South African youth had developed a culture of opulence and materialism to the detriment of ubuntu and the values held by the former “great generation” that had sacrificed their youth in the Struggle for democracy.

This was the word from African Renaissance Trust chairman and Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele at “The Future Speaks” youth conference held in Durban on Monday before the main African Renaissance conference that will run from Thursday to Saturday in the city.

Ndebele told about 200 young professionals, entrepreneurs, foreign delegates and students that South Africa could attribute its democracy to the “radicalism of the youth” of the past century.

“Karl Marx was 26 when he wrote his manifesto, Lenin was 26 when he led the revolution and Pixley KaSeme was 24 when he wrote the regeneration of Africa. Mandela and Tambo were 31 and 32 when they spearheaded the 1939 anti-apartheid programme of action,” Ndebele said.

However, there was now concern that the youth had adopted a culture of materialism and were losing the values of ubuntu and upliftment of the poor, he said.

“Today, we have produced cultures of opulence such as a sub-culture called izikhothane. We see an ostentatious display of personal wealth by young people - regardless of the method of acquisition - of wearing expensive designer clothes, driving expensive cars and having expensive parties to show off their wealth,” Ndebele said.

Durban entrepreneur and co-founder of Lynette Ntuli urged young people to return to the values of hard work and community building. “As young people, if we sow despair, conflict, despondency and unrest we’re going to reap the dark futures we sow for ourselves.”

Oliver Barbeau, a partner at Moore Stephens, speaking on social media in the workplace, said local youth had similar problems to those in Arab Spring countries such as Libya and Egypt where the bulk of the population is under 30 and unemployed.

The youth could use social media to market themselves in the job market, Barbeau said.

Daily News