One of the harsh realities faced by young people is that we keep on trading our abilities and special gifts of individual talents only to be subjugated by man-made entities. We agree to become less than we can be purely in exchange for perceived permanence.

It remains a reality that most young people in this country are unemployed, uneducated and destitute. Our economy is so blessed with ills that seek to undermine the gains of our young democracy.

Young people are the casualties and beneficiaries of this sad state of affairs. I fail to comprehend the kind of leadership that forgets the future of the country and opts for a kind of brotherhood in circles far away from the people.

Having said that, I have yet to see more young people rise and challenge the raw deal that is coming in the form of a “youth wage subsidy”. This is a daring but unrealistic idea which will soon be marred by shoddy planning and implementation. I even doubt that it will ever address the plight of unemployed young people.

The thinking that should be explored is that of promoting entrepreneurship in order to advance young people’s economic participation. Empower young people with knowledge and ability to restore key industries like agriculture to full working order.

The country must invest heavily in the schooling of its inhabitants, particularly young people, instead of perpetrating an unsustainable welfare state syndrome.

The ministry of monitoring and evaluation should be strengthened such that it achieves the very purpose of its existence. There must be thorough accountability on programmes like the sector education and training authorities (Setas) where the government continues injecting financial resources with little results to show.

Institutions that seek to advance the empowerment and progression of young people should not be left unattended at the hands of vultures. Again, the ministry of monitoring and evaluation should put tighter controls in place, thus ensuring that money that is meant for development of young people is not used on kissing circuses. Having said that, calls for a youth wage subsidy at the expense of a fair deal for uneducated youth are a gross disservice to young people of this country.

This will inevitably become another convenient vehicle to amass the wealth of this country for narrow selfish interests. Has there been a thorough assessment on the viability of the Setas and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to come up with another programme that will reduce young people to beggars?

People should rather be empowered through education in order to properly transform our society. One cannot help but think about the ultimate beneficiaries of this subsidy, who will be the predators that have no real desire to change the character of the young people of South Africa.

A critical issue is the quality and sustainability of the jobs to be created via the youth wage subsidy. The cleaning and catering jobs that Helen Zille and company claim to have created in the Western Cape will do little to address the plight of the unemployed. You can never grow the economy with caterers and cleaners. Yes, they play a pivotal role in any business sphere, and one appreciates all the efforts made.

However, I strongly believe that South Africa needs to capacitate young people with decent education so they can in return become well qualified engineers, accountants and scientists that the economy needs to move forward in a progressive direction. People should cease taking the unemployed youth for granted and claiming cheap political points from their plight. The proposed youth wage subsidy remains a fiddle that is prone to exploitation by the detractors of our hard-fought democracy.

Having gone through the discussion documents on the youth wage subsidy published by both the National Treasury and DA, I cannot find the targeted industries for this subsidy. Seemingly, the common tune advocates for the country to throw money into a bottomless pit. We are slowly bleeding ourselves to death, perhaps now is the time that we all wake up and realise the damage that is being done.


The proposed youth wage subsidy is not designed to capacitate young people to serve their own country, instead it is motivated by the desire to inculcate the values of oppression and to train young people only to be exploited by the white master. It is imperative that we give a death blow to this programme that is designed to hinder and imprison young people’s minds and severely cripple their human dignity.

Another critical point to note in documents from the National Treasury and the DA, is that there are no employment targets whatsoever. Both documents are marred by problematic statements and scenario analyses from other countries. As stated in the discussion document published by the Treasury, “a youth wage subsidy is aimed at providing young, inexperienced workers with decent work and experience of the formal labour market”. How does this differ in content to the Setas and learnership programmes that certain government institutions offer?

There is no distinction in content, the only difference is how this subsidy is packaged, the obsession from certain elements of society for its implementation and the hastiness thereof. It remains wishful thinking to assume that we will blindly accept this programme which exalts expediency above educating the youth of South Africa.

After 1994, the country did not invest heavily in public education, hence the proposal of this vague programme today. I concur with the authors of both documents that South Africa’s rate of unemployment is among the highest in the world. But I am of the view that a broader and more inclusive debate can be promoted.

I think more sober thinking could have been infused while drawing up these documents. South Africa is battling with the kind of education that its citizens should be afforded. We spend billions on education, yet what you see happening in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo makes you question the monitoring and evaluation force. It is imperative that we strengthen this to curb those who have made it their ultimate responsibility to undermine the gains of freedom. In truth, the problem of unemployment, poverty and inequality will only be tackled at its root when the endless pursuit of job creation for the sake of job creation ceases to be an objective.

The objective must be to educate young people, create sustainable job opportunities and reduce the cost of doing business, thus attracting foreign companies to come and do business here. Promote entrepreneurship among young people. Many are left to rot with their progressive business plans, they are sitting at home with their qualifications and skills. Who has bewitched the young people of South Africa?

I wish to record with great caution that our country needs men and women of great intellect; men and women that are most capable of ushering South Africa into the Promised Land. Also, this might be a convenient time to thoroughly define the vision of our country.

Pouring money into a bottomless pit, money that can be used for other development initiatives, is tantamount to a gross disservice to the youth of this country.


* Thabile Wonci is the provincial treasurer of the Black Management Forum in the Western Cape and writes in his personal capacity