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DA leader Helen Zille yesterday cautioned it was too easy to keep people in the past and divide them, and while it was important to honour the past, it was time to move forward to build South Africa.
“On this day, filled with conflict and hatred 36 years ago, we can choose to continue (to hate) or use it to bring people together… Never again will we abuse power to keep people hating each other,” she said at the DA launch of its Faces of Youth Unemployment campaign on Youth Day.
“iDA iyadibanisa! iANC iyahlukanisa! (The DA unites.The ANC divides),” she added to cheers from the just over 100-strong crowd.
DA Youth leader Makashule Gana had earlier called on youngsters to become active, in tribute to the Soweto youth who protested in Soweto on June 16, 1976.
“What is history going to say about you in 10, 20 years?” he asked. “We must go down in history as the generation of young people that defeated youth unemployment. When the time to vote comes, then you must take charge… It is up to us (young people) to create the government we want. The youth of 1976 did not wait for their parents to change education.”
Soweto is regarded by the DA as a key area in which to increase support and votes. The party launched its 2011 local government election campaign in Soweto’s Kliptown, where the ANC adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955, and Zille has since revisited Soweto, where the DA hopes to increase the number of its members as part of its bid to win Gauteng in the 2014 elections.
Meanwhile, across Soweto in Mofolo Park, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane called on the youth to unite against today’s challenges, including unemployment, HIV/Aids and drug and alcohol abuse.
“While the 1976 generation had a common enemy in the evil apartheid system, today’s generation is faced with a totally different type of enemy… Their challenges range from HIV and Aids, drugs and substance abuse, moral decay, to hunger and joblessness,” she said, adding that the youth must work as a united force. “For this to happen young people must participate in structures and organisations that have their interests at heart.”
Paying tribute to the 1976 protesters, Mokonyane said: “Their blood has nurtured our democracy and strengthens our resolve to fight the current scourge of poverty, unemployment and disease. We salute the generation of selfless revolutionaries and hope today’s youth can emulate their courage and commitment.”
In the spirit of Youth Day, many youngsters in Soweto dressed in school uniforms.
Before yesterday’s DA gathering, two of the party’s blue T-shirts were burned outside Naledi High School. Several men had dragged the T-shirts on the road in front of assembled DA officials and then set them alight.
A group of school children in uniform then toyi-toyied up the road before Zille’s arrival at the home of Violet Mabaso, mother of one of the young people killed in 1976. Afterwards more T-shirts were set alight.
Zille presented Mabaso with a framed picture of her son Thili. “I am so happy. God spare you, not for me only,” she told Zille.
Tomorrow the first of the DA’s Faces of Youth Unemployment billboards will go up in Soweto, while another is planned for Tshwane.
The billboard features 423 faces of unemployed young people, which Gana said represented the 423 000 work opportunities which could have been created if the youth wage subsidy had been implemented as planned in May last year.
The policy, which is opposed by Cosatu because it would negatively affect employment of older, experienced workers, has remained before the National Economic Development Labour Council.
Gana said it was hoped the president and responsible ministers would have announced the starting date for the youth wage subsidy by the end of the year, if details did not emerge during Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s medium-term budget address. – Additional reporting by Sapa