclusive nation building. Let us use this opportunity to reach out to fellow South Africans, in particular our young people, to build the society that we want to live in.