Official statistics show that 63 percent of those aged 15-24 are jobless in a country where the youth makes up close to half of the population. Photo: African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Official statistics show that 63 percent of those aged 15-24 are jobless in a country where the youth makes up close to half of the population. Photo: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Decades after apartheid's end, SA's youth grapple joblessness

By AFP Time of article published Jun 19, 2021

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By Claire Doyen and Michelle Gumede

Thirty years ago apartheid laws in South Africa were formally struck down, bringing a dizzying jolt of hope to millions of disenfranchised citizens.

But today that optimism has all but fizzled out, particularly among the young.

The "Born Frees" -- those who came into the world after the end of apartheid and comprise roughly half the population -- are struggling.

Two out of three young people are jobless, victims of endemic unemployment that shows no sign of abating under the African National Congress (ANC) government that has been in power since the first democratic elections in 1994.

Many say they are battling to see the benefits of this seismic event, which came just under three years after then president F. W. de Klerk struck down the country's last segregation statutes.

"We wish to do what is right for South Africa," de Klerk had told parliament at the time.

Disillusioned, the young in present-day South Africa say the better life they were promised has been clouded by despair.

"I wonder what those who have struggled and sacrificed would think," 21-year-old law student Tumelo Dire said outside the Hector Pieterson memorial, which commemorates the struggle against apartheid by students in Soweto.

Thanks to a government scholarship grant, his university studies are catered for, but he still needs to hustle to find money for rent.

And even when he finishes his studies, he is not guaranteed a job.

"Would they be disappointed in us?" said the young man carrying a box of muffins, hawking them on the street.

Official statistics show that 63 percent of those aged 15-24 are jobless in a country where the youth makes up close to half of the population.

"Young people have seen how, since 1994, the kind of economic policies that have been put in place, have not only maintained privilege for those who are formally privileged in the country, but then has also created a new class of black privileged elites," Sphiwe Dube, a politics lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, told AFP.

Dube was referring to the elections in 1994 won by the internationally revered anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela.

'Fight not over'

"Mandela, it's just a name," scoffed unemployed Thabo Mogogosi, waiting by the roadside for casual work a few blocks from the former house of the country's first black president in Soweto.

"There's nothing I am benefiting from his fight for freedom," said the young man who scrapes by with small odd jobs.

On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined a raft of plans to tackle joblessness among the young, including support in finding employment and training, as he marked the Soweto student uprising of 1976.

These saw thousands of black students march to protest against a government order that schools could only teach in Afrikaans, the language of the ruling white elite.

Several were killed or wounded, sparking a revolt that would culminate in the end of apartheid.

But Muzi Khoza, head of the youth wing of the leftist radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, is not convinced.

For "young people there is absolutely nothing to celebrate, because we need jobs -- there are no jobs in South Africa," said the 26-year-old at a youth day rally in Centurion, north of Johannesburg.

One of the surviving leaders of the 1976 Soweto high school revolt, Seth Mazibuko, 64, said "the fight is not over."

"There are people who are still in poverty and see the politicians getting fatter and fatter while they are still getting thinner," he said.

AFP

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