Government has failed to respond to the youth unemployment crisis in South Africa, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Saturday.
“This can lead to a life of crime, and a lack of care about one’s future well-being,” she said in a speech prepared for delivery at a Youth Day function in Soweto.
She said unemployment contributed to a loss of hope and a breakdown of individual lives, families and communities.
Zille was concerned that nearly half of the country's population under 25-years-old was unemployed.
She said there was the risk of stigmatising millions of young people and creating new stereotypes.
“We need to watch our words and thoughts, by ascribing dignity to our fellow citizens who face this lonely personal tragedy... A person should never be reduced to a statistic.”
Zille said President Jacob Zuma was incapable of leading or feeling the pain of others.
“We have a President who simply seems unable to understand the lives others lead. Empathy for the other, we know, is the beginning of the sincerest kind of reconciliation.”
She said Zuma's failure to speak out against hate crime, following the murder of a gay man in the Northern Cape last week, was as “reprehensible” as those who committed the crime.
The opposition leader saluted the bravery shown by those who fought against the apartheid government on June 16, 1976.
“...The memory of the courage of those students on that fateful day remains with us still.”
Zille was encouraged that three in four young South Africans, according to a study by the Gordon Institute of Business Science, believed South Africa was a good place to have a career.
“It conveys the hope of the 'born free' generation: the new generation who were born since 1994.” - Sapa