16 June 2014.
Today, being Youth Day, the eyes and memories
of South Africans and the world over will momentarily fixate on
the bravery of the Youth of 1976 and a thought will be spared
for the brutality inflicted on the youth that day. In that
moment we will see the brave heroism and commitment to education
of the 1976 black child in the face of a scary and
uncertain reality. A reality very much alive in 2014 whereby
unemployment, poor education and police brutality are a
permanent feature; thus the struggle of 1976 is one worthy to
The youth of 1976 were victims of a
systematic and well-orchestrated assault on their education and
future which, if it had been left unchallenged, would have prolonged
apartheid and its scandalously oppressive tendencies.
Similarly, 20 years into our freedom and
democracy and 38 years since June 16, 1976 the education system
of South Africa is a far cry from what is needed to respond
positively to the collective needs of the job market, leaving
the youth wanting in an economic wilderness; jobless, hopeless and
unable to contribute. The education system of our country is
designed such that it prolongs the cycle of poverty and
dependency in a disgusting ploy to manufacture voter-fodder and
keep the current government in place “until Jesus comes back”.
There is an overwhelming resistance to embrace quality
The government has deliberately killed the
quality of education, and has deliberately kept schools
under-resourced in South Africa in an attempt to consolidate
voter fodder through the systematic creation of dependency.
The current poor state of education is a
direct result of government's grand scheme to hold young South
Africans to ransom and keep them at its mercy and keep them
dependant on them. Without decent and quality education, and
being unemployable, young South Africans are forced, rightly or
wrongly, to turn to government for help; the government then
pretends to be delivering when giving out social grants. No
nation can survive on social grants alone.
South Africans are literally stuck between a
rock and hard place, forced to accept whatever government gives
them for survival, albeit that it is the very same government
that put them in that hardship to begin with.
The youth of 1976 understood that freedom and
democracy without decent and quality education was a recipe for
disaster, and 38 years later that disaster is upon us. History
will judge us very harshly if we fail as the youth of 2014 to
stand up and fight the good fight for a better education.
Since 1994 the youth have been overlooked,
side-lined and marginalised and reduced to mere spectators in
the developmental discourse of modern day South Africa. We must,
as a matter of urgency, establish and operationalise a
fully-fledged Youth Department and Ministry in all 3 spheres of
government. This is a call the IFPYB has been consistently
making since 1997 and one we shall continue to make until it is
This is an issue that the government has
skirted around for far too long; this hide and seek game must
come to an end.
On 13 November 2004 the IFP Youth Brigade sent
a memorandum calling for the establishment of a Ministry of
Youth Affairs to the Presidency; 10 years on we still await a
The disjointed manner in which youth matters
are being handled in this country is at best shameful and
inconsistent with the dreams, hopes and aspirations of young
South Africans. With each passing day unemployment is rising
fast and the hopes of young South Africans are fading away and
are lost to cheap, petty and nonsensical rhetoric about a
so-called “good story to tell”.
The story of youth development is not good;
rather it is a scary reality of desperation as each youth
individually struggles to get a better life in world of empty
Today is not a day to celebrate or commemorate
but a day to begin a revolution of hope and action against a
failing state and incompetent government in general and
President in particular. Surely the youth of 2014 have every
reason to emulate the youth of 1976 who stood up against a
government whose mind-set and systems were at odds with youth
success and development.
1976 will, and must, repeat itself in modern
day South Africa because of poor education, poverty,
unemployment, dependency and empty promises which are breeding
grounds for desperation and frustration. The youth of 2014 must
demand more because they deserve better to work their way out of
escalating poverty and debilitating unemployment.
We must bring to life an active citizenry,
especially amongst young people, which will have their fingers
on the pulse of issues and have the courage to challenge the
status quo. That is the legacy of 1976: stand up and be counted
and change the course of history forever.
The high levels of inequality and ever
increasing levels of unemployment and the endemic poverty
currently characterising South Africa today should spur us into
action to do something as young people.
Successive democratic government
administrations have flooded us with ambitious plans which have
all amounted to nought as our economy remains on its knees, and
failing outright to create jobs.
Our only salvation now is the youth. 20 years
into our freedom and democracy we need the full involvement of
the youth in getting South Africa to work.
At the centre of the rebuilding process lies
the need, and practicalisation of a quality education system
that is able to respond to the needs of the job market by
producing a workforce that has the necessary skills, underpinned
by the required knowledge and expertise. We need to invest
heavily into our education development.
Previously disadvantaged communities, and
rural communities in the main, find themselves presently
disadvantaged. The equality programs which have been championed
since 1994 have had a grossly unfair bias towards the previously
and presently advantaged sections of society, the urban
communities and towards the connected and much to the neglect of
The 1994 dream of prosperity and a "better
life for all" is dead. South Africans, and the youth in
particular, are struggling daily to make ends meet.
The struggle for freedom and democracy against
apartheid is rendered in vain as even 18 years post-apartheid,
life remains a struggle for the majority of our people. South
Africans never struggled against apartheid to struggle in a free
and democratic dispensation.
South Africa continues to battle to bring down
inequality because in 1994 those in power moved from the wrong
premise of seeking to disempower the strong to the levels of the
weak. The correct approach was, and continues to be, that we
must empower the weak towards the levels of the strong.
This approach should apply from education to
healthcare to housing to infrastructure. Rural schools, clinics
& hospitals and roads must be matched to the levels of their
urban counterparts. The economic development and growth which we
aspire to achieve will not come to fruition in the absence of
clear priorities. Education and skills development are a
catalyst for youth-economic development and job creation.
As young people we are challenged by history
and invited by the future to be active citizens and bring about
change for the better without fear, favour or compromise;
nothing would make the Youth of 1976 prouder.
Let the revolution begin; a revolution of hope
and action underpinned by political will to get things done.
MKHULEKO HLENGWA MP
IFP YOUTH BRIGADE NATIONAL CHAIRPERSON