Address by the Deputy Minister of Communications, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on Youth Sector Parliament, North West Provincial Legislature

30 June 2014

Honourable Speaker
Members of the Executive Council present
Members of the Provincial Legislature
Members of the Youth Sector Parliament
Representatives from the various political groups
Ladies and gentlemen
Dumelang, Sanibonani, Goeie môre!

Ke rata go le dumedisa lotlhe mme ke itumetse thata go nna le lona mo letsatsing la gompieno. Chairperson, Setswana se re, “Lepotlapotla le ja podi; modikologa o ja kgomo ya tona.”Maele a a bolela gore ga ntsi go molemo go ipha nako fa o dira tiro gore e tle e nne ntle” .

Indeed, to be successful in whatever you are doing, one has to be slow and careful. This proverb is meant to slow down people who want to hurry up and finish whatever they are doing even prematurely.

It is similar to the Ndebele saying that you cannot walk before you crawl (umuntu akasoze a hamba engaka ghaqi). It is important to take one step at a time in whatever you do so that you do not get overwhelmed.

The first phase of our democratic dispensation focused on political freedom and stabilising the country. In the second phase we are pursuing radical transformation of the economy and ensuring economic freedom in our lifetime. It is not by mistake that the African National Congress took this route; it is a well thought-out decision reached through careful understanding of the country’s needs. It is an understanding that indeed, as a people we must crawl before we can walk – but also, that we cannot crawl forever.

It is an honour for me to take part in these proceedings here in North West within the context of our country celebrating Youth Month under the theme, “Youth taking South Africa forward”.  This is a Province with a rich political history and diverse economic activities.  

I am really humbled to be addressing young people whom Ntate O R Tambo dared to call Young Lions because he knew the power and potential that young people possess. How can I not be humbled, Chairperson , when I am asked to address a generation who have taken up the fallen spears of Tsietsi Mashinini, Solomon Mahlangu, Wandile ka MaVovo Mkize, Hector Peterson, to mention but a few. The young patriots who preceded us identified the threats and challenges to the freedom and development of our people and faced them head on. 

When we chant, “we are the future, nobody can stop us” it is because as youth we have an appreciation that the future is in our hands; that we hold the keys to a tomorrow of which future generations would be proud of. We stand here today as beneficiaries of the sacrifices of those who came before us; the youth who understood that to move forward and defeat the scourge of apartheid, they too had to take a stand.

Today, as we engage in the struggle to defeat unemployment, poverty and inequality, we count young people among the main contributors and those who stand to gain the most from this new struggle.

Indeed, young people continue to be a central part of a national effort to move South Africa forward!

Having said that, my future leaders, respect and discipline are an essential component of nation-building. It cannot be correct that we  wail, yell and swear at our leaders. We have heard of Tata Nelson Mandela and James Moroka's contribution towards our struggle, they did all without insulting anyone but through radical and constructive engagements. This is who we must aspire to be, leaders that learn from those that came before us.

Honourable Members,
Youth Sector Parliaments play an important role in our young democracy as they provide a platform to discuss the role of the youth in the mainstream economy, social cohesion and youth participation in governance.

Youth Sector Parliaments also provide an opportunity for the youth to engage with Members of the Provincial Legislature regarding the legislature’s mandate as the law-maker and overseer of the provincial government’s work.

Through this Sector Parliament, the youth also interact with stakeholders from other sectors, including business, further education and training and others, to discuss development opportunities available to them.

Last week we celebrated 59 years of the existence of our Freedom Charter which clearly guides our struggle. As the ANC-led government we believe it is high time that we introduce radical programmes in order to achieve the objectives of the freedom charter; in this case economic freedom in totality. This has been our plan since we replaced the apartheid system in 1994. We boast of progressive policies that promote economic empowerment to those that we disadvantaged by the Apartheid government over the years. Let us not be confused by populists who forget that our heroes and heroines were tolerant and fought for non-racism in our country.  As government we believe that economic freedom will be achieved through education, skills development, job creation, to mention but a few. This has been the firm belief of successive democratic administrations since 1994.

After 20 Years of Freedom, our policies and programmes today are guided by the National Development Plan, which is the blue print for moving South Africa forward. It is important for the youth to familiarise themselves with the National Development Plan and the New Growth Path so that young people can help and lead in implementing this vision for our future.

The National Development Plan highlights [amongst others] the following priorities in attaining Vision 2030:

  • Raising employment through faster economic growth;
  • Improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation; and
  • Building the capability of the state to play a developmental and transformative role.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to borrow from the Father of our Nation, Utata Nelson Mandela, who says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Therefore, as you think deeply about the importance of education in advancing your future, know that once you have this weapon no-one, no matter how sophisticated or destructive they may be, can take it away. However, it is critical to use this weapon in a manner that shows discipline, hard-work, dedication and humility.

Added to these elements, as we learn from universal struggle icons such as Nelson Mandela, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Mao Tse Tung and Oliver Tambo, is also selflessness to ensure that this weapon does not only advance the individual but our  society as a whole.

It is not intelligence that determines success, but hard work, discipline, dedication, openness to learn more from others and a generosity of spirit to build and teach those around us. 

In 2009, the ANC-led government declared education as an apex priority. In his 2013 State of the Nation Address, the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, reaffirmed this position, citing education as a government priority in addition to health, the fight against crime, creating decent work and rural development and land reform.

I would like to assure you that our tertiary institutions are open for every qualifying South African, and we have the National Student Financial Aid Scheme – or NSFAS to help young people who deserve a chance at higher education but do not have the means. In 2013, NSFAS assisted over 400 000 students at universities and further education and training colleges throughout the country. These numbers increase every year.

I therefore encourage delegates here today and young people throughout the North West to make use of this lifetime opportunity, and register for your degree, diploma or certificate. Let us use education as our weapon to attain economic freedom!

In advancing education, it is important that young people equip themselves with relevant skills which will directly respond to the job market. In particular, the uptake of maths and science at high school level and engineering at tertiary level has been highlighted as issues of concern.

According to the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Information Technology Report, South Africa's Maths and Science education ranks second last in the world, only ahead of Yemen.

The report further ranks the quality of our education system 140 of 144 countries and our Internet Access in Schools, 111 of 143 countries. In a quest to improve this, government has through the e-Connectivity Forum approved the National Schools e-Connectivity Framework.

As a first phase and stemming from the 2010 FIFA World Cup legacy, Telkom connected 1 650 schools. These schools are each equipped with a printer, projector and wireless access points enclosed in a trolley for mobility.

I am pleased to add that through this project, 200 North West schools have been connected.

In addition, mobile operators will, through their amended licence obligations, connect a further 4 500 schools, that will include 338 schools in the North West Province.
Honourable Members,
When this government says education is an apex priority, we have the plans and the resources to go with our belief.

Speaking two weeks ago in the National Assembly Debate on the State of the Nation Address, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana announced that the Department of Higher Education and Training would build skills centres in communities across the country to train people to help meet local economic needs.

He said, and I quote: "We will also prioritise the areas of career guidance and dissemination of information to curb the skills mismatch that we find in the country."
In addition to two universities in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, as well as the medical university in Limpopo, twelve (12) training and vocational education colleges will be built to expand the technical skills mix in the country.

In a country where at least one-third of youth are unemployed, the issue of skills development is of utmost importance. As government, we are also aware of unemployment among new graduates, and have introduced a number of initiatives to increase the placement in employment of qualified young people who are desperate for work experience.

As part of these initiatives, the National School of Government has, commencing 1 April 2014, placed unemployed graduates in its internship programme as a contribution towards the development of workplace experience and skills of unemployed youth.

The internship programme runs for a period of twelve months, ending 31 March 2015.

In addition, President Jacob Zuma has called on government departments and state-owned entities to place graduates on internships. Heeding this call, my office has commenced engagements with MICT SETA to train unemployed matriculants on relevant ICT courses which will enable them to gain employment in equipment maintenance and end-user support.

In the pilot phase, the project will target 210 youth from Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and North West. Upon completion of the courses, the students will be placed in selected schools and municipalities to provide maintenance and end-user support services.

Honourable Members,
Government believes that young people can drive an innovation and entrepreneurship revolution that will benefit all South Africans.

However, the scourge of unemployment faced by our youth cannot be resolved by government alone; it requires a consolidated effort by all - government, business, civil society, faith-based organisations and traditional authorities.

Since the signing of the Social Accord on Youth Employment, 343 000 jobs were created between April 2013 and December 2013. Over 20 000 government internships were offered in 2013, the majority in provincial departments and state-owned companies.

Government has further set-up the National Youth Development Agency as a development agency aimed at creating and promoting coordination in youth development matters.

The NYDA plays a lead role in ensuring that all major stakeholders, being government, private sector and civil society, prioritise youth development and contribute towards identifying and implementing lasting solutions which address youth development challenges.

I therefore encourage the youth seated in these chambers to take advantage of these opportunities and; “google yourself out of your current situation!”

Honourable Members,
Government has established a range of support programmes and strategies to empower youth in the various sectors such as:The Employment Tax Incentive Act was published on 18 December 2013. In terms of the Act, employers can claim tax deductions when they employ young people, under certain conditions.

  • The new Ministry for Small Business Development will help empower young entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and the economy.
  • The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency have made available funds for young entrepreneurs. The IDC's Gro-e Youth Scheme offers both financial and non-financial support to youth enterprises, with the aim of contributing towards sustainable job creation. R1-billion has been earmarked to fund businesses owned by young people (younger than 35). 
  • The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) initiative sees that young people are involved in the refurbishment, rehabilitation, and maintenance of community infrastructure across the country. A target of six million work opportunities has been set over the five-year period from 2014 to 2019 targeting the youth.
  • Government has committed that 60 per cent of jobs on the country’s major infrastructure projects should be awarded to people between the ages of 18 and 35.
  • Lastly, the National Rural Youth Service Corps programme aims to enhance skills development by providing unemployed youth in the rural areas with opportunities to work in their communities and to be trained to provide the necessary services for local socio-economic development.

It would be a disservice if I do not highlight the work that the Department of Communications has embarked on to benefit the youth. The Department has been tasked with overarching communication policy and strategy, information dissemination and publicity as well as branding of the country abroad.

In terms of community broadcasting, we have assisted in the development of many community radio stations across the country, which continue to benefit from the Department’s community broadcasting programme.

Since the establishment of the community radio support programme in 1998, we have invested over R400 million into the sector. Today there are over 140 community radio stations licensed in South Africa and over 75% of them have received support from the Department of Communications and the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

The department also subsidizes signal distribution costs for community radio stations located in rural and nodal areas. In addition, more than 6 million has been set aside for this scheme over the next four years.

Particularly in the North West, youth-led stations such as Village FM in Mmatau have benefited from this programme. The station went on-air on 17 August 2011 after a collaborative effort between the Department of Communications, Santam, USAASA, the village Chief as well as the Moses Kotane Municipality.

The two “drivers” behind the radio station’s establishment was childhood friends, Nicoh Molefe and Thapelo Moagi; two young men who forged ahead against all odds to realise their dream of establishing a community radio station for their village. This should serve as encouragement and testament that government is serious about youth empowerment.

Honourable Speaker,
There is no doubt that the community media sector including the small commercial print sector have been negatively affected by the lack of transformation in the print media, mainly due to the significant barriers to entry that exist in the market.

In addition, a lack of diversity in ownership and control, has led to a lack of diversity in terms of language, race, gender, content, and sources of news.  The Department of Communications, the MDDA and the print media sector will continue efforts to reverse this and stimulate commitment to the transformation and diversity of this media sector.

As I move towards conclusion, I would like to assure the Youth Sector Parliament that the ANC-led government truly believes that working together with all South Africans and God on our side we will be able to rise above the challenges we face.

I trust that this brief presentation has demonstrated that we take care as government to understand and analyse the problems facing the country, and that we have consistently developed effective responses to the needs of our people.

However, we do not have a monopoly on solutions, and it is therefore necessary that young people are active in local, provincial and national initiatives in the public, non-governmental and private sectors to improve the lives of young South Africans.

We cannot ignore our challenges, but neither should we ignore the gains we have made to advance the causes for which the youth of 1976 paid with their lives.

I therefore commend the work being done by the legislature under the guidance of the Honourable Speaker as well as the Youth Sector Parliament.

It is my fervent belief that you will continue playing an integral role in the advancement of issues facing the youth. I wish you a successful meeting further, which will be characterised by robust whilst constructive engagement and debate.

In ending, I would like to impress upon you to make use of the government opportunities at your disposal to make yourselves proud, to make your families and be the pride of South Africa. Together we move South Africa forward!

Ke ya leboga!

Nthabeleng Mokitimi
Cell: 081 308 0193
Issued by Department of Communications

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