28 August 2015
Speech by Deputy Minister of Communications, the Honourable Tembisa Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, at the YB20 Inaugural Youth Lecture
Executive Mayor of Mangaung
Ladies and Gentlemen
I wish to acknowledge the presence of all of you here today. On behalf of the government of the Republic of South Africa, I would like to thank you for inviting me to deliver an address at this important gathering.
I also wish to extend a sincere apology on behalf of the Deputy President of the Republic His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, who due to other commitments delegated me to represent him in this event.
It is indeed an honour and privilege for me to be here and share with you some of my thoughts on the topic of youth. I am passionate about it because young people are an integral part of our effort to move South Africa forward.
Let me also take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the YB20 for the excellent work they are doing by making young people conversant on issues that affect them. I am aware that you have been providing a useful platform for the youth to exchange ideas, information and experiences about the issues that affect them and have actively encouraged the youth to get involved so that we can all move the country forward.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Franz Fanon has famously taught us that “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it”. These visionary words uttered many years ago have come to epitomise the exploits of the youth that came before us. They discovered their mission and challenged the status quo under colonialism and apartheid. They sought to bring about change that would benefit everyone irrespective of race. They became active in politics and led the revolutionary movements as early as in 1912.
It was the young people under the visionary leadership of Pixley ka Isaka Seme that made a clarion call for black people to unite and face the challenges head on at the time. That generation of young leaders succeeded in bringing together people from Southern Africa to Waaihoek church in Bloemfontein.
The people who attended this gathering in 1912 included traditional leaders such as Solomon ka Dinizulu, Montsioa of the Barolong, Lewanika of the Lozi of Zambia, Letsie II of Lesotho, Labotsibeni from Swaziland, Dalindyebo of the abaThembu, Sekhukhuni of the baPedi and Khama from Botswana. They came to Bloemfontein to chart a way to end colonialism and the control of black people by the oppressors. They met to end white supremacy and to declare that all men are created equal.
This gathering resulted in the formation of the South African Native National Congress on 8 January 1912, later known as the African National Congress. It is the vision of young people that drove this organisation to become a custodian of basic democratic values, principles and practices in our country. The generation of young leaders who followed include the likes of Nelson Mandela, Anton Lembede and many others.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the late 60s and 70s it was also the young people under the leadership of Steve Biko who advocated for black consciousness and urged the youth to take responsibility for their own liberation. He said “black man you are on your own”. His mission was to “make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth”.
It is also the young people such as Tsietsi Mashinini who led the Soweto uprising in 1976 against an unjust system and the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. This uprising paved the way for a series of riots and unrest in the 80s and ultimately led to the fall of apartheid in the 90s.
Some of you may be asking why I have chosen to speak about history, or what the significance of these stories are.
The answer is simple. Throughout our history, young people have been the driving force behind our fight for freedom and thanks to them we are this year celebrating twenty one years of democracy.
It is important because our youth must know that the freedom we enjoy today was never voluntary given but came at a price. It must therefore not be taken for granted.
People died for us while others fought tirelessly for years to free themselves of the oppressive system. It is through their blood, sweat and sacrifice that we are free today. It was led by young people like yourselves, one of them is Solomon Mahlangu who was 22 years old when he was killed by the apartheid regime.
His unforgettable last words before he was executed will forever echo through time. “My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight,” he said.
We should never forget our history and we should also learn from it. We should take heed that those who have gone before us chose to serve their people. Many of them were educated and learned people, and could have chosen to pursue their careers. But they instead chose to fight because they came from a tradition that define success within the concept of Ubuntu that says “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”.
This concept is about compassion, it taught them not to live as individuals or be indifferent to the suffering of the masses but to operate as a collective. They were guided by what was in the best interest of the whole community.
As we reflect on the struggle waged by the heroes and heroines who have gone before us, we must do so in recognition that their selfless acts set the stage for a new democratic South Africa. This year we celebrate 21 years of democracy and there is no doubt that South Africa is today a better place to live in than was it was in 1994.
Our accomplishments speak for themselves; they range from increased political stability, a vibrant and robust constitutional democracy, four successful national and local elections and the longest period of economic growth, interrupted only by the 2008 global recession.
Furthermore, government’s Twenty Year Review indicates that we have made strides in the provision of basic services such as improving access to education, healthcare, houses, water, electricity and roads. The significant structural advances we have made have also been echoed by the global investment bank Goldman Sachs in its report titled “Two Decades of Freedom — A 20-year Review of South Africa”.
However, despite our successes we still face the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Government is responding to these challenges with a sense of urgency through the implementation of the National Development Plan, the National Infrastructure Plan, the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan that are all geared towards boosting investment and providing support to businesses so we can create jobs and grow the economy.
President Jacob Zuma has in his State of the Nation Address outlined that we need to grow the economy at a higher target of 5 percent by 2019 in order to create the much needed jobs. This is where the youth of our country play a crucial role as the drivers of economic growth into the future.
It is no longer enough for the youth just to complete their schooling and to seek a job thereafter. Instead our youth should acquire the knowledge and technical skills required by the employment market to grow the economy.
Equally important our youth should become entrepreneurs, develop their entrepreneurial skills so that they can open small businesses, create jobs and ultimately contribute to a prosperous South Africa. We call on you to build corporations that will compete with the major conglomerates of this world.
You should also take advantage of the many business opportunities that are available in the building of new dams, railway lines, road, ports and our infrastructure development plan.
But our youth should not shy away from other possibilities for example to become successful commercial farmers. Our future success lies in producing a new wave of farmers who will build a sustainable agricultural industry, both for domestic consumption and the export market.
Our history shows that we had many successful black farmers long before the 1913 Land Act was passed. The unheralded story of the Daggakraal community near Volksrust who succeeded even though the odds were against them is but one example. The initiative that was inspired by the legendary Pixley Isaka ka Seme became a huge success to the extent that they began to compete with white commercial farmers at the time. It is their success that instigated those in power at the time to hurriedly enact the 1913 Land Act.
Those who had gone before us and engaged in the struggle knew that it would not be easy. They knew that they would have to make sacrifices so that we can inherit a better country where all of us are treated equally irrespective of race.
The also knew that the baton will have to be passed from one generation to another in order to build a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it and the fruits of freedom are enjoyed by everyone.
Now is the time for this younger generation to take the baton of leadership and move our country forward. To be successful as a country, you must take responsibility for its direction. As former President Nelson Mandela pointed out, it is in your hands now. The older generation has dismantled apartheid and taken us this far, it’s time you find your mission and fulfil it.
NOW KE NAKO YA LONA to step up so that the next generation can inherit an even better country.
I thank you
Issued by Ministry of Communications