Debate On Youth Month On The Theme
‘A Caring Parliament That Advances Youth Development
To Achieve Economic Freedom’
By Mrs Pat Lebenya-Ntanzi MP

 

National Assembly: Cape Town, 7th June 2011 


Honourable Speaker:

As I take to the podium, I would like to first and foremost pay tribute to those young leaders who came before us, who changed the course of history, and to which we owe an immense debt of gratitude as we commemorate Youth Month.

We acknowledge that on 16 June 1976 more than 20 000 pupils from Soweto embarked on a protest against the apartheid regime, which had imposed Afrikaans as the medium of instruction at schools. In the wake of the clashes with the police, and the violence that ensued over the next few weeks, approximately 700 people, many of them youths, were killed. These youths paid with their lives for the struggle we were waging, but their actions were not in vain, for they set in motion a chain of reactions which eventually led to the demise of the apartheid regime. Today, I stand at this podium knowing that it was their monumental efforts that afforded me the opportunities, such as being a member of this august House, which I am able to enjoy today.

But the struggle for freedom is not over. As the theme of this debate recognizes, the struggle for today’s youth is crippling poverty and the lack of job opportunities, which means that even though we have attained our political freedom, we have yet to attain our economic freedom. Indeed many commentators have labelled South Africa’s youth unemployment levels, which currently stand at more than 50%, a ticking time bomb. How then do we address this crisis before we see the youth again taking matters into their own hands as they did in 1976?

During the recently held IFP Youth Brigade Conference, the IFPYB identified key issues that need to be addressed in order for our youth to attain economic freedom in our lifetime. They are: youth development and the dysfunctional NYDA; the fight against HIV/Aids; the challenge of transforming South Africa from sliding into a welfare state and South Africa’s struggling education system, amongst other issues.

It is of paramount importance that South Africa’s youth is properly organized, to promote positive citizenship, and to assist in community development. Yet the current institutional structures such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) do not fulfil their mandate because of their lack of focus, political bias, and lack of accountability.

Youth development under the NYDA has remained nothing but a pipedream. Instead, this agency has been a vehicle through which the rich have become richer. The notion of it being a body looking after the interests of all young people vanished when the agency appointment almost all its commissioners to its Provincial Advisory Boards (PAB), from the ANCYL.

It is from this background that the IFP believes that President Zuma must dissolve the NYDA, as it only serves the narrow interests of the ANCYL elite and the 'tenderpreneurs' associated with it. In its place, we must contemplate a new youth agency based on the principles of “ubuntu/botho" that will assist youth to learn self-respect and respect for others, while developing community leadership, skills training and social skills. Such an institution should: a) be focused on implementation rather than mere coordination; b) operate in all three spheres of government; c) take the form of a fully-fledged and well-resourced Youth Ministry enabled to rapidly implement positive youth development and take responsibility for all youth affairs.

Another critical obstacle to the youth of South Africa attaining economic freedom in our lifetime is the HIV/Aids pandemic. This HIV/Aids pandemic continues to decimate South Africa's population, despite ever-increasing government funding earmarked for the fight against it, while the youth remains one of the most vulnerable demographic groups affected by it. In addition, an ever increasing proportion of our population relies on social grants in the absence of job opportunities, the disconcerting emergence of a dependency culture among our economically active population and the crucial role that our youth can play in reversing this unsustainable slide into a welfare state.

As the IFP we will continue to use all public forums, such as the one we are given today, to urge the government to sharpen its focus on job creation as an alternative to the expansion of social welfare. We will continue to take the message of self-help and self-reliance as an alternative to dependence on social welfare to our schools, social networks, workplaces and communities. We will continue to strive for flexibility in the labour market and to campaign for the reduction of the cost of doing business in South Africa so as to encourage direct foreign investment that actually creates job opportunities. We will continue to lead by example and become role models for our youth as they take their schooling and studies seriously and aspire them to enter the job market on completion of their formal education and/or aspire to become entrepreneurs and create employment for themselves and others as an alternative to life on social benefits.

Education remains one of the critical challenges to youth development. The IFP remains of the opinion that our schools are not adequately preparing our youth with skills that are needed to enter the job market.

We reiterate our commitment to education as an instrument for the upliftment of our disadvantaged communities dating back to Inkatha's call for Education for Liberation, while we continue to deplore the discrepancies between the government's commitment to improved education and its spending patterns that prioritize wasteful projects at the expense of education, especially under-resourced, struggling rural schools. We reassert the long held view that education is the cornerstone of opportunity.

While we as the IFP recognize and appreciate Parliament’s role in getting the young thought leaders of our country together to debate the issues that face the youth of South Africa today, the question must be asked how much of a difference will it make to the plight of our young people? How much of what we discuss here will in fact lead to radical policy shifts that could indeed make a real difference to young people in communities across the country, especially the poorest of poor. I fear that each year a lot is said, but not much is done.

These are the serious questions we must consider.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. Let us strive to build a generation of youth that could ultimately deliver our second liberation - that of economic freedom.

I thank you.