Young people should fight drug and alcohol abuse with the same vigour as the youth of 1976 fought against apartheid, says Jacob Zuma.
The president was addressing thousands at the National Youth Day Celebration in Newcastle, northern KwaZulu-Natal, on Sunday.
He said the youth had become “slaves” of drugs and alcohol, which were “slowly eating into the social fibre of our communities”.
Delivering the keynote address at the event, the theme of which was Working Together for Youth Development and a Drug- Free South Africa, Zuma called on the youth to “become an integral part of the struggle against... cancers that are painfully eating our society”.
He said the government and its partners’ anti-substance abuse plan was aimed at putting policies and legislation in place to reduce the supply and demand for drugs and to aid in the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts.
Zuma said communities must play an active role in ensuring its success.
The new board of the National Youth Development Agency was introduced by the Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane.
Speaking to the Daily News before the event, agency executive chairman Yershen Pillay said it was the responsibility of all young people to commemorate the sacrifices made by the youth of 1976.
He urged the current generation to take the legacy forward by working towards eradicating unemployment and other socio-economic struggles. He said the key to this was education.
Although the country was making positive strides in education, with an increasing percentage obtaining secondary and higher qualifications, Zuma said more needed to be done.
“We have prioritised access to higher education, especially technical and vocational education to expand the country’s skills base,” said Zuma.
More people had enrolled in Further Education and Training colleges and to keep this number rising, the government had allocated R17.4 billion to build and improve infrastructure at the colleges.
He said the government was also investing in youth employment. Earlier this year, government, business, labour and youth organisations signed a youth employment accord.
“We urge youth to contribute to implementing the accord, which must be done in the spirit of the country’s socio-economic blueprint, the National Development Plan,” said Zuma.